02 March 2007

Sniff, sniff...

Back in '75, I started working in a bakery, with all the fruits and spices and other things. It was interesting work, and I enjoyed it while it lasted, though since I am not a morning person, the hours - 0400-1200 Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday (I had Wednesdays off); 0300-1100 Saturday; and 0200-0800 every second or third Sunday - kind of sucked. Around the same time, I started working in the nursery at church every Sunday, with all of the diapers and, ah, other stuff. And after about three months of this sensory overload, my nose said, "That's it - I'm not playing any more." And while I left the church in '78, and the bakery in '80, my nose still doesn't work properly.

They say that the sense of smell is a very important factor in enjoying the taste of food. I haven't noticed any real problems in that regard (what did affect my enjoyment of food was boot camp, where we had to rush through each meal in order to make room in the galley for the next company - I still haven't kicked the habit), but when it comes to sniffing flowers, or perfumes, or whatnot, forget it. Often I'll get a faint whiff of something the first time I try it, but after that, nothing.

Anosmia ("no sense of smell") can actually be a blessing under certain circumstances. For instance, on my second boat, I was standing U/I watches as COW. Our ETC had the Dive in that section, and he'd be sitting there the entire watch, merrily farting away. Those were some fairly noxious fumes he was creating - even the guy in the far corner of Control was gagging - but I could sit right next to ETC and not notice a thing.

I'm not the only one with this sort of thing. Did you ever hear that old line about "don't put beans up your nose"? On my first boat there was a chap whom I'll call Michael*, whose parents used to tell him that when they would go out for the evening, leaving him at home alone. Now Mike probably wasn't what you'd call an average child to begin with - he has a scar on his lip that he says is the result of his biting a lamp cord when he was a toddler - but even he wouldn't have come up with such a ridiculous notion if his mother hadn't suggested it. But she did, and of course he had to try it.

And so one night his parents came home to find him with a snootful of beans. They removed the beans, and chastised him thoroughly, and that - theoretically - was the end of the matter. Except that a few days later, Mike came down with a headache. Which turned into a bad headache. Which turned into a really bad headache. They took Mike to see a doctor, who asked questions, poked and prodded, and finally reached a conclusion.

They'd missed a bean.

To quote Mike: "The bean didn't know anything about noses. All it knew was that it was in a warm, dark, moist place." So it did what beans do when they find themselves in warm, dark, moist places - it sprouted. And it was the bean sprout, trying to drill through the bones of Mike's skull, that was causing the headache.

The legumectomy was successful, but when the bean came out, Mike's sense of smell went with it. Permanently. Which all, I suppose, goes to show that if you really don't want your kids to do something, maybe it's best not to tell them that....

* Because according to my almanac, Michael was the most popular name for American boys born around the time he was.

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