I discover what my nose knows

I 've recently noticed that I smell. Yes, I find myself inhaling through my nose with the specific purpose of testing the air about me.

There's a wonderful Asian grocery store I visit regularly, and when I'm there I can't resist the unique fragrances and strange aromas coming from the imported packages and colorful bulk spices on sale there. But my nose does not stop at produce. I find that when I pass by the doorway to an office building I cast a critical sniff to see if the entranceway is deemed one of those unofficial smoking zones. An open car window doesn't escape my attention as I try to determine whether the scent masking that stale hamburger smell is pine or musk.

People, too, have gotten my nose's attention. As I walk through the supermarket I can't resist knowing if the smartly dressed woman is perfumed with Coco Chanel or simply Head & Shoulders. Are the kids in the stroller scented with Johnson's Baby Powder or is it diaper-change time?

My nose often uncovers seemingly contradictory combinations. The businessman in the pin-striped suit, wearing expensive imported Italian Oxfords, shockingly reeks of body odor, whereas the burly construction worker wearing cement-covered, steel-toed boots is surrounded by the aroma of Old Spice. The teenage girl, who hasn't yet learned that less is more, wears candy perfume that makes my nose twitch and causes me to step back. In contrast, the scruffy young man, dressed in the dirtiest grunge look, surprisingly has no odor at all.

I've also found that paying attention to the smells around me could potentially save my life. Being able to distinguish the garlicky-onion odor of propane from someone's dinner cooking over a campfire can make you a campground hero. That smell I detect in the street could well be gas and it would be wise to report it. This backfired on me once when I called the gas company only to discover that the offensive odor was emanating from the decomposing corpse of a squirrel hidden in a nearby bush – who knew they'd smell alike?

I'm not sure how long my nose has been taking so much notice of its surroundings; it was not a conscious decision, and I've just realized it was going on. It's clear that there's a whole world of smells that I didn't know existed. I plan to explore this new frontier to the fullest and proudly declare that I smell!

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