I’ve been around the block. I’ve seen and heard some weird things during my time working on the mountain. There was the Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer who joked about packing out a funeral urn he was dispatched to pick up after it was abandoned on a popular trail of giant sequoias across the street from the parking lot where I collected access fees. I’ve been asked stupid questions,and I once found a dead man in the campground where I ended up living. I didn’t think I could encounter anything weirder than what I’d already experienced, but of course I did.
It was a busy Sunday afternoon at the Mercantile. I was running the cash register, so I just stayed behind the counter between customers. A young man and a young woman—probably in their early 20s came up to the counter. They were only buying a couple of little things, but before the transaction was complete, the young man burst out with You must hate putting up with smelly people all day!
He’d directed his statement mostly to the other clerk who was standing next to me behind the counter.
I think the statement was so weird to me because it came out of nowhere. We hadn’t been discussing odors or stink or smelly people. Nothing at all had been said about smells. No funky people had been lingering in the store as far as I could tell. To the best of my knowledge, no olfactory affronts had taken place. I honestly had no idea about what or whom this young man was talking. Why were smelly people on this man’s mind? Why was he mentioning them to us? Maybe because the store was in a campground and he associated camping with not taking a shower he thought everyone who came into the store was going to smell bad.
My two coworkers and I rushed to assure him that smelly people were not on our list of annoyances. 99 problems, but smelly folks ain’t one, I wish I would have thought to tell him.
When he and the woman left, I couldn’t stop shaking my head. That was the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard up here, I said to my coworkers, and that was saying a lot.
Perhaps he was referring to perfume or people wearing clothes washed in scented laundry products. To those of us with MCS, those scents are not only offensive, they cause pain and even personality changes that you can see on a brain scan. They also cause us to lose our social boundaries which could explain his off the wall comment. Maybe. I can hear myself saying something like that if I were being bombarded with trigger scents. And the thing is, when this happens, we are in fight or flight, so our senses are in high gear. We can often smell things other people just ignore. We joke amongst ourselves that we can smell the UPS man coming a mile away. And it’s true.
Thanks for this perspective, Annie. What you are saying never occurred to me. Perhaps you are correct. We will never know since it didn’t occur to me to ask more questions at the time.
Personally, I would rather smell armpits rather than most perfumes.