An Assault on the Senses

I’m sitting in the common area of the student center on the first night of the second semester of my certificate program , attempting to pour forth deep insights and bad humor when all I can focus on is the overwhelming acrid smell of man sweat.

What the hell is that all about?!

Granted, it’s raining and it’s a balmy 50 degrees in the first week of February for Boston, but let’s be honest here, it’s not even close to sweating for no reason weather. It’s like a stale gym in here and it’s all I can focus on. I should be waxing poetic over the incredible kielbasa I made for dinner last night, but every time I think of food, I inhale the essence of week-old athletic socks and want to never consume anything with an odor again.

I had every intention of writing some insightful piece weighing in on Barbie and her new iterations too, but each thought is replaced by wondering how Barbie’s carefully manufactured nostrils would react to such an offense to the senses.


I now understand what the recent “Fragrance-Free Building” policy instituted at work is all about. I don’t have allergic reactions to fragrance that I’m aware of, nor do I layer on the entire line of Bath and Body Works musky fruit bowl offerings of shower gel, lotion, glitter spray and Eau de Toilette, so it wasn’t a huge inconvenience to me to not be allowed to use them at work. However, having an official policy on it did merit a deep eye roll.


Considering that the class I am attending tonight is part of my foray into a deeper understanding of Human Resources knowledge, I should be more sensitive and considerate to this situation, but my greatest hope in this moment is to make a laminated sign that I can keep in my bag so that anywhere I go, I can place it on the tabletop and declare, for all to see, that this is my very own Fragrance-Free Zone.

I would then be able to dispatch violators accordingly. Of course, how would one know they were in violation of my new Zone? That would require a presence of mind that I’m betting is already lacking. Perhaps I should dispense little tickets like parking enforcement officers have, only mine will be lightly coated in charcoal or baking soda so it can subtly begin to absorb any odor within a three-foot range.


This smell is not helping me be the type of person who helps other people find a kind and equitable way of doing anything. I just want it to stop so I can think clearly again. It is far more likely that the perpetrator has absolutely no idea. It is even more likely that there is more than one in this gang of pungent marauders. I haven’t ruled myself out of this lineup, either, though a not-as-casual-as it-could-have-been self-check did not yield anything other than the already present of nasal pollution. I usually have deodorant in my desk drawer for such an occasion; unscented, of course, but alas there is no relief in a public place.


There is honestly no way to truly do this subtly.

It doesn’t help that the Loudmouth in Chief behind me is espousing about something Very Important. That leaves my fellow hostages and me further assaulted and crippled, counting out two senses now. I can only imagine what will happen if there’s a sudden attack on our vision that only a college campus can provide, though one could argue the fumes have begun to eat away at our eyeballs in just such a fashion. Unfortunately, this speechifying leads me to associate the two offenses in my mind and I feel only slightly bad that I now suspect when that table disperses, so will the smell.

I know, I’m a horrible person. I came to terms with that ages ago.


It is confirmed now, for as I wrote the previous paragraph, the offending party indeed packed up the soap box and moved along, releasing us all from an intensely terrible auditory and olfactory grip. The relief is almost instant and the mood in the room has a palpable shift, as if we’ve all been holding our breath for the hour, or more for some, we’ve been held captive.

Why must I be right so many times?

My head is clearing, though I fear I may never be the same. My thoughts have suffered severe injury, as is evident here. The night is young and full of promise, unlike my tired old nose and ears that will never forgive the association of student center, man sweat and disquiet.

2 thoughts on “An Assault on the Senses

  1. June Leighton says:

    My migraines cause me to jolt back at many “unscented” products. If only said person had used more soap and less box… Also, “…lightly coated in charcoal or baking soda so it can subtly begin to absorb any odor within a three-foot range” made me yell HA! — it alarmed those around me. I would give you extra credit for handing this in — even if it is pass/fail.


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