Local War Zones
... Altercations that make no scents at all
TheTyee: War Is Smell
I was going to say that I, too, love perfume. But that's not entirely accurate. I once had a favourite perfume that now no longer exists. I used to think I must be unique, because every time I found a cosmetic I loved, it went off the market. It was so long ago I can't even dredge up the name of it, but if my favourite scent returned I wouldn't buy it because people who feel assaulted by fragrance are often very in-yer-face and a little bit scary.
I used to attend events at the local seniors centre, and when I saw the sign on the door that it was a scent-free facility I worried that the little touch of goop I had put on my hair to hold it down in the wind might be detected by someone. In one group, the coordinator went around sniffing everybody like a police dog because someone had angrily complained of a fragrance. I passed the sniff test. I wasn't the offensive smell. Big sigh of relief.
It's interesting that the Tyee article has caught my attention at this particular moment. For one thing, a few days ago I bought some St.Ives "hydrating" lotion that works great to keep my skin moist in the dry air caused by the furnace heat, but it has a faint fragrance, and now I worry that somebody I meet on the elevator may notice it and be offended.
Conversely, having just recently moved downtown, I instigated my first street fight. It was over a cigarette. A couple were walking ahead of me on a downhill slope where I had picked up more speed than they. They were both smoking cigarettes and the male was talking a blue streak as I proceeded to pass them on the left. But just at that moment, the guy gesticulated widely with his arm, so that it shot out in front of me, and between his fingers was a freshly lighted cigarette.
I had no option but to push his arm away to avoid being burned, and I said, "Be careful with that thing." His response was a very sarcastic, "Happy New Year." and his female companion berated me for not just walking around him -- even though I would have had to go out into traffic to do so.
I had touched him, you see. A huge no-no.
Clearly, I was the offender, because there is no law against smoking on a busy shopping district street (only against smoking near a bus shelter or in the doorway of a non-smoking building) and non-smokers must therefore not only accept having to breathe second-hand smoke while out walking on a city street, but apparently also remain cordial when almost burned by a cigarette.
I'm thinking: I smoked for 35 years and I didn't give it up 22 years ago to breathe in other people's smoke, but all I was asking was not to be burned by a smoker who talks with his hands. Yet, oddly, I was considered the offender.
So here I am, worried about possibly upsetting people with my hydrating lotion, or a small touch of hair goop, and would be profusely apologetic if someone complained, yet the smoker feels absolutely entitled - and, in law, actually is entitled - to feel wronged by any negative reaction.
We live in a strange and complicated world. Now that cannabis is legal, we'll be breathing that on the city streets as well. (I know from long-past experience, that if you breathe in someone else's hash smoke you'll still be feeling a bit odd the next morning.) Sometimes I see Asian people on city streets wearing surgical masks; perhaps a hangover from the industrial pollution of whatever manufacturing city they hailed from. Is this what's on the horizon for those of us who don't appreciate having smoke blown at us out of other people's lungs?
I'm not without sin myself. I confess that I do have a bottle of Calgon Hawaiian Ginger Body Mist in my bathroom, although I would not dare to use it on my body. I just like to spray a whiff of it sometimes, and visitors have actually commented on how nice the bathroom smells.
I also spray a bit of it on the stuffed animals I sometimes buy for my dear friend who is locked in an Alzheimer's ward, just so she can experience something different from the strange odors of the ward. Once, when I was going up on the elevator with a stuffed animal in my carry-all, a nurse commented on the lovely fragrance and I automatically apologized. But she had obviously found it a nice departure from the usual smells of antiseptic and urine.
In the words of Fats Waller, "One never knows, do one?" (See his shockingly politically incorrect video below.)
I hate laws. There are far too many of them. Why can't people just be considerate of others? It's the same with dog-owners who would back off if you talked right into their faces, but feel it's okay for their dog to jump all over you. Apparently, it's common knowledge that people who don't appreciate being leapt at by dogs are grinches of the worst kind.
I'm a decent person who cares about the comfort of other people, yet apparently my own comfort needs have become an affront to society. But there's comfort to be found, and Fats Waller is one who provides it -- though what he says in this song would be considered a gross affront in today's ultra-sensitive, humourless environment.
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