Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Smell and Memory

So there are some smells that instantly transport me back in time. The smell of cinnamon-scented Glade air-freshener takes me back to Grandma Merrell's house in Animas, the smell of Woolite takes me back to washing sheep at the fair, the smell of horses take me back to most of my childhood as does the scent of burning trash (we lived in the sticks, ok? everyone burned trash). The smell of cows takes me back to the interstate right outside of El Paso. The smell of a Pantene sometimes takes me back to the time I went to the Air Force Academy for a week in the summer. Sometimes when I'm walking in the rain, a breeze will rush by adding a subtle scent that I can't really put in words and I'll feel like I'm in Argentina again. All of these are fairly normal to me and don't really catch me off guard anymore. Sometimes I'll pause and bask in the memory before going on with the rest of my life. Every now and then an unusual smell will take me back to an unusual place. Like today, for instance.

I went to the dentist today. Nothing unusual so far, other than the timing. My dissertation is due to my comittee members in about 16 hours or so, so I probably shouldn't have taken the time to go the dentist, but I scheduled my appointment back when I was deluding myself that I would have my dissertation done mid-February. Back to the story...

So I'm laying back in the chair watching the end of Transformers on the ceiling (this is some fancy dentist's office!) feeling a little sad that I had so much work left to do tonight. I wasn't really bemoaning the work, but rather the fact that to keep my wits about me I turned down the opportunity to suck on a little happy gas. I briefly considered it but realized that Dissertation + happy gas+ looming deadline = train wreck. It would probably be a funny train wreck, but not worth it in the long run. I have been working on this degree for just under 6 years now, after all. Not worth the risk.

(Author's note... Some of you squeamish folk might not appreciate the next paragraph. I think it's funny, but my sense of humor runs toward to the macabre at times. Don't say I didn't warn you...)

So I'm in the chair and the dentist is drilling some tooth in the lower left quadrant of my mouth. The sound was pretty much horrible and I could see smoke coming up out of my mouth, but neither of these things really affected me. After all, that's kind of SOP for getting cavities filled. The smell of my own teeth burning, however, took me back about 5 years or so to when I got lasik surgery to correct my vision. Suddenly I was in a different chair, hugging a very large stuffed rabbit for comfort (even though I wasn't all that nervous at first. I'm just saying that if you were laying there with your eyeballs peeled and some nurse puts a large soft plush thing on your chest, you would hug it too!), and instead of my jaws being held open, there were these metal hook things holding my eyelids open. My eyelashes were taped out of the way, my corneas were peeled back, my vision was very very blurry (what with the corneas not being in their accustomed spot and all), and I was staring into a blinking red light smelling my own eyeballs being vaporized. The smell of vaporizing eyeballs isn't the same as the smell of burning teeth, but today my brain linked them somehow. Weird. Neither of these experiences was a bad one. In fact, I'm really happy with my lack of needing contacts and I will be happy with my cavity-free teeth as soon as I can feel the right side of my face.

What smells take you guys other places?


  1. haha, I'll never forget the smell of my eyeballs burning either :) That was the craziest part... the smell!

  2. I just read this entire post out loud to Nick, who having both gotten an advanced degree and Lasik surgery, could relate. We were both laughing really hard at the thought of your funny train wreck and at the smell of vaporizing eyeballs. Nice!

  3. I loved this blog!! I love smells and how they take you back places:) I'll have to share some on my blog.