Some­thing in the air

There are peo­ple who ac­tu­ally love the smell of con­crete in all its forms. Have we com­pletely lost the plot?

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Living - star2@thes­ Mary Sch­nei­der Check out Mary on Face­book at www. face­­nei­der.writer

WE are a jaded lot. While some peo­ple live with the threat of a bomb fall­ing on their house at any mo­ment, some of us are more con­cerned about the scent we put on ev­ery morn­ing.

And I’m not talk­ing about any old scent. It would ap­pear that some folks are no longer con­tent with smelling of jas­mine, vanilla, musk or choco­late cake – they want some­thing edgier.

They want to step out smelling of the feel­ing they had when they lost their first tooth, or the feel­ing of skate­board­ing on a sum­mer day, or con­crete.

Have we com­pletely lost the plot? I don’t want to spray on a scent ev­ery morn­ing that re­minds me of that first stub­born milk tooth that wob­bled for ages be­fore de­cid­ing to part com­pany with me.

Nor do I want to re­mem­ber those mo­ments when I for­got about my loose tooth and at­tempted to bite into a piece of un­yield­ing tof­fee or a hard bis­cuit. I might as well spray on a scent called Pain, Blood or Scream!

Still, I’m sure such names might ap­peal to the masochists among us.

My feel­ings to­wards the other “alternative scents” men­tioned are just as en­thu­si­as­tic.

For ex­am­ple, I’ve never been on a skate­board be­fore so I’m un­likely to be at­tracted to the smell of rub­ber on tar. And don’t get me started on the smell of con­crete.

There’s some­thing about the smell of con­crete, es­pe­cially wet con­crete, that really gets up my nose. It makes my stom­ach churn and I have to pinch my nos­trils to­gether to pre­vent my­self from throw­ing up.

A quick In­ter­net search has just shown me that there are count­less peo­ple out there who love the smell of con­crete in all its forms – from ce­ment pow­der, to wet ce­ment go­ing around in a mixer, to dry ex­panses of con­crete, to pave­ments after a shower of rain.

An­other smell that both­ers me just as much is the odour that em­anates from a wet dog.

And I don’t mean a dog that’s been freshly sham­pooed with a pleas­ing range of ca­nine groom­ing prod­ucts.

I’m talk­ing about a mangy street dog that has been caught in the rain and is just be­gin­ning to dry. You’ve prob­a­bly seen such a dog be­fore.

The poor thing usu­ally has sore spots on its ema­ci­ated body where hair re­fuses to grow, dole­ful eyes and a breath so fetid that it will make your eyes water if you catch so much as the tini­est whiff of it.

But the smell com­ing from such a mangy dog’s body can eclipse all the bad breaths in the world ex­haled onto your face si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

If you reach out and touch the wretched an­i­mal in an at­tempt to com­fort it, the smell that is trans­ferred onto your hand will linger,

linger… and linger, and

The only other thing worse than the smell of a wet mangy dog (and I do love dogs) is the smell of a wet mangy dog stand­ing on wet con­crete.

Not only has con­crete in­spired its own scent, it has also been im­mor­talised in a few songs and po­ems, such is the pull of its odour.

But I can’t say I’ve come across a verse ded­i­cated to a wet smelly dog. But that’s not to say that there isn’t some­one out there who loves to sniff a wet smelly dog.

You might scoff at the idea, but it seems that some peo­ple also like the smell of skunks. There are even web­sites and Face­book pages ded­i­cated to th­ese strong-odoured an­i­mals.

And no, it’s not the an­i­mal it­self but just its scent that th­ese afi­ciona­dos love so much.

It seems that our like or dis­like of cer­tain smells is not hard­wired, which means we are not born with a pre­dis­po­si­tion to any sort of smell.

Oth­er­wise, we’d all hate the smell of cow dung and love the smell of freshly baked bread.

I’ve dis­cov­ered that we form opin­ions about the var­i­ous scents that we are ex­posed to by as­so­ci­a­tion and/or by mim­ick­ing our par­ents.

For ex­am­ple, I love the smell of petrol and oil and just about any other smell to be found in a garage.

As a teenager, I once spent a sum­mer work­ing in a petrol sta­tion, where I met some of the most amaz­ing peo­ple trav­el­ling around Scot­land.

The weather was glo­ri­ous that year and the cou­ple who owned

the sta­tion were so con­sid­er­ate, and the other staff so friendly that it is etched in my mem­ory as a fab­u­lous ex­pe­ri­ence.

I could hap­pily smear oil on my neck and dab petrol on the in­side of my wrists but I sus­pect I would get some strange looks.

I also love the smell of lit matches and pipe to­bacco – but I sus­pect that all comes from my grand­fa­ther who was a pipe smoker.

My son on the other hand dis­likes most per­fumes. I think this

dates back to when he was a lit­tle boy. I would only wear per­fume when I was go­ing out with­out my chil­dren, and he re­mem­bers one per­fume from that time as smelling of cock­roach – the one in­sect that scares him. The smell of per­fume pos­si­bly trig­gers feel­ings of aban­don­ment.

What do your pref­er­ences say about you?


An em­ployee con­ducts an ‘odour test’ at a lab­o­ra­tory in Nan­jing, China. Some peo­ple are no longer con­tent with pleas­ant scents such as jas­mine and vanilla; they want some­thing edgier.

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