We won’t put up with noise pollution or other assaults on our senses. Lori Duff Writes about why we put up with Smell Pollution.
I’ve never been a real estate agent, and I’m not a particularly good salesperson, mainly because if someone says they don’t want something, or even shows with their body language that they don’t want to talk to me or wants me to change the topic, it seems kind of rude to force them into it. That said, I’m not an idiot, and I’m pretty sure that no sales pitch ever in the history of the world contained the phrases “downwind from a paper mill” or “the nearby railway blows a warning signal every day at two a.m.”
No one likes loud, unwanted noises. No one gets glad when a car drives by their house with a thumping baseline that shakes the window. No one wants to be around the guy who smells like the bait from his fishing trip or the live cultures on his sweat socks. We don’t want the hotel room that looks out on the giant blinking neon sign. I’m not aware of anyone who has ever said, “Yes! The neighbor’s dog won’t stop barking! This is the best night of my life!” We don’t want ugly cell towers in our backyards or billboards concealing the views of, well, sometimes the other billboards. We’ve all been choked in an elevator with someone who thinks one bottle of perfume equals one application.
The point is this: we don’t like to have our senses assaulted. We don’t like to have to smell stinky smells, we don’t like to see ugly things, and we don’t want noise pollution. There are laws against such things, and no one I know of things there shouldn’t be. I’m going to assume that so far I haven’t said a single controversial thing.
All of this occurred to me one day as I went out to eat in a restaurant which had outdoor seating. I was sitting indoors, but I had a clear view of everyone outside. Everyone seemed normal enough. Then a woman walked by and stopped to read the menu which was posted on the wall near the outdoor seating. There was nothing unusual about this woman. Average height, average size, your basic brown hair of average length, normal everyday type clothing. But she was smoking a cigarette. Great clouds of gray funk swirled around her head and tapped a few diners on the shoulder.
No one said anything to her. A few people wrinkled their noses, but from my vantage point, all I could see were people going about their collective businesses and eating their dinners.
Let me say this: I cannot bear the smell of cigarette smoke. Not only is it an unpleasant smell, but it is a migraine trigger for me, and the more I am around it, the more likely I am to get a whanging headache that only a lobotomy and/or hours spent in a dark room under the influence of prescription drugs can remedy. I have several friends who are allergic to it. No one I know likes the smell. I mean, seriously, have you ever been in a Yankee Candle store? They have candles that smell like every thing: there are even separate candles for Clean Linen and Clean Cotton and a completely different one for Fresh Laundry. Every fruit, every herb, leathery smells, florals, beachy, pine-y, savory, sweet, and spicy. But there is not a single ‘flavor’ that smells anything like “Unfiltered Camels.”
So I’m not going to talk about the health risks of smoking. That horse took its last, raspy, emphasemic breath a few years ago. I’m not going to beat it. Neither am I going to talk about physical addiction or any of that. I’m just going to talk about the stink. The stink that fills your nostrils and makes your risotto taste like it was prepared on the set of Mad Men. The stink that clings to my hair and lingers in the way I wish hair products would. The stink that says, “the person making the stink doesn’t give a rat’s patootie about you, your health, your senses, or your general enjoyment of life.”
I don’t know why we put up with this. We have noise ordinances. We have zoning laws which prohibit certain unsightly things from existing in certain places. No one would expect us to grin and bear a neighbor’s loud stereo or home pork rendering business. In fact, most people I know wish there were more ‘nuisance’ ordinances like this because these small, grain-of-sand-in-your-sandal nuisances can really ruin your day.
Most smokers I know have the decency to be embarrassed that they can’t kick the habit, and are fairly considerate about going ‘somewhere else’ around the corner or away from others whilst upping their nicotine to blood ratio. I appreciate those gestures. Even more, I appreciate the folks who have switched over to those electronic cigarettes. I’m not sure how they work, but somehow they deliver nicotine through an inhale/exhale method, and the ‘smoke’ is actually steam that smells like exactly nothing.
Ah, yes. The sweet sweet smell of nothing at all.