Sunday, January 2, 2011

The nose knows

Surely, I have always been able to recall smells that remind me of events from long ago. But after years of dealing with chemicals and sniffing to evaluate wine, I seem to have developed another sense of smell, the one that acutely reacts to what others don’t seem to smell.

Where we live, we are not connected to a municipal water system. Ours is well water, and around here, the well water often provides quite a blast of sulfurous aromas, so much so that we had to have a complete water filtering system installed that not only removes the sulfurous odor but also the iron and other mineral deposits that plague the water supply.

Our water system provides two outlets for us: one is for washing and the other, on a reverse osmosis filter, is for drinking. The water source for washing is cleansed with chlorine and some large particle filters and then passed through salt to ostensibly take out the chlorine. It doesn’t always work so well but I seem to be the only one who thinks so.

Sometimes, as happened recently, I can detect sulfurous odors in the shower or from the faucet. When that happens it means to me that something is wrong with the system. The problem is that when the service guy arrives to fix what’s wrong, he doesn’t smell the sulfurous odor and thinks that I am nuts. It doesn’t help my cause when my wife can’t smell it either. But I detect it and I don’t care what others say.

Last week I had to call the water company to complain once again about detecting sulfurous odors. The fellow who came out to check things asked me what I do for a living. When I told him his eyebrows went up and he began to jump up and down.

When I asked him what was the matter he said that he just knew that my complaint had to do with my profession. He said they have a customer nearby who is a chemist and who seems also to detect odors in his water that none of the service people can detect.

All well and good, but I wanted to know what he was going to do to fix the problem. His solution was to adjust the chlorine level up a little.

I told him that I hope it doesn’t cause me to smell chlorine because I hate the smell of chlorine in water; when not overpowering and at low levels, it smells like mildew to me. He said that he wasn’t beefing it up so much that it would become a problem.

The next morning, as I splashed my face to wake up I smelled chlorine in the water. My wife did not.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
January 2011. All rights reserved.

Lifting a blog entry without the author's permission (and without recompense) is a copyright infringement--period.


  1. I had an auntie who would always say to me, if I was complaining about a smell, "maybe your nose is too close to your *%#@"

  2. How frustrating! My olfactory senses vary. I can always pick up faint sulfurous scents from well water and whatnot. And I can always pick up the faintest whiffs of bretted wine. With any luck it's not strong enough to put me off like a full box of bandaids or a hospital room, but there have been times....

    On the other hand, I'm sure there are those visiting my house who pick up dog and cat smells that I have gotten used to over time. (Sigh.)

    Word verif: newthaws :-)

  3. Marcia,

    We do get used to smells, don't we? My car smells like someone eats and lives in it--come to think of it, I do.

  4. I suffer from a similar... affliction.

    When my dog was still alive, I'd come home and as soon as I walked into the house I'd tell my wife, "we need to clean the dog's ears, he has some smelly gunk in there" and she would look at me like "how the hell could you know that just by smelling the AIR???"

    And then she'd peak at his ears and say "Oh... you're right!"


  5. Dude,

    Those kinds of things happen to me often.

    Once, while shopping at the local grocery store, I smelled an overwhelming mildew. As I stood in line I wondered where the smell was coming from and why no one else seemed to notice it.

    As the cashier put my stuff into a plastic bag, and the bag was closer to me, I discovered the source of the smell. I went over to the rack where the bags are stored for use and sure enough--whew!

    When I mentioned it to the cashier she stuck her nose into the stack of bags, looked up at me and told me that I was crazy.