Stink You Very Much

by Susan McBride

Last week, I read about an office in Texas where 34 people were taken to the hospital after a co-worker spritzed herself with perfume. I wondered what that perfume was–Eau de Skunk, perhaps?–and I started having flashbacks.

Years ago, I worked with a very nice woman in the transcription department at a medical practice. She loved Dollar Store perfume. Bear in mind that the “transcription department” was the two of us stuck in a walk-in closet with our computers and no ventilation. The moment she showed up for work and I inhaled the extremely sweet fragrance, I got an instant pounding headache. I tried to breathe through my mouth until I couldn’t stand it anymore. One day I finally broke down and said, “I’m begging you, please, keep the cap on that perfume and use some Ivory soap instead!” She ran crying to everyone else in the place, and I was branded the Mean Girl.

Fortunately for me, she actually listened. She stopped wearing the offending scent. And I stopped getting those pounding headaches.

I recall a year or so back when another Susan McBride sued the City of Detroit after a co-worker’s perfume and perchant for plug-in air fresheners caused illness in the scent-sensitive Detroit Susan. The lawsuit came after Detroit Susan requested that her fellow employee cease and desist with the stink. Although the co-worker said she could do without the air fresheners, she couldn’t live without her perfume. I’m not sure what happened in this case (must Google), but I actually sympathize with Detroit Susan. Being forced to routinely breathe a powerful smell that makes you nauseous isn’t pleasant.

One of my former high school beaus has a lovely mother who regularly doused herself in White Linen. If y’all know what White Linen smells like, you also realize it’s a very strong scent. During car rides with that old boyfriend’s family, I breathed through my mouth and didn’t say a word. I never had the heart to tell Mom o’ Beau that I couldn’t stand to be in a tight space with her because the fumes near to killed me.

I used to wear White Shoulders to every junior high school dance, and I doubt there was a day during high school that didn’t begin with my rubbing Ralph Lauren onto the backs of my wrists. But sometime around college I stopped enjoying perfumes and colognes, and I looked for really softly-scented soaps and body gels instead. That’s when I began experiencing the joy of seasonal allergies, too, so I don’t doubt there’s a connection.

Have you ever gotten in an elevator with someone whose scent made your eyes water? Or run away from an overzealous perfume-squirting sales lady in a department store, screaming, “No, thank you!” Surely I’m not the only one with a sensitivity to smells (okay, me and my Doppelganger in Detroit).

My husband teases me, saying whenever we go out–especially to a sports venue–I’ll always remark, “It smells funny in here.” But then again, places like ice rinks where men play hockey for hours in stinky gear they’ve stuffed in bags in their car trunks (and refuse to wash until the end of the season) does make for a very special odor. Eau de Hockey Gear. Not exactly something the French will decide to bottle in lieu of Chanel No. 5.

Believe it or not, there are scents I adore: fresh strawberries, my mom’s kitchen on Thanksgiving, a crisp fall day, sheets just out of the dryer, cookies hot out of the oven, baby powder, lily-of-the-valley, and newly-cut grass (even if it makes me sneeze!).

Something else that doesn’t stink: my editor loved my revision of THE COUGAR CLUB. Hooray! I’ve got a sneak peek of my new cover, too (see the sidebar for a glimpse). Though the first attempt at cover art definitely had me pinching my nose, this one looks delish! 😉

4 replies
  1. Dea, Kia, Jake
    Dea, Kia, Jake says:

    LOVE the cover, Susan! I can't wait to read this one.

    And as for stink…I'm with you, sister. I once rode a prop plane somewhere (can't remember where or when…have wiped it from my mind) where a woman took off her nail polish with nail polish remover and then painted her nails! I almost got sick. Nobody said anything and I'm not sure why. But this ranks right up there with most unpleasant smells ever in an enclosed space. Maggie

  2. Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith
    Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith says:

    I once bought a vanilla plug-in air freshener–it was enough to gag someone–namely me. I pulled it out and tossed it. Since learned plug-in air fresheners are to blame for some house fires. Glad I didn't like it.


  3. Susan McBride
    Susan McBride says:

    Aw, thanks, you guys. It's good to know I'm not alone! Ed and I were just at the movies, and two girls plunked in front of us. One was wearing a very sickly sweet perfume. So, yeah, I made Ed move to the end of our row so I could barely smell it. I think it's so much nicer when people smell clean in a way you don't notice rather than reeking of something that's supposed to make them smell good (and does the opposite). Sigh.

    Have a great weekend, y'all!


    P.S. Glad you like the cover, Maggie! I love it, too!

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