Commentary – Top 10 list, minus 1

Joe McWilliams

Top 10 lists are so common these days they are getting annoying. That’s why this one only goes up to nine!

I was thinking the other day on the way to work I don’t see many articles about smells. I walk, so unlike most of my colleagues who drive to work, I am assaulted with whatever is in the air.

I thought of ranking these aromas, from least pleasant to most. Or maybe from most irritating to least.

This might sound trivial or frivolous, and maybe it is, but not entirely. Allergies come into it. So does asthma. What could be and maybe should be a pleasant 15 minutes out in the fresh air can be a bit of an obstacle course. It turns out fresh air isn’t very fresh, much of the time.

So, let’s get at this. Worst to best:

  1. That scented crap people put in their clothes dryers. Horrible stuff. What’s so bad, I ask, about the smell of clean, unperfumed laundry? Why the need for added scent? The smell of it can foul whole neighbourhoods and make time spent in your yard intolerable. Just so you know. I realize some people must like the smell. But they should know the other side of the story.
  2. Diesel fumes. In some atmospheric conditions these hang low and create a toxic fug that pedestrians can’t escape. In winter it’s more or less understandable why people leave their trucks running. But in summer? Come on!
  3. Perfume generally. Sometimes you’ll walk past somebody and the scent they are wearing is strong enough to knock an elephant to its knees. Usually it’s a young person. What are they thinking? It’s hard to fathom. Is it possible there’s something attractive about it? It boggles the mind.
  4. Cigarette smoke. This seems less prevalent than it used to be. And it’s not much of a factor outdoors. But it’s not nice.
  5. Mill exhaust. This doesn’t happen often and the smell is not usually very strong or even very unpleasant. But it happens when conditions are right –usually a gentle breeze from the east [in Slave Lake]. Nothing we can do about it and it could be a lot worse – for example, if all those forest products mills were right on the edge of town instead of 10 km away.
  6. Marijuana smoke. Nothing new about this and it is not an unpleasant smell. But it is noticeably more prevalent since being decriminalized a couple of years ago. It’s weird how the smell at times is strong and long-lasting, with no obvious source. It probably is coming from several sources, mingling and hanging around when the conditions are right for that.
  7. Trees, flowers, etc. Not much of this during the winter, but in spring and summer it’s a big part of the ambience. Most of these smells are quite pleasant. The poplars budding out; the chokecherry bushes with their own peculiar scent. Wild roses, of course!
  8. Cooking! Again, you get more of this in season, but in most neighbourhoods there’s a guy who insists on grilling steaks on the deck in just about any weather. Often wearing shorts at -10C degrees or so. On an empty stomach, heading home after a long day at the grindstone, this can really get the juices running.
  9. Finally, and best of all, whatever my wife is cooking for supper. I usually smell this as I’m opening the door. Sometimes a bit before.

Yay! I’m a lucky guy!

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