Opinion: Lacking common scents

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Several years ago, I mentioned in a column that I have pretty much lost my sense of smell. Many people wrote to tell me I had a serious medical issue. Medical advice from friends usually stinks. Not that I would know what stinks.

When Mary Ellen, Brett and I used to sit in the living room watching the evening news, our dog was always at our feet. All of a sudden, both my son and my wife would start waving their hands in front of their noses. (the first time it happened, I figured I was blocking their view of the screen).

“You didn’t smell that?” they’d shout.

“No, but I heard it.”  

I may have a disorder called anosmia, which one expert claims is sometimes caused by intra-nasal drug abuse. I could be losing my memory, too, because I have no recollection of ever putting anything in my nose except a carrot at every New Year’s Eve party. I do this just so I can say, “My doctor says I’m not eating right.”

I am coping with my problem. For example, I now change my socks almost every day, because my previous technique for making that important evaluation is no longer effective. Has the cottage cheese in the fridge gone bad? Now, I have to rely solely on the fuzzy green top layer to determine whether it’s a bad lunch option.

If you lose your sense of smell, it does a number on your sense of taste. I told my wife I’m enjoying her cooking more than ever. I stupidly thought she would take that as a compliment.

The Brookstone catalog doesn’t contain a single gadget I could attach to my proboscis to help me compete with noses half my age. One website suggested that if your sense of smell is impaired, you might want to employ a “smell buddy”—a person you trust to tell you whether you have foul-smelling breath or offensive odors in your home. I called my friend Bob to see if he qualified and was willing. I promised to make a big donation to his favorite charity if he’d do it.   

 “This deal smells fishy to me,” Bob said.

I hired him on the spot.


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