Perfumed Letters

Reading the scent trail of fragrance and words

Scent Lament: More than meets the eye

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How does this room smell ?

A current ad campaign for Febreze air freshener features shabby hotel rooms, spent sofas and industrial kitchens sporting a clutter of greasy surfaces, dingy fabric, dining debris. Blindfolded participants press their faces cringe-worthy close to filthy couch cushions and meat carcasses. But wait! The innocent sniffers of this visual decay describe their unsavory digs as fresh, beachy, grassy, evocative of wispy white curtains or caffè latte. The big visual reveal produces eew, oh my God, or the one that really makes me shiver, I think my nose touched that. The message is clear. If Febreze can obliterate such foul looking odors, imagine what it can do for your minor fragrance infractions.

In recent days, I’ve lived the Febreze experiment in reverse. An online apartment hunt boiled down to two similarly priced rentals at equally desirable addresses. One was quite a bit larger, but its hodgepodge decor, mawkish wall posters and trying-too-hard splashes of neon color against fungal 70s tones made me hesitate. Should I give up a good deal on very short-term rental just because of the design aesthetic? My co-renter sealed the fate of that apartment in one sentence: “You can tell by the pictures that it smells bad.” We opted for a smaller place with the uncluttered minimalism of an Ikea showroom, in soothing hues of ash blond, taupe, ecru and eggshell.

Imagine our dismay when shortly upon moving in, we detected a pervasive odor of what we could only describe as cat food. We opened every window on all three levels, sniffing like bloodhounds along the way. The verdict? No traceable fishy residue exists within our walls. My flatmate at first suspected this was “a case of Grey Gardens gone France,” which is to say, the possibility an apartment adjacent to our newly remodeled, pristine quarters, where walls crumble and kitty dinner bowls languish for months uncleaned. Thank goodness the landlord who visited today attributes the odor to the cooking habits of the previous tenants. He says he tried to aerate the place as best he could before our arrival, adding (with congratulations) that he no longer notices the smell. We owe our successful deodorization to plenty  of windows and fresh air, incense, and, yes, the discovery of a large can of Febreze Plaisir d’air located under the kitchen sink.

The moral of the story? There’s more to smell than meets the eye.

Stale bread will do in a pinch as an incense burner

Photos mine.

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