One final story before I leave the subject of evocative smells for a while.
Anyone else here a fan of The Gilmore Girls? Remember the episode at the elder Gilmores’ anniversary where everyone tried to avoid being hugged by Aunt Totsie? Once she embraced you, you’d be saturated with her strong perfume for hours.
I’ve had elderly relatives like that—sweet, sweet ladies, but dear Lord, how they reeked of roses or lilacs or violets! One hug and you reeked of those flowers, too.
I was strongly reminded of Aunt Totsie on the road trip I took with Carolyn Hart back in April. I had never noticed her perfume before until we were shut up in the car together for two or three hours at a stretch, but there it was—a sort of vanilla scent overlaid with floral tones. The longer we drove, the stronger it became.
It was April, it was South Carolina, and a lot of unfamiliar trees were in flower. Carolyn seemed to be having trouble with the pollen and more than once she said, “I must be allergic to something in the air.”
I, too, was having trouble breathing, but politeness forbids criticizing a friend’s taste in clothes or colognes, so I did not say, “You know, Carolyn, if you’d go a little easier on your perfume, you might could breathe easier.”
It wasn’t noticeable at meals or sharing a microphone for book talks, but once we were shut up together in the car, it took all my willpower not to keep lowering the window for fresh air.
Except for that, it was a delightful trip and I was truly sorry to leave her at the airport for her flight back to Oklahoma.
A week or so later, my husband and I drove that same car to a nearby town and on the way over, there was again that overpowering scent of vanilla and flowers.
“What is that smell?” I asked him.
“Probably a deodorizing strip,” he said. “Remember, I had the car detailed right before Carolyn came.”
It took me almost twenty minutes to find it because the detailer had tucked it under the seat belt mechanisms between the two front seats.
I threw it in the garbage and instantly eMailed Carolyn to apologize and that’s how I learned that she thought it was my perfume and that she hadn’t wanted to hurt my feelings by criticizing it.
Sometimes it really doesn’t pay to be polite!