One Thing’s for Sure… Love Stinks (Part One)

I was blessed with a slightly-better-than-average sense of smell, presumably to make up for my slightly-worse-than-average eyesight. You know how Daredevil was blinded by the same radioactive waste that made the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and his other senses became super powerful to make up for it? That happened to me, but on a way less impressive scale.

I'm also a pro at touching stuff. Seriously, hand me anything. I'll touch it.

I’m also a pro at touching stuff. Seriously, hand me anything. I’ll touch it.

In fourth grade, my Girl Scout troop tie-dyed t-shirts (we were working on the hippie portion of the American Subcultures badge) and our troop leader told us to wear them the next day so everyone at school could bask in our matching glory. I was incredibly proud of my shirt. It was the color of a blotchy fresh bruise and had a giant paint blob on it that I felt was a faithful depiction of my Girl Scout vest. When I put the shirt on before school the next morning, though, I knew something was horribly wrong.

I didn’t need to use my super-nose to know that the whole shirt still reeked of dye. I hadn’t washed it because the dye hadn’t set, and I was much too excited to put off wearing it. I went happily off to school, where I kept a strategic distance from everyone the entire morning.

By the afternoon, I had forgotten my shirt smelled. Maybe I was used to the scent or high on the fumes. Whatever the case, I got sloppy. During math, I stupidly flagged my teacher over for help. She immediately started sniffing the air.

“Does anyone else smell that?” she asked, and the kids next to me started sniffing exaggeratedly, too.

At this point, I had three options:

1) Admit that the smell was, in fact, emanating from my shirt.

2) Blame the smell on something else, like my friend Kate or the carpet.

3) Deny the smell’s existence and attempt to convince her she was crazy.

I went with Option #3.

“No,” I said quickly. “I don’t smell anything. Are you sure you smell something? Maybe it’s your perfume.”
“I smell it!” yelled the kid next to me. He was so busy sniffing that he missed the death glare I shot him.
“It smells like turpentine,” my teacher said. “It might be a leak or something flammable.”

Soon everyone in my class was walking around my table, sniffing the air and looking for the source. I was sinking lower and lower in my chair.

“I don’t want the classroom to explode,” said my teacher. “Maybe we need to evacuate. I’m going to call Mr. Knight.” That’s when I knew I was in trouble. Mr Knight was the meanest janitor in school.

Evidence that Mr. Knight Was Bad News:

– He was the only adult I knew who smoked.

– He was tall and dried-out looking, with receding red hair and an even redder face that made him look like he was always on the verge of a screaming fit.

– He never smiled and he hardly ever spoke. When he did, he had this quiet drawl like the villain in a Western.

– In first grade, a boy named Kenton poured chocolate milk and wiped fake boogers on my chicken nuggets and I tried to drain them out over the cafeteria trash can, fully intending to eat them because I am gross. Mr. Knight came up behind me and slapped the bottom of the tray so they all fell out. “There ya go,” he said, and walked away in disgust when I started crying.

– My dad was kind of scared of him.

Mr Knight came in, sniffed the air around me, then stood on a chair so he could sniff the ceiling tiles. “It’s not comin’ from up there,” he said softly. He bent down and started sniffing the kids around me. Every time he inhaled, I cringed. By the time he got to me, I was curled into a tight ball in my chair.

It was pretty much this, but with more tie-dye and a bowl cut.

It was pretty much like this, but with a tie-dye shirt and a bowl cut.

He sniffed the air above my head, then bent down closer and smelled my perfect shirt.

“It’s this ‘un,” he said, jerking his head at me. I couldn’t cry in front of him again, and my eyes started stinging from the tears.
My teacher came over to smell me, too. “It is you, Stephanie.”
“I made this shirt,” I said, hoping they would excuse the smell because of its obvious and exquisite beauty. For some reason, they were unimpressed.
“Go to the office and see if they can do something,” she said. Mr. Knight just looked at me like I was vermin. Head down, I trudged to the office.

When I got there, I didn’t know what to say. The secretary asked what I was doing and I whispered, “My shirt smells.”
“…Oh,” she said, staring at me. “Let me smell.” I dutifully extended my arm and let her smell my sleeve. “Whew!” she said. “It really does. How interesting! You have to go back to class now.”

I slunk back in, but the stench preceded me and ruined my cover.

“Stephanie,” my teacher said sharply. “Why are you still wearing that? I asked you to get another one from the office.” She marched me back down the hall to the school nurse to ask if she had an extra shirt. They both sniffed me again, then found an incredibly ugly sweater in the back of the lost and found for me. The nurse tied my old shirt into a plastic bag and we walked back to class, where I shoved the bag into my backpack, feeling betrayed by my own creation. When I finally got home, I pushed the whole bag to the back of a drawer. It wasn’t a masterpiece anymore. Instead, it made me angry and ashamed every time I thought of it. I never wore it again.

I didn’t mean to tell that story, because it ends sadly. I actually meant to talk about the Glade Plug-In that I’m convinced is trying to ruin my life, but a girl can’t make wild claims like that without revealing the tragic backstory that led to her fear of all things scented, which is how this turned into a two-part post. If I’m not back next week with the rest of it, it’s because the Plug-In won. Send help immediately.

This is the face of evil.

This is the face of evil.


  1. writingbolt

    I went through a Glade Plug-In phase almost 20 years ago. It didn’t end well for me, either. I ended up settling for any means of using air vents, filters, dehumidifiers and windows. All that chemical and evaporator nonsense is just that. Nonsense.

    I also had super vision until I got a PC. My sniffer hasn’t worked in…I can’t remember when my nose last worked right. I think I got hit with something worse than mutagen.

  2. Nathan Watchman

    During the sixth grade, I had a similar incident with trying to create acid washed jeans by liberally applying bleach on them. I rant hem through the wash one time, which was not enough to get the smell of bleach out, before running them though the dryer. They started to smell (reek) of bleach after recess, during the class of the meanest teacher I had. She was the teacher who rode one of those scooters and ran over students feet on purpose. Needless to say, she was quite vocal about the smell, as were the other students around me. As the relatively new and quite geeky kid in school, I was devastated and found myself in tears in the middle of class. I feel your pain, and am now feeling the pain all over again.

    Thanks. Thanks a lot. I am going to go cry now.

  3. Jessica Noelle Glitterpony

    I think you should make a new tie-dye shirt and reclaim what you lost. Wear it proudly and in defiance of the mean teacher and that janitor, who sounds like institution fodder. That’s what I think. For what it’s worth.

  4. brokenbelladonna

    1 – I once had a run in with one of those automatic air fresheners that shat out a burst of decomposing flower scent reminiscent of a funeral parlor every blah minutes. Kept firing into the back of my head. I hate those things.

    2 – you have little ladyhands. I have giant manhands. We’re like, polar opposites. I’ve never got that saying.

  5. Georgia's Bath Products

    I have a super sniffer (one of the few good side effects of an illness) and make my own bath & body products. I have a shelf of scents that I use, plus am constantly testing stuff out, so my house is an odd mixture of woodsy, floral, bakery, and fruit scents, with essential oils in burners every so often. Lol. I’ve made many a blend that didn’t smell so fantastic once things began to marinate together, but I’ve finally figured out the secret. Overpower it with vanilla, cinnamon, and/or chocolate. People always forget about the odd smells when you hand them a freshly baked bit of decadence. ;)

  6. Dakota

    I feel so bad for the “kid you” slightly bad for the “adult you” having to deal with a nasty plug-in. Just know this- maybe it’ll make you feel better- Every time I go to my mom’s house I get sprayed by one of her automatic Glade scent sprayers. I always forget where it’s located and I end up standing right in front of it. By “it” I mean that there are three of them lurking in her home.

  7. geanieroake

    This is the funniest sad story I’ve ever read. “Betrayed by my own creation . . . Oh my, you make me laugh. Obviouslly you survived to tell about it. You’re a good writer and I look forward to more.

  8. TomBoy

    Hahahaha! Glade Plug-Ins are truly hideous, and so is fruity gum, boy b.o., and most air fresheners. I feel you, I loved this post, and I hope that you put that shirt out in the sun so it can be proudly displayed someday.

  9. Pingback: One Thing’s for Sure… Love Stinks (Part Two) | Listful Thinking

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