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|The Number 9 bus always smelled like urine. Iím legally blind and only see murky blobs of things; so my day is recorded by smells and sounds. Lots of people are blind people sight and sound savvy; they know that weíre more sensitive. I get lots of requests to listen to this or smell that . . . does it seem right to you? The rest of the time, I donít think people really are aware. I can tell you if you have a house pet with a 100% accuracy. I can tell you how close it is to your garbage pick-up day. No one was ever promised a rose garden, but I can travel city blocks and never smell anything pleasant.
I work at Polydrene, the manufacturing conglomerate. . . in cosmetics. Specifically in fragrances. Iím a perfume smeller. Itís an ok job. My handicapped status combined with my work ethic and experience have given me a sort of ďmysticĒ reputation. Iím untouchable. My word is taken as gospel and I have a job for life. Theyíd probably clone me if it was legal and they could guarantee the clone would be legally blind too.
Iím not very fond of perfume.
People wear too much of it. I can usually spot one of our perfumes from blocks away. I suppose that really people are peripherally aware of what Iím aware of . . . the fact that our world stinks. Urine, garbage, burning plastics . . . the world doesnít smell like a spring meadow. Not anymore. So I guess we try to do it ourselves. But too much smell just deadens. Enjoyment of . . . anything . . . . comes from the nuances. The little subtleties. Weíve lost that.
So anyway, on the day in question, the day that I need to mark and record so Iíll remember because I have a feeling Iíll forget, but . . well, Iíll get there in good time. On that day, I rode the Number 9 bus for 20 minutes as usual. I donít know why it smells of urine; it just does. Iíve never wanted to think too long whether it is another passenger who just habitually smells of urine or another passenger who is habitually peeing the floor. I just try not to breathe in. As I got off the bus, I encountered a woman wearing our fragrance #567-32A. At time of manufacture, I had judged #567-32A as smelling fresh, the grassy smell of a windswept sand dune; the consumer name had become ďWanderlust.Ē The fragrance had never done very well, though, women donít seem to want to smell like adventurers. They want to be fatale femmes.
Sometimes I wonder if Jerry, the companyís security guard who was usually drenched in aftershave, had been able to smell past himself, would he have been able to stop her? Probably not. I mean, I noticed her perfume. I wondered at someone wearing the antiquated, unpopular fragrance. But I never would have suspected corporate espionage or sabotage.
I rated the 867 series that morning. #01 through 03B. Rating them generally involves smelling them and then making verbal notations on a microcassette recorder. Jessica, my assistant, hadnít shown up for work, but normally she transcribes my verbal notes onto the computer. Her absence was another cog in the wheel of events, but was not unusual in and of itself; so went unnoticed.
You know how you test perfumes at the department store? Only about three varieties and you have to give it a rest? Well, I am no different. It's slow work.
(to be continued)