laundry basket

The nose knows

December 20, 2022

   As I’ve already suggested, Carol’s family is close – intimate really. So when her daughter April called one morning asking, “Can you come over and smell my son’s wash,” even that didn’t strike me as inordinately “close” for this brood. I thought, sure, there are no skeletons in this family’s closet that have to be kept hidden. (In my family, we were loath to admit we were related, much less guilty or not of giving off odors.)

   But there were particulars that made this request a simple practical one. Seems the Braverman Thanksgiving of the previous week had been a super-spreader event, and one of April’s subsequent symptoms was the classic loss of smell. She’d come across a pile of her teenage son’s laundry that had been left overnight in the washer. She wanted to know if had mildewed, and she needed Carol’s world class olfactory sense (Carol can detect gas I hadn’t even passed yet. Perhaps that’s just a fear factor based on previous encounters with gas I have passed, but still…) to confirm its freshness.

   My own thinking was whether a teen-aged male’s laundry can ever truly pass a smell test, fresh washed or otherwise. In my upbringing with two brothers, my mother’s directive to smell her teenage son’s laundry was always delivered as a threat. (“If you two don’t stop slamming that screen door, I’m gonna make you smell Reid’s wash.!”)

But it shows you how insidious this virus is. And how it seems to attack families who are close. (The Champagnes, in contrast, would have skated through the Black Death, not even realizing why so many of the fam were sudden and unexpected no shows.)

   But Carol’s nose is, in modern parlance, epic. She’s always at least a week ahead of sensing when the refrigerator’s baking soda is about to give out. Had she grown up in Appalachia and worked in the coal mines, she would have saved thousands of canaries. On the other end of the spectrum, she can’t wait to smell my neck after a shower. (Full disclosure. If you read that last line, it means I decided not to let Carol read this blog before posting.)

   But I would be remiss if I didn’t say something about the Covid outbreak that occurred as a result of that Braverman Thanksgiving. They’re all part of the Blue tribe. They all got the Fauci Ouchie(s) as soon as they were eligible. They masked, they distanced, they tested and believed all CDC directives. Still, half of our Thanksgiving party got Covid. How?  We don’t know. It seemed, though, that those of us who tested negative had had Covid previously. Only the newbies, fully vaxxed I should add , got infected. For the most part, I’m happy to report, symptoms have been more of a pain in the neck than serious. But it shows you how insidious this virus is. And how it seems to attack families who are close. (The Champagnes, in contrast, would have skated through the Black Death, not even realizing why so many of the fam were sudden and unexpected no shows.)

   It might be one of the great ironies of the human family that the very closeness of that unit may spread contagion, but also provides that one member who can sniff out rot in a teenage son’s wash. 

   Talk about airing one’s dirty laundry. This family might have invented the phrase. Probably a good idea for me to keep flowers in the house and take more showers. 

   Or get a canary.

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