«Smell is the most powerful trigger to the memory there is. A certain flower or a whiff of smoke can bring up experiences long forgotten. Books smell … musty and rich. The knowledge gained from a computer is … it has no texture, no context. It’s there and then it’s gone. If it’s to last, then the getting of knowledge should be tangible. It should be, um, smelly.»
Giles in Buffy «I Robot, You Jane»
After involuntarily spending around two and a half months in home office — 3G regulations required daily tests but only two appointments per week possible, mask regulation, etc. pp. — the contrast to going back to work was striking. Not only that my mood increased by … a lot. It’s also that there are other senses that get used when you are in an environment with different people — especially the sense of smell.
And it’s beyond the smell of the people. Which admittedly, sometimes do smell badly, but then again, so might I. I am blind (stuffy-nosed?) when it comes to my own body odor or breath. And judging by some — usually older women — who I pass on my way to/from work, their sense of smell might be massively impaired (so much for social distancing, if 3 meters aren’t enough, I don’t know what is). Then again, if their target audience is in a similar age and similarly olfactorily impaired, it works out fine for both. And hey, they even have privacy, as everyone else keeps their distance to be able to breath.
But it is also the variety of different smells. Whether it’s on the way to work, whether it’s the smell of food or coffee drifting over. In contrast, the home office is rather constant when it comes to smell, you adapt quickly to it and do not notice it anymore. And when you cook something or drink something (tea, coffee, etc.) it’s still pretty familiar.
And yes, the laptop class had virtual meetings, but there is something missing. Something that cannot yet be replaced by digital infrastructure. And — at least if masks were working and the size of what you smell if same or larger than virus droplets — that was taken from us during the mask mandates.
So, without doing a President Biden or going into Hannibal Lecter territory, do you notice what you smell?