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Archive for November, 2010

Sit Back And Smell The Bounce

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

When I take my daily walks, two smells are more prevalent than any. Fresh cut grass, you guess? No. Roses? Fresh air?  No and no. The two things that permeate the atmosphere in San Mateo? Bounce and car exhaust. I much prefer the latter.

We live in a Bounce-scented world. My friends smell like Bounce, their houses smell like Bounce, their animals smell like Bounce and their children smell like Bounce. Bounce is now the ubiquitous odor of modern society. Everywhere I go, all I smell is Bounce.

Several years back, Frank banished Bounce from our house. Citing early smell aversion therapy—Frank worked in a candle factory in college—he cannot tolerate heavy manufactured scents. When we got together, I was pretty enamored of Bounce. The product was rather recent at the time—carbon dating puts that somewhere between the Paleolithic Age and the Bronze Age—and I thought it was a nifty idea. No more gummed up fabric softener reservoirs in the washing machine, simply throw a little snippet of fabric in the dryer and voila! Soft, unwrinkled, great-smelling clothes. Frank, however, hated the smell of Bounce and pointed out that when using an entire sheet of the product, it coated our towels with a chemical that repelled water. Which isn’t exactly helpful when trying to dry off after a shower. So he started using half-sheets of Bounce and all was well.

Then came the day Frank refused to throw that half-sheet in the dryer. He’d finally had it. He didn’t want to smell like Bounce, he didn’t want the house smelling like Bounce, nor his towel. So he stopped using the product. I didn’t notice at first. By the time I did, I no longer cared. My towels worked better and the laundry detergent took out the bad smells, so who needed the damn fabric softener, anyway?

However, as we began to notice, everyone else we knew continued to use the product. But at that point, we didn’t care. We lived in a forest with very few neighbors. Smoke from wood stoves was the smell scourge of that neighborhood.

Five years ago, we moved to San Mateo and were inundated by all new smells. Car exhaust, mowed lawns, diesel fumes from El Camino Real, along with the sweet smells of my backyard: roses, orange blossoms and the piney scent of our redwood tree. When the wind shifts, we are attacked by McDonald’s fryer. Mmmm, filet-o-fish sandwiches and fries. When the wind goes the other way, the pizza place and Chinese restaurant compete for our attention. Sometimes the corner doughnut shop smells like it’s in our living room. But mostly what we notice is the smell of Bounce. All our neighbors use it. All one hundred thousand of them.

I can’t help but mourn the loss of non-man-made scents. The prevalent odors in modern society today are manufactured. Retailers use specially designed scents to attract shoppers. Hotels scent their lobbies. Public restrooms are cherry-smelling nightmares. Turn on the tube and Glade wants you to plug some gizmo into your electrical outlet that lets off timed bursts of “fresh scents.” Gak. When I was a kid, “air fresheners” came in a can and were used exclusively in the bathroom. And I have to say, even as a kid, I preferred the smell of crap over artificial rosy-smelling crap. “Air fresheners” don’t freshen the air. They pollute it with manufactured nastiness.

I grew up in San Mateo, and thankfully, the air is less polluted than when I was a kid. I no longer smell the scent of fresh DDT in the air—which also used to be ubiquitous—nor is the car exhaust anywhere near as toxic nor prevalent. I am reminded of this every time a classic car drives by and leaves me in a cloud of unburned gasoline and oil. But there has been a huge uptick in Bounce and other artificial smells. And I hate them all.

My hatred of Bounce came to a head this week when I received two shipments of pre-owned pants I bought off of eBay. When I opened the first package, a nuclear-powered blast of Bounce annihilated me. The lady must have used a whole freakin’ roll in the dryer. Instead of buying pants, I ended up with two large pants-shaped Bounce air fresheners. I swear, if I put these two pairs of pants into a packed gymnasium of sweaty basketball players, no one would smell anything but Bounce.

My nostrils stinging, I immediately put the pants in the wash. When I withdrew them, there was almost no change in the smell. Since the pants are brightly colored, I can’t risk washing them too much or the design will fade. So I hung them up in my bathroom to dry. Now my entire house smells like Bounce. The smell pervades everything. It has wafted into the kitchen, the back bedroom and Frank’s office. When I walk in the door, a wall of Bounce hits me. Sitting here at my desk, all I can smell is Bounce.

Disgusted, I looked forward to my second package of pants because surely these would not smell as horrible as the first two pairs. Wrong. When I opened the package, yet another typhoon of Bounce-filled air stormed my nose. And stayed there. I think Bounce has sticky molecules that are designed to adhere to human nostril hair. Because no matter what I fix for dinner—fish, chicken in peanut sauce or grilled steak—all I can smell is Bounce. I’m thinking of having nose hair replacement therapy.

Last time I wrote about a product that annoyed me and used the actual name, the manufacturer sent a team of lawyers after me. If the Bounce people are as aggressive as the odor of their product, this time I’m expecting a team of contract killers. But I’ll be ready for them. Because their scent will surely hit me before their bullets do.

©2010, Janet Periat

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