New York is a city of sensory experiences – sight, touch, taste, sound, and particularly smell. I’ve grown to simultaneously love and hate the city for its smells; loving the delicious (the Greek bakeries in Astoria, the various shishkabob carts, the flowers and trees of the Upper East Side) and hating the ridiculous (the disgusting odor in the 51st St. subway underpass from the downtown 6 to the E/V; anything that smells like urine).
Last week, while at work, I started to notice a very faint but familiar scent. I have become used to strange smells near my desk, as there’s a vent above it which is constantly blowing crap into me with smells ranging from “barbecue” to “gasoline”. However, this was a new one – cherry (and I use the term “cherry” only very loosely) scented urinal cake. For those who don’t use urinals, this may be a foreign smell, but in brief: nice in a 5 second dose once a week, not nice for prolonged exposure.
I compared olifactory notes with other co-workers, and I seemed to have been the only one who noticed it. This only increased the annoyance level of the smell, because it made me wondering if my nose was on some sort of hallucinatory drug.
Today, however, as I was working and going to throw something out, I actually looked down into my trash can and noticed a very pink mini-gumball sized pellet. It looks like a piece of urinal cake. I looked through the transparent trashbag – there were more underneath, near the other trashbags. (Our janitorial staff likes to load up multiple trashbags at once to save time later.) I leaned down to take a small whiff. Sure enough, my nostrils were assaulted with the scent of fake cherry.
So now I knew the source. But why was I the only one smelling it? I went to another trash can nearby – sure enough, more pink pellets. And then it occured to me – there are three trashcans in immediate proximity to my desk. More than anyone else in the room. I’m not hallucinating, I’m just getting triple the dosage level of sanitation.
I do the only thing I know how to do when faced with bizarre and surreal working conditions: complain. I tell our administration. I tell my co-workers. Everyone else suddenly notices that hey, the room *does* smell like a urinal cake. Questions are asked as to what the hell our janitorial staff is thinking. I start to consolidate the pellets near my desk into one trash can instead of two – this backfires, however, as it exposes many more pellets to the air as I remove a trash bag.
Meanwhile, in a part of my body disconnected from most of this affair, my stomach decided it was lunch time, and insisted I get a wrap from the cafeteria. I oblige it, and then – without much thought – plop back down at my desk to eat the tasty wrap.
Sometime after I finish ingesting, my nose starts communicating with my stomach, telling it the story of the past few hours in much of the same way I’m retelling it to you now. My stomach decides it would be fun to mix the smell with the digestion process.
I immediately get sick to my stomach. I leave work an hour early, come home, crash out for a two hour nap, and completely fuck up my sense of time.
Long story short: Urinal cakes have now joined the list of smells I cannot stand.