Olfactory Alerts – January 1, 2021

Let’s start into 2021 in style with a bona fide ramble. I’m up to it.1  You up to it?2

Of course, as the folks on the right side of the WordPress map3 are craning their necks to be the first to spot something new and improved about 2021, I’m writing this still trapped in 2020.

Let’s pretend we’re sitting together at the breakfast table. Sharing waffles and tea – strong coffee for me. Maybe bangers and mash, which to me, being an old farm kid, sounds simply delightful.  Breakfast after a night out doing dumb stuff.  Probably freezing buns waiting for some giant size apple, guitar, tangerine, peach, walleye, cheese wedge, or possum to drop because someone’s Timex says it’s midnight, then getting totally blitzed.

Auld Lang Syne

Ah, them was the days…

Remember when Special Deluxe meant something was in fact special and deluxe meaning it was a step above common grade? Not suggesting the package was special and deluxe.

How about New and Improved!  Which says this package now contains ten ounces instead of fourteen ounces. But we’ve made it convenient, keeping it the same package price.

All natural.  This used to be one half-gallon but is now a quart and a half, so not to cause back injuries.  When they really want to suggest they have your best interests at heart, they say it’s forty-eight ounces!  (You liter folks are on your own.)

Giant size.  Now only if you are Lilliputian.

Family Pack. Used to mean something other than you and your closer relatives will have to pool resources to buy this or take out a loan.

Low sodium. Same sodium as before, but we’ve reduced the single serving size from four wafers to three.

No sodium.  Another ingredient missing so now we can charge more.

Low calorie. If you eat enough to satisfy your chocolate craving though, you should either hallucinate or have the energy to lift a locomotive.

The headliner – Olfactory Alerts

Notice how pleasant aromas or disgusting odors can evoke memories?  Here’s a swell little walk down memory lane, several olfactory stimuli.  Try to remember the first time you experienced each.   Does the smell still give you the same joy or nervous excitement or cause the same fear or disgust? 

Ladies, does something like Bob Klatzkewitz’s Jade East or Hai Karate aftershave remind you of the first dance in the gymnasium Freshman year?  How about the menthol fog like that emanating from Gene Lusowicki’s analgesic after football practice when he came to your house to tutor you in Math? 

Gents, does something like Sue Clemmons’ Aqua Net hairspray in HS Chem Lab or Eva Benton’s Shalimar perfume when she walked past you in study hall turn you all wormy inside?  Again?  Still?

You’re on your own from here out.  I know what memories these inescapable smells hold for me. Breathe it in. Call-up a memory.

Chicken soup simmering on Gramma’s stove.

Hickory smoke from the barbeque pit.  If you hail from Texas, mesquite smoke.

The first time you changed a newborn’s messy nappy.

Zelda’s Bakery at 6 am.

JP7. Or raw gasoline.  Or diesel exhaust.  Or exhaust from a finely tuned Chevy. Or Ford. Or Mopar.

Turkey baking in the oven.

Freshly mowed suburban lawn.  Dewy alfalfa cut and tedded yesterday.

Burger Bob’s Drive-In.

Hospital corridors.

Motoring past the corporate pig farm with your windows down.

Theatre popcorn.

A forest or brush fire.

Wood shop.

Bacon frying.

Farmer Brown running a honey wagon across the corn stubble.

A well-tended rose garden.

The school cafeteria on spaghetti day. Or the Post Mess, an airbase Chow Hall, or a Navy galley?

A freshly turned furrow.


This just came across my desk.  Okay, I lied.   I turned my eyeballs inward to scour the recesses of my puny skull for an odd word.  I like to play with words. All the same to me whether it’s legitimately academic or insanely silly and undocumented.

Octothorpe.  The “pound sign” or “number sign” or “hash mark” or “sharp” in music.  Stolen away from its real use by techno-twits always looking to take something old, revered, and happily fulfilling its role in life, and turn it into something “new and exciting,” “hip,” or “with it,” with or without some new name.  Children fancy “hashtag” when technically it’s a “metadata tag,” itself a perversion.  Ask any real solid DBA or deep data analyst. 4

This wild creature came into my vocabulary when someone explained5 “interobang” as multifunctional6 punctuation.  It relayed both interrogation as a “question mark” or in publishing “eroteme,” and exclamation of surprise.  Sometimes exclamation point is called “bang” or by math nerds “factorial” or archaically, ecphoneme.   The idea intrigued me.  If that had a name, surely other “punctuation marks” had exotic names.

My search was mostly vanilla, a comma is, well, a comma, but there were some surprises.  Circumflex, tilde, obelisk, blind P, silcrow, dele, and others.  Any of these familiar?  

After octothorpe, I was forever alert to unique words.  So now it comes to the point that…

…What’s that I smell?  You smell something?  Smells like smoldering rubber with heaps of dung tossed-into the embers.  Like smoking rubber wasn’t insult enough. Oh, it’s 2020 dragging a suitcase full of “stuff” with it.  “Hey, man, I’d say it’s been fun, but well, you know…  Oh, and hey, close the door behind you.  Thanks.”

Ah.  Excuse me.  Sounds like someone’s knocking at the front door.  Be back in a minute…

1 Aside from odd bits and pieces, I ain’t got nothin.

2 Are you bored out of your skull?  It’s either read this drivel or go trim your toenails.

3 East relative to where I’m sitting.

4 Soapbox, not a rant.  If I were ranting, I’d be bent on convincing you of my argument.  Today, I slap don’t care.  I’m on deadline.  HTML-ers have found more ways to befoul written communications than should be allowed by law or religion.  It you don’t believe that, look at the hoops one is forced to jump through composing for web-delivery.  Can you imagine if the same complications, constraints, and confusion were applied to speaking?  It would take a bajillion [techspeak for “a whole lot of”] words just to say, “Yes.” [//startspeak// Code: 122.3. Version: 16.2. Language: Human.English.Modern. Variant: country yokel. Accent: deep south. Stammer/stutter: none. Emphasis: none.  Font: un-inebriated. Printable: no.  Screenshot: disabled.  Facial: blank stare, eyes open, nostrils flared, smile filter=none. Scalable: no. Text: yes. Post-delivery: smirk, exaggerated; blink. //endspeak//]

5 Years ago, you precious little snots, insisting anyone over the age of forty can’t “understand” things the way you do.  I thought my explainer at the time ancient in man-years, probably something over thirty!

6 Multifunctional? Dual purpose, yes, but hardly “multifunctional.”

Published by spwilcen

Retired career IT software engineer, or as we were called in the old days, programmer, it's time to empty my file cabinet of all the "creative" writing accumulated over the years - toss most of it, salvage and publish what is worthwhile.

11 thoughts on “Olfactory Alerts – January 1, 2021

  1. We loved this so much that it would be unjust to pick out the best bits. Your take on what sizes mean was truly hilarious. Then, the walk down memory lane with all those aromas, brilliant. Primary schools still do it for me. When my sons were little and the schools had open days, I would walk into the building and that strange aroma of unwashed kids, wax crayons, old books and school dinners would transport me straight back to being five years old again. Weird?

  2. Brilliant! You went from family size to dirty nappies and from there to popcorn at the pictures to octothorpe! My word! But brilliant ramble SP! The best thing for a sunny…it did rain earlier…New Years Day morning! All the best and enjoy this day and with God’s blessings we will all enjoy 2021 and hopefully forget 2020. I say that this year we should all celebrate our birthdays twice!
    Cheers my friend!

  3. A true “ramble.” Been looking around. Looks kinds like not much change here in 2021. Same grungy doggie walkers, semi-joggers, one for-real runner, of of three-legged dogs, but otherwise looks kinda familiar. Do good, señor Cabrera.

    1. Thank you. Coming for an accomplished blogger with such wonderful and inspiring works, that is quite a compliment. I do caution you, I am an “old duff” and often have difficulty minding my tongue. Please take that into consideration.

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