Since starting my new job over a month ago, I’ve had to accept the uncomfortable morning and evening subway commute with millions of others. Body parts touching strangers, elbows and backpacks poking my spine, loud talkers. Annoying but tolerable. But the smell of commuting? Unbearable. Noxious fumes of excessive cologne, missed showers, greasy sweaty hair, coffee breath, rancid unbrushed teeth, urine.
I’ve always been particularly responsive to the smells around me. Lately, I think I’ve started to obsess over them. Buying candles for my apartment, essential oils for my body… anything to counteract those other awful smells. I’ve been thinking about my friends. All of them, with the exception of one, who another friend once said, “could stand to use a bit more deodorant” smell really really good to me or, they simply don’t register as smelling like anything, which is perfectly fine with me.
Dr. Jim Pfaus, professor of psychology at Concordia University in Montreal, spends his time studying rats and their sexual response to smells. He believes that humans are similar to rats in their response to odors: “We’re not talking about pheromones, but odors. Real, honest to God odors that activate the main olfactory system to give you a stimulus. Scent is extremely powerful. You can’t tell me how many times you saw the color red yesterday, but smelling the smell of your first boyfriend will present you with a complete memory.”
Yesterday, I came upon this new thing available in Japan that piqued my curiosity: SCENTEE. “New way of communication with aroma: Scentee attached to the earphone jack of your smartphone sprays the aroma for you. Enjoy the new sensation of playing with the aroma at any time anywhere!”
Knowing myself, mysmell, I probably wouldn’t like the aromas offered; I’m not too fond of artificial fresheners. Now, if the Scentee folks came up with a device that could allow me to relive some of my Instagram photos–especially the #foodporn and #beautifulcountry ones. Well, that would be something. Turns out, that something isn’t so far fetched.
The Madeleine: A camera that captures scents instead of sights.
Designer Amy Radcliff, for her graduate project at London’s Central Saint Martin’s, created a prototype for “an analogue odor camera” that would use perfumery technology called Headspace Capture to harness scent. “Instead of recording light information the way that a camera would to recreate an image, her proposed device would record the molecular information contained in an odor.”
I’ll end with this possibility, this dream. Fingers and toes crossed this becomes available in my lifetime. I’m rooting for you, Amy Radcliff!