The Nose, an Emotional Time Machine
by Natalie Angier

Fair warning:  The chance that this post will bore you to tears is pretty high; bear with me while I reminisce.

As my mother was going through some miscellaneous items, she found a bottle of linen spray that I forgot I even had.  When she sprayed a little bit to smell it, I was instantly transported back to my bedroom in my Garfield St apartment.  Isn’t it funny how certain triggers take you down memory lane? Especially when you smell something or hear a song.

The smell of pasta sauce simmering takes me straight back to the halls of my elementary school.  Back then our lunch was cooked on site by ladies in hair nets.  I always knew when we were having spaghetti or stuffed shells for lunch.

Ralph Lauren’s Polo will forever remind me of when I went on a date to see Groundhog Day in high school.  The entire car was permeated with the smell.  I swear he must have doused himself with it.  Seems like a billion years ago.

The smell of patchouli oil reminds me of Julie, my roommate from college.  Actually, we went to high school together.  We were both in AP Art History our senior year, but we barely knew each other then.  She wore it as her perfume, and I remember it was the first time I had ever smelled patchouli.  I have so many memories of her.  I held her hand while she got her tongue pierced, and one summer we went rollerblading nearly everyday for hours.  She lives in Long Beach now so I don’t get to see her very often.

Rosebud Salve reminds me of the marina district.  I bought my first tin of it at Burton’s Pharmacy on Chestnut St.  This is when I was teaching 3rd grade at the upper campus.  We had an in-service day, and my co-worker and I walked down for lunch.  We sat in front of the Wells Fargo, and I put a little bit on my chapped hands as we sat there killing time before we had to get back.

The smell of the scent Clean Linen from Glade Plug-Ins will forever remind me of the 1st grade classroom that I taught in.  Little children after recess do not smell pleasant.  It’s a particular funk I always tried to avoid.

One of my first memories of driving across the Bay Bridge involve stand-still traffic, raging hunger, one tin of Cinnamon Altoids, and an urgent need to use the bathroom.  It was two hours before I got to pee, and I finished the entire tin of Altoids.  I haven’t touched one since!  This incident may also be a contributing factor as to why I’m reluctant to cross the Bay Bridge.

Sweet Dreams by the Eurethmics reminds me of my uncle who passed away when I was young.  I remember listening to the tape in my cousin’s basement when we were little.  I must have been told it was his tape or something like that. I don’t even know if he liked the song.

Shout by Tears for Fears reminds me of my cousin Eugene.  He was in the bathroom getting ready to go out – looking in the mirror, grooming his hair etc..  I was in the doorway pestering him, and he burst out singing that song in my face pretending he had a mic in his hand.

I Think We’re Alone Now by Tiffany reminds me of my cousin Elliot.  I remember we were in his basement, and he was standing on the arm of the sofa singing the song and he wrapped his arms around himself and jumped onto the floor.

Paula Abdul’s album Forever Your Girl will always remind me of the cross country car trip my family took when we moved to California from New York.  We must have played the tape until the ribbon wore out.  I still can’t believe we survived that 5 day trip in the old Sundance.

Better Man by Pearl Jam will forever remind me of my friend Shamim from high school.  I don’t think I know anyone who loved Eddie Vedder more than she did.

I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston takes me back to my ceramics class in high school.  Our teacher let us bring in music to play while we worked.  The movie Bodyguard was really big at that time, and I remember the girl who sat across from me at the work table sang along, horribly might I add, every time it was played.

Green Day’s album Dookie reminds me of my cousin Ed.  When I went to visit NY after I graduated from high school, I stayed at his house.  When I woke up in the morning, he was blaring the album while he was getting ready in the bathroom.  I remember thinking it was odd that he liked Green Day.  I have no clue as to why I thought that.  The last time I had seen him I think he was eleven years old.  I had no idea what kind of music he liked.

Don’t Speak by No Doubt never fails to take me straight back to the dorms in college – specifically the cafeteria.  There were tvs mounted from the ceiling and it played music videos all the time.  My freshman year Don’t Speak was always on.

Whenever I hear Chris Isaak’s Baja Sessions it makes me feel like I should be cleaning.  When Nina was my roommate in the on-campus apartments, we used to put it on the stereo whenever we cleaned.  Nina was a huge fan of Chris Isaak, but I have no idea why we chose that album.

Funny enough when I think of Chris Isaak I don’t automatically think of Nina.  Sade’s album Love Deluxe reminds me of her.  She used to play that cd over and over and over and OVER again whenever she was upset or sad.  At that time she was having a crisis with her on again off again boyfriend who was probably the most passive-aggressive person I’ve ever met in my life.  Needless to say I have that album memorized.

Anyone willing to amuse me with songs/smells/etc. that trigger memories for them?

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