Born This Way

Many, many years ago, when I was 8, my grandmother slapped my hand at her dinner table for smelling my water.

“It smells bad, ” I countered, “Here, smell it!” and I shoved it in her face. Had I been better informed, I would have known that the sense of smell is the first thing to go on old people.

“Water has no smell,” she scolded and removed my glass for the rest of the meal. “If you’re going to smell your water, then you’re not going to get any,” she declared. Thank goodness she took it away because to me, it smelled like metal. The distinct smell of the tap water in the city of Pittsburgh was my first clue of my acute sense of smell.

To this day, if you ask my Mom about it she’ll tell you, “Susie smells everything”.

I really do. It’s a gift when there is a gas leak, a burning leaf, hidden dog shit on the beach, dead mouse stuck somewhere in the wall (I can always find it), and  a curse when you’re in public and it’s bad perfume (from 100 yards away), random fart, dirty hair, cooked food that lingers on your clothes and the one that drives me absolutely nuts…cigarette smoke. I get that face at the 50 yard mark that reads, INCOMING!

Over the years, I’ve learned to embrace my special ability and not let it get the most of me. In fact, my husband congratulated me last week for not waving-off a stinky cab when I needed to get downtown. (The torrential rain might have helped). I channel my inner-scientist when I’m in a theater which usually entails burying my head in a large tub of popcorn…smelling it first of course, to make sure it’s fresh.

I can’t help but wonder if I too will lose my sense of smell as I get older. That’s the kind of old-age-loss that might be a good thing.

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