Shhh! Do You Smell Something?

July 28, 2000

Last week I happened to mention nearly being sprayed in the eyes by a "sales associate" wielding a wicked bottle of cologne. It’s a practice that’s being let go, gradually, but in a lot of shopping malls sales associates used to hide behind the counter, then jump up unexpectedly and spray customers with some horrendous cologne or perfume. Why do they do that? It’s so you’ll feel guilty and buy the stuff. Then when a friend asks you, "Why do you smell like feet?" you can say, "It’s not feet, it’s this new sandalwood fragrance I bought." Then your friend will feel guilty, and you’ll have been able to sublimate some of your frustration at being sprayed by a trigger-happy salesperson. (Sandalwood, by the way, is a myth. A perfume company botched a batch of perfume. The research and development team gathered around and said, "This smells kind of like feet. Let’s call it sandalwood and sell it for an exorbitant price!")

The cologne, for the record, came in a conical bottle of smoky blue glass and was called "Testes". It smelled sort of like baked roadkill, which probably explains why the sales associate couldn’t give the stuff away. But it made me wonder: what men wear cologne? I have yet to meet a single man who wears cologne–apart from a photographer I once met whose shirt was unbuttoned all the way to his hairy navel, and who apparently bathed in a scent called "Instinct" in between his daily sessions in a tanning booth. The only other male I ever met who even kept up a pretence of using cologne was a guy I knew in college. He had an expensive bottle of cologne on his bureau–but I never saw him use it, and he never walked around in the hazy cloud that distinguishes habitual perfume users. One night I opened the bottle and smelled it. It smelled like…water. That’s because it was water. He admitted to me that he bought the bottle for fifty-cents at a garage sale and kept it out to impress people.

For myself, I only used cologne–actually it was called aftershave, which is a more manly word for cologne–once. It had been given to my father as a gift sometime in the early seventies, which explains the brand name "Shaft". I was the first person to open the bottle. I was fifteen and wanted to impress a girl I was taking to see a movie. In the ticket line, she sniffed me and said, "That’s nice perfume." I replied, "It’s not perfume. It’s aftershave." She smirked and said, "Do you shave?" I never touched the stuff again.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

  1. don’t walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me, either. Just leave me alone.

  2. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and a leaky tire.

  3. It’s always darkest before dawn. So if you’re going to steal the neighbor’s newspaper, that’s the time to do it.

  4. It’s a small world. So you gotta use your elbows a lot.

  5. Respect is like air; it’s not important unless you aren’t getting any.

  6. We are born naked, wet, and hungry. Then things get worse.

  7. No one is listening until you make a mistake.

  8. Always remember you’re unique, just like everyone else.

  9. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.

  10. It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.

  11. It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help.

  12. If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments.

  13. If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.

  14. If you lend someone $20, and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

  15. If you haven’t much education you must use your brain.

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