Friday, March 02, 2012

Olfactory Memories

My [work] day began earlier than usual as I had to start off at one of our satellite warehouses, doing a monthly fire extinguisher inspection.
[God! Your life is so exciting, Cipriano!]
I know. It really is.
I've done this inspection every month for years and years. And there are… MANY extinguishers to check, somewhere around a hundred or so. It involves walking through the place, clicking on all the timered lights as I go -- by the time I do the first round on the first floor [of four] everything is lit up, but at the start, wow -- it's real creepy.
Total darkness and silence.
As I made my way to the far end of the first floor, just beginning my rounds, I was literally stopped dead in my tracks by a smell. I still don't know what the smell was, I mean, from whence it originated. I narrowed it down to about a ten foot square area. I had been walking, initialing all the tags as I went, and then BOOM -- this smell, eliciting a memory from my childhood days, hit me.
Instantly I was in the Public Library in the small town in which I was raised. It was uncanny. As soon as I ever found out what words were, I was an addict, and I went to the Library every chance I got. This morning, well over forty years later -- a certain smell that existed in that old library met me in the dark passageways of our warehouse. It was so startling. There was nothing "general" about it -- in fact, nothing could be more precise. I stopped, retraced my steps, and there it was again. It reminded me of this one raised platform where you actually signed out the books at my childhood library.
We store hundreds of thousands [a million and a half or thereabouts] of boxes of paper documents where I work -- and so the smell was definitely that of paper. But not only paper -- somehow the exact same unique paper smell that I used to inhale at the library. For the rest of my hour-long circuit through the warehouse, I was a little kid again -- signing out books. Eager to read them.
Has anything like this ever happened to you?


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