Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Whiff of Cyborg

It’s not just that it’s big – it’s very sensitive, I know how to use it, and it’s given me countless hours of indescribable pleasure.  Do I thank genetics for it, or just fate?  I’m hedging my bets and thanking them both.  Sometimes it’s a real handful, I guess, and sometimes it’s hard to keep it out of trouble; sometimes it’s so engorged that I can barely see straight.  None of that matters.  The plain truth is, I really like my nose.

I have a pretty sensitive sniffer, when all is said and done.  Of course, it doesn’t like getting punched, but even short of that, when Z rams his tiny digits up into it on a mission of juvenile exploration, it damn well hurts.  If I don’t take my allergy meds it can back up and make me choke and weep with discomfort and effluvium.  But in the big picture, such moments are by far in the minority.  As an overwhelming rule, my schnoz is there to make things better for me.  It conveys plentiful oxygen to my bronchioles.  It leads me not into temptation, or at least not into lame boring temptation.  And it endows me with a most discerning sense of smell.

I’m usually among the first to notice new odors.  I get lots of practice in this discipline on the bus and on downtown streets, but even apart from such exercises I pick up most scents pretty darn fast: biological, chemical, foodacious, whatever.  If something has a scent, I will notice it quickly and it will linger with me for a good long time.  Sometimes that’s a good thing – fresh fruit, redwood groves, cut grass, chocolate…. But of course that cloud of scent has a stinky lining, and I have no defense against those odors I’d rather not experience: septic scents, body funk, coffee breath and leachate, to name a pungent few.  And this brings me to Cyborg the 3rd. 

Cyborg the First was bought new at Ikea and lives in the dining room.  It is finished and has no scent.  Cyborg #2 was bought new and unfinished at Ikea, and now back up the computer area – it smells like pinewood. 

And so it came to pass: that the boy rendered my old nightstand an unsafe area for himself and for items of a delicate or senitive nature.  Z delighted in pulling down the antique lamp, shuffling my bookmarks, and reprogramming, and then dropping, the clock radio.  He was figuring out how to pull out the drawer, which would fall heavily on him when he eventually worked it free.  Basically, that nightstand was an ever-more-serious disaster waiting to happen.  We needed to change that nightstand out.  Urgently.  Enter Cyborg the 3rd.

Kel found it at a used furniture shop - $50 for 100 pounds of solid oak construction.  It’s 40 inches tall, five feet long, with four heavy doors and lots of interior surfaces that the boy can’t trash.  It’s not great design, but it fits and it fits in.  I was delighted when we finally got it up out of the garage and into place. 

The damn thing was too heavy for Kel to handle half of it up the curvy steps.  It took close to a month before we got a burly friend over to give us a hand with it.  So, after we got it home, it lived for a month in our garage.  Plenty of time for it to air out, eh?  Then, before I slid it finally into place, I cleaned it thoroughly with furniture polish.  So I knew it was clean.  Yet the truth could not be denied: it continued to stink.  By the curse of the sniffer, I could smell its past in a chain smoker’s home. 

You know the smell of a beach where a driftwood campfire blazed the night before?  The scent of a wooden match, lit for a candle and then blown out?  The sharp tang of pyrotechnics, sour in the sweet summer air?  It doesn’t smell like any of those.  Cyborg III smells like many, many cartons of cheapjack cancersticks.  Inside and out, it’s essence of ashtray.  And not one of those nice hi-class ashtrays, either.  No gauloises or shermies.  This is pure cut-rate cut-leaf – generic, lowbrow smokes all the way and plenty of’em.  There’s no burns or stains, and it’s slowly getting more understated as time goes by, but the cyborg bears mute witness to countless hours of cheap smoldering cigs – and I can damn well still smell it every time I walk into the room.  I head to bed and the stench permeates my thoughts and turns them ashy-grey.  If I get chilly at night and pull out my fuzzy sleepycap from the cyborg’s convenient depths, it is redolent of rancid guttering weeds. 

I find all this smelling of some stranger’s cigarettes most disquieting. Kel doesn’t notice it so much.  She disclaims any awareness of the cyborg deathstench.  The stale rankness of a cherry flaring and smoldering in a dark room is my burden alone to bear. 

Thus is it all too often.  I solely own the benefit of my magnificent proboscis – but with the benefit comes the detriment.  I just need to make sure I even the score daily with a delicious scent or two that I can bring to mind as I get into bed next to Smokestink the Cyborg. It’s a price I’m willing to pay.

Update: I think I figured it out.  The outside was basically okay, but the doors were never left open for long enough for the insides to air out.  AIRING OUT THE INSIDES IS IMPORTANT, people.  Air yours out today! 

that's just the way it seemed to me at 11:01 PM

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