Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What's That Smell?

I often hear the question, "What's that smell?"  Unfortunately, I have no answer. I lost my sense of smell in 1972 as a result of a bicycle accident.  Several weeks after the accident, I was putting on some perfume.  I couldn't smell it, so I put on more and more.  Then I thought, "Maybe it isn't the perfume that has no smell - maybe it's me."  I ran around the apartment sticking my nose into everything:  bleach, vinegar, shampoo - nothing, nothing, nothing.
Doctors told me this:  The inside of my head was travelling faster than the outside.  When I landed hard on the back of my head, the olfactory nerve was either stretched or severed.  The nerve was still in my brain, but had been disconnected. 
For my first few anosmic years, I had mysterious-smelling olfactory hallucinations. After sampling some boiled eggplant for the first time some months later, I recognized it as the taste of my hallucination.  Does that mean the inside of my brain tastes like eggplant?  Perhaps.  The hallucinations faded and my world has been odour-free ever since.
I went home to stay with my mother after getting out of the hospital, and accidentally put a dent in her car.  She said, "Oh sweetheart.  It's all right about the dent in the car.  It's the dents in your head I'm worried about."
People continue to stick things in my face and say, "You've got to smell this."  I say, "I have no sense of smell."  They say, "Oh, you'll smell this."  But I don't.
When I'm with people and a stinky thing enters the atmosphere, they say, "You're lucky you have no sense of smell."  I say, "Really?  You really think so?"
I say things like, "Does this food smell okay?"  I say that a lot.  "Has this milk gone off?" and "Crap, I burned the ...."  I've burned a lot of things over the years.
Bottom Line:  Wear a helmet.


  1. by mk via

    That's incredible and unfortunate. I have a terrible sense of smell, but I cannot imagine the inconvenience and frustration of having no sense at all.

    I've been under the impression that smell plays a big role in the taste of food. Has your appreciation of food changed any? Are there foods that you appreciate more or less?

    You know, I've always held the belief that unless you were riding on roads, bicycle helmets were usually over-protection. Now I have to deal with this personal account. If you hit your head that hard, it easily could have been much worse.

  2. I enjoy food. Sometimes it's delicious. I'm pretty sure, though, that my experience of food is different from other people's. When it comes to cooking, my spousal unit has the job of adding herbs and spices.

    Note: I was not wearing a helmet back in 1972 and there was no culture of helmet wearing. I wish I had been wearing a helmet and always wear one now. Bicycle helmet laws were introduced in Canada in the mid-1990s. In the US, most helmet laws, where they exist, were introduced in the 1990s or later (

  3. I remember you telling me that and although I didn't react, thinking you are the first person I have met who completely lost their sense of smell, which right now would be of benefit to me because they just started to pave the street beside my house and it stinks!

    My question to you did other senses improve with loss of your sense of smell? Normally when one looses one sense, other improve but I have no clue about the body's reaction to the loss of smell.

  4. Are you saying that right now losing your sense of smell would be of benefit to you? -- unfortunately it's an all-or-nothing malady. I wish I could smell your stinky neighbourhood.

    Did my other senses improve? I wish.
    Other questions: Can I still fall in love if I am unable to detect pheromones? Do humans react to pheromones? Maybe not. See

  5. by cgod posted at
    I know a guy who took a fall from the second story of a building while he was working and landed on his head. He lost his sense of smell, taste, and a lot more. He said that he still enjoyed the texture of some foods, and got hungry, but eating was a lot less interesting. Saved money on food in general.


  6. by thenewgreen 16 hours ago · link · parent · flag · post: "What's That Smell?" from newgreen at
    lil, I really enjoyed this post because it forced me to consider what is perhaps my most taken for granted sense. I'm sorry for your loss and I appreciate the humor with which you can relay something as insensitive as someone telling you your "lucky" for not being able to smell something. That's like saying someone is lucky they're deaf just because a bad song is on the radio.

    1. I just came back from a espresso shop called Jet Fuel. I asked the waitress about two containers sitting next to the sugar. I said, "Which one is the cinnamon and which one is the chocolate?" She said, "You can just smell it."