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Lynn Hummel: It smells really sweaty in there

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A week before Ryan was scheduled to enter fourth grade, a message was sent by the school Principal to parents of all 4th graders: “Beginning with the 4th grade, all children are expected to be wearing an anti-perspiration deodorant when they come to school.” If you don’t get it, ask a fourth grade teacher. One veteran teacher reported that she could walk into a classroom blindfolded and tell you from the smell what grade it was.

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I was reminded of the Principal’s directive when I read last week about that the Roughrider Room and the Harvest Room in the North Dakota State Capitol have “fragrance” problems. Some have complained that the two rooms, when the state budget is drafted, smell like a nervous person’s armpits or like a locker room. Others say the smell of the Harvest Room smells like newly mown hay. The politicians who met there haven’t noticed a thing. No comment on that. The state has plans to improve the ventilation system in hopes of clearing the air. No reporter has yet claimed that he or she could walk into one of those rooms blindfolded and tell you which party was in the majority.

Our granddaughter, Maya, when she was about five years old, went to a girls gymnastics meet with her neighbors. Maya’s Mom, Cinderella, hoping Maya would get enthused about gymnastics, asked her when she returned how she liked the sport. “It smelled like sweat in there,” the five year old reported. She’s older now, but she has yet to do one flip or cartwheel. First impressions can be lasting.

We had a couple at our house a few years ago for cookies and coffee. The four of us were visiting in this little room about big enough for four people. Suddenly we were aware of a foul odor. It was strong and it was putrid. Nobody said a word. Embarrassment hung in the air with the pungent smell. Before long the visitors excused themselves and went home. After they left, the smell was still there. Wasn’t them. It wasn’t us either. So we searched the little room from top to bottom. I was afraid we’d find a dead and decomposing mouse or something even worse.

A few years before, we’d been given two beautifully decorated Ukrainian eggs. You know about Ukrainian eggs don’t you? They’re called pysauka. It is a Ukrainian folk custom to decorate eggs for Easter in beautiful, colorful, geometric, designs. They’re not painted, they’re written on with beeswax ─ works of art. They’re not boiled eggs; they’re raw. The custom is ripe with legend ─ religion, folklore and superstition. The eggs are also ripe with chemistry. They sit there on your shelf month after month, year after year, and the chemistry inside them keeps churning. In our case, the shells cracked without a sound and the festering contents and their odor oozed out. The only clue was that dead mouse odor ─ certain to drive your company home.

Smell is a big deal. It can’t be ignored by elementary schools, gymnastic teams, homeowners or the legislature. Soap and water are wonderful, and can control some situations, but not all. If you want to become rich and famous, go into the fragrance business. Every time we get the Sunday paper there are a few little fragrance packets thrown in ─ just open the flap and experience the wonderful smell. Georgio Armani sent us an ad for a Father’s Day kit of Georgio’s “most iconic fragrance” that includes 3.4 oz. of “Eau de Toilette” spray, 2.5 oz. of after shave balm, 2.5 oz. of shower gel and 2.6 oz. of deodorant. Yours for only $82 (a $140 value or by another measure; $1,722 per gallon... precious stuff). Get a kit for your father and I will guaranty he won’t smell like a fourth grader, a girl gymnast, a politician or a broken Ukrainian egg. I can also guaranty that when he sees the price tag, he will wonder if he raised you right.

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