My Super Power

Who knew I had a super power? It is an unusual and underappreciated one, but handy in several scenarios. I have an incredibly keen and discerning sense of smell. That’s a wonder in and of itself, since working as a pathologist in formaldehyde-scented labs for decades doesn’t seem to have done any damage to my nose.

In the early days of my pathology residency, preserved tissue specimens were stored in large trays of formaldehyde in windowless, unventilated rooms for months. It was obvious which lowly resident had been sent to fetch teaching specimens for medical student education (blackened emphysematous smokers’ lungs, for example). The unlucky returning resident could be identified by streaming red eyes and nose, tear-stained cheeks. But those days are long gone.

A few random examples of my power include being able to track someone wearing aftershave through lengthy halls long after he had departed. Not so useful unless it was one of America’s Ten Most Wanted. How often might that happen? I can tell when a pizza has been delivered to a group one floor above. Again, not such a big deal. I can tell if someone in the car driving ahead of me lights a cigarette, not by the smoke but by the odor. My husband had once suggested that I volunteer at the airport to serve with the drug-sniffing dogs as suitcases came off the carousel.

My smell-detecting ability has become refined during the year that I’ve been on my own. As has my ability to fix things (described with great pride in earlier blogs). Being able to smell things that most other people cannot is one thing, but being able to pin-point the exact source of the odor is very important as well.

About five years ago I was sure I could smell cat urine in the master bathroom. We did not own a cat. Full court press was initiated. All ceramic tiles were scrubbed with Clorox, toilet scoured, on and on. No improvement. I then demanded that a duct cleaning company come and clean the ducts in the area. I mentioned to the service person that the smell was worst in my shower. Aha. An epiphany. The shower head was odor free, but the smell was coming from the drain.

It was not clogged (Sam came home to find me trying to take it apart without success). Finally, a knowledgeable salesperson at Home Depot was consulted. He recommended a package of eco-friendly sticks. Some sort of dissolving enzymes, dropped into the intact drain solved the problem in just a couple of days. Had I been able to locate the exact source of the smell in the first place, a lot of trouble and some money might have been saved.

A more recent problem, illustrating not only my ability to locate the exact source of a smell, but also my increasing skill for fixing things, occurred. Now the master bath smelled like mold. But I knew better than to go of half-cocked. Drawers and cabinets were opened, inspected, and sniffed over a period of days. Towels were sniffed, then laundered in the usual rotation.

More sniffing localized the source of the problem to a basin drain. Side note: Sad that the problem originated in plumbing again, as it had years previously, didn’t lead to quicker diagnosis. I thought I was supposed to be able to hang on to my long-term memory. Back to the problem at hand. Déjà vu all over again. The basin drain smelled bad, and was emptying very slowly. Drano did not help. Another Drano treatment didn’t help. Time for me to assemble some tools!

Again, years ago, I had watched an expensive earring circle the basin and plop through the drain. I ran screeching to my husband. He took the pipes beneath the basin apart and retrieved the earring from the curved section of the plumbing (P trap to some, but it looked more like a J to me). This process looked simple enough, but I checked You Tube to make sure I knew exactly how to it. Just as I thought. Easy. I had the assembly taken apart in a short time, no flooding at all (I had a large pan at the ready, just in case). The area of obstruction/narrowing was identified and cleared. Yuck, gross. Problem solved.

Circumstances have changed since I began my blog in July of 2020. It seems appropriate for me to take a blog sabbatical at this time. My friends and I have been vaccinated (we jokingly refer to this as having had our rabies shots) and life has changed for the better. In the future I hope to have current material of happy adventures instead of relying on my long-past pratfalls.

Stay safe. Pray for each other.

2 thoughts on “My Super Power

  1. Wonderful article. Congratulations on having a great sense of smell, a newly appreciated quality.

    Take Care, Maria >


  2. Very impressive about the plumbing skill. As to your nose – I can report that having a poor sense of smell has a lot of plusses.
    Enjoy your new freedom. We have invited a vaccinated friend over for dinner and plan to go into a grocery store tomorrow. I am excited, and John seems leery.


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