The Power of Smell

Certain things smell bad but pull you deep into a memory.

Sometimes it is a tiny smell that lasts a microsecond but transport you through time. Sometimes it is a big smell that wraps everyone up but only you know its deep secret.

I was walking down the street and was wrapped in this big smell that was somewhat foul but familiar. It was awful yet I had to pause to drink it in.

This construction site was emitting a deep machine, dirty oil and diesel exhaust mixed just so as if trying to create a cologne of a long lost relic. If bottled it might bear the name like LST 1184 or Ode of Remembrance.

This stink was exact smell of deep within an old ship.

The inside was cramped, we slept four high. I was lucky enough that our bunk was right against a bulkhead, others only had inches from the next group of four.

The stink of dirty grease didn’t always penetrate within the berth but it was an undertone. You could scrub but it was still there.

When they fired up all the Hogs you could smell the exhaust. In the tank deck your eyes would sting with the smoke. I sometimes wondered how many months this was taking off my life, breathing it hurt.

Outside wasn’t much better. Inside this little windtunnel was cold on some days and others blistering hot.

I have described living on ship was like sleeping in your classroom every night. Then you wake to begin work like that groundhogs day movie. And your whole classroom of kids never leave. And it lasts six months. All of you in one small space.

That construction smell transported me to another life I used to live. While many of the days were not great, time makes me cherish them a little more.

5 thoughts on “The Power of Smell

  1. I loved this. Yes, I have certain smells that catapult me back into a memory. Some good. Some bad. I am glad that time is giving you the gift of remembering the good.
    Thank you for your service.


  2. Your story took me to a place that I haven’t been, i.e., on an old ship packed with soldiers. Your description is vivid and engaging. It left me wanting to hear more about the experience.


  3. You convey such powerful imagery here, all through the sense of smell – brilliant.
    To live and work in my classroom with my students 24/7. Now I get it, and that is a little bit of hell on earth, to me, as much as I love my kids. I imagine – as you have said – that it makes you appreciate the things you have now, that much more. For me, it compels me to than you for your service, once again.


  4. This piece was so well written. Your description allowed me to experience a place I’ve never been – have no prior experience with. And you’re so right. A smell can totally transport you to another place in your mind. Thanks for sharing this.


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