Thursday, June 30, 2016

Aroma in the Gloamin'

Aroma in the Gloamin'
Here’s a thing. It’s very hard to know if you smell bad. 
But if you were God at 8:45 this morning and looked down from heaven, you would have seen me standing in a parking lot bending and twisting and waving my arms like one of those inflatable giant creatures that secondhand car dealers use to attract customers.

I was trying to see if I stank.

I could smell skunk alright; but I didn’t know if it was just “in the air” or coming from me. And you’re correct. I would not be writing this if answer was not door number two. (Door number two. That’s my senior-kindergarten-level pun about the aroma.)

Ten hours ago, I was about 50 minutes north of Winnipeg in the parking lot of the headquarters of Ducks Unlimited (DU), the conservation group my friend Nigel Simms is the National Manager of Communications and Marketing of.

I wasn’t there to go skunk hunting.

In addition to a lot of other things, Nigel and his team publish a lovely magazine called The Conservator, and they’re constantly trying to make things better. Because I’ve got some 30 years in publishing, Nigel reckoned I might have something to contribute. He invited me out for a look.

Nigel works in one of the neatest buildings ever. The spectacular Oak Hammock Marsh Interpretive Centre is one third-research lab, one-third eco-tourist attraction; and 33-percent corporate HQ. There’s a small restaurant and a big performance
GOOSE GOOSE DUCK!: The place is alive with crittters. 
theatre, and it all sits on a huge restored prairie marsh alive with all manner of wildlife: Ducks; herons, beavers, geese, muskrat, and, of course, skunks.

That is where I would be doing my thing as The Consultant. From Toronto.

Meantime, Nigel lives near the heart of Winnipeg. I stayed in the Norwood Hotel, near his place.

Tuesday and then again this morning, he picked me up at the hotel to come to work, and because they can, his part-rottweiler-part-shepherd mutts Quinn and Keikho came along to spend their days at the office.

Both days, before work began, we took the dogs for a walk around the DU swamp--dog Nirvana, really.

As they romped, Nigel and I walked, talked about publishing and slapped ourselves repeatedly, fighting off huge Manitoba mosquitoes and ticks. In vain.

MY EYE they don't bite. My cheek they did. 
First day, the only truly exciting part was when Quinn found and started playing with an old moose skull.

But second morning—today—when the walkabout was done, we smelled the smell. We hadn’t seen a skunk; but still.

I sniffed me. Nigel sniffed the dogs. Then Nigel sniffed me again.

This did not look good.  The Consultant from Toronto had a meeting in 15 minutes.

We decided the smell was not on us, it was just in the air.

We entered the lobby.

The first staff member we met pulled  the top part of her shirt up over the nose. Another just looked shocked. In a strange unprecedented sequence of events, the scent had followed the dogs, instead of vice versa.   
THREE LUCKY DUCKS at  play, from left, Nigel, Keikho and Quinn or the other way around.

We sniffed Kiekho and Quinn again. It was strong.  They’d obviously been sprayed. Not enough that little squiggly cartoon lines rose above them, but they were pretty putrid.

Nigel decided that no way could the dogs stay on the premises, and to keep them in his truck all day would be inhumane. He would get them home and he could work the rest of the day from there.
We walked out to the parking lot; he loaded the dogs, and headed to Winnipeg.

I re-entered the office. The two women at reception agreed it was too hard to tell if what they smelled was the leftover from the dog or me. I rounded a corner and met the affable (and honest) Conservator editor Leigh Patterson and staff writer Ashley Lewis.

They told me something or some one smelled really bad.

One of the big meetings I had flown to Winnipeg for was supposed to begin shortly. (I thought of canceling; if only because I could say I was pulling rank—get it?)  

But really, at that moment, running out the door and throwing myself into the swamp seemed like the most viable option.

Then appeared a Superhero: Bill Howard, the facilities staff member responsible for opening up the place every morning.  

“What we need is Aromx," he said, coolly.

I’d never heard of it and asked him if it was like Dustbane, the mystery cleaning substance school janitors used to haul out every time a kid barfed.

“Yeah good old Dustbane,” he said. “Aromx’s really powerful. You have to mix it with water.”

“I think,” Bill said, “I know where there’s some.”

Me: “If not, we’ll need tomato juice.” Bill told me I’d have to go to the cafeteria for that. 

I followed him out to a storage room where there, in the second drawer he looked, stood a spray bottle of Aromx. Like a mom squirting sunblock on her senior-kindergarden son headed to the beach, Bill  proceeded to spray up one of my legs and then down the other. Then, for good measure, my shoes.

Aromx, turns out, is an industrial-strength odor-eater. Febreze on steroids.

I couldn’t smell skunk any more. Neither could my new bff  Bill.

I re-entered the office area. Approached the reception desk. Walked past once and no shirts were hoisted over noses.

I, literally, passed a sniff test. 

(P.S. Another critter I picked up at DU? An earworm. It's where the title of this blog comes from. And with that... I share.)

1 comment:

  1. I'm constantly confronted with suspicious odors whenever I pass an industrial cow or pig farm along the highway heading out west, or some recently 'fertilized' farm field. At my age, I tend to be more gaseous and until I actually see the offending facility or field in question, I usually determine it's me and I need to stop at the next truck-stop for a shower. As they say "life is a gas..."