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Sense of smells can trigger memories, sweet and foul
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Forsyth County News

I was looking for something in our bedroom closet, when I came across a box I didn’t recognize. I opened it and saw it contained Paul’s shoe polishing supplies.

The smell of shoe polish immediately filled the air and that brought me right back to my childhood. I remember polishing my dad’s shoes for him — until it got boring, that is.

I also remember that same smell from the train station, where men sat up on those high chairs while the polisher went to work on their shoes.

That encounter with the shoe polish prompted me to do a little research on our sense of smell. The results were quite interesting.

Our sense of smell is called olfaction. I knew our brain could detect lots of smells, but one study I read said we can detect 1 trillion distinct smells.

Another study said among the most pleasant smells we detect include vanilla, orange (I would add all citrus), cinnamon, cookies and crayons.

I think the scent of crayons is because most of us have fond memories of that smell. I loved getting that big box of crayons at the beginning of the school year.

I used to arrange and rearrange all of the crayons, sometime based on their hues and others on which were my absolute favorites.

All of the studies said women have a better sense of smell than men. That’s no surprise to me.

When I walk down to our basement, I can sometimes smell the odors a 17-year old boy can produce just by opening the door. The smell doesn’t seem to bother my son or husband at all.

That’s when I go to work to remedy the problem that isn’t a problem for anybody but me.

I recently forced Paul to go to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. It was a beautiful day and the flowers and plants were amazing. I highly recommend it.

Anyway, they have so many different types of orchids, and one of the flower experts told me that every different type of orchid has its own unique scent. That was so interesting.

Paul couldn’t detect many of the orchid scents. That was before I knew women have superior senses of smell or I would have pointed that out to him.

I also smell dog odors before the men in our home. That means that our two big dogs get baths fairly often, and our little dog, who sleeps under the covers, gets bathed quite frequently. 

Speaking of dogs, they have 44 times more scent cells than humans. In fact, humans have 5 to 6 million odor-detecting cells, and dogs have 220 million.

I certainly believe that about Labradors. Ours, Jazz, is not only an incredible retriever, she also has an amazing sense of smell.

We can throw a stick into a pile of sticks and she will find the exact one. We can even let her smell a stick or a ball, pretend to throw it, and then hide it when she runs to find it. She will search the entire yard and won’t give up until she finds it.

Lastly, I read that, like fingerprints, every person has their own distinct odor. Apparently, it is sort of like a genetic make-up.

As I often say, I’m not sure how experts conclude many things, this being one of them.

I’m sure if the government can figure out a way to collect our unique odor and use it as some sort of identifying thing, it will do so. Let’s just hope it doesn’t invent a way to tax us for it.


Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at