Friday, January 28, 2011

Scholars and Scents (A College Introduction to Aroma Therapy)

     614 West Street was by no means the ugliest house along that short, stumpy stretch of pavement in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  But for two of the three college students who called it home, it might damn well may have been the smelliest.  It was rank enough to make me grateful for a typical Middle Tennessee Allergy Season that would seal my sinuses shut for a couple of days.

     To the best of my recollection, the stench never drifted beyond the dull, grey siding on the outside walls (well, there was that one “oh shit” event when sewage backed up in our front yard but that's another story) except when its source left the house and carried some of it with him in the form of body odor.  Yes, somebody at that address could’ve benefitted from a box of 20 Mule Team Borax although I suspect even those barnyard beasts would've fought to stay downwind. 

     Talking; shouting; begging; cursing; even threatening had failed.  Little did I know I was about to learn a powerful new technique of  bullshitting I now call the “Fall On The Sword” method… a method that finally made the difference.    

     Tracey and I had become good friends and shared that three bedroom, off-campus rental house with a third roommate named Steve.  Tracey and I were older - what are usually called non-traditional students.  We liked order and insisted on keeping a clean house.  Steve, on the other hand,  was a typical twenty-two year old who - while he might miss the occasional morning class - wasn't willing to miss a party.  Make no mistake; Steve was intelligent.  But for every inch of intellect he possessed, you could subtract two inches of common sense. 

     Our problem didn’t fully reveal itself until several months after Steve moved in.  Sure we noticed his room was a wreck and neither of us could recall seeing him do his laundry… and yes, there always seemed to be a stack of his dirty dishes in the kitchen sink.  But the problem – I mean the real, aromatic problem – just kind of grew quietly until one day, out of the blue it unmasked itself in the form of indescribable stink.

     Tracey and I could no longer ignore it.  But if Steve didn’t respect himself enough to wash his body then how in hell might we convince him to respect us enough to wash a dirty dish?  At his boiling point, Tracey called a “house meeting” one evening when we all got home from work.

     I had picked up Steve’s scent from the far end of the house when I got home that night so I straddled my narrow ass on the arm of a chair as far away from him as I could park it.  I wanted to rip him a new one but that would’ve required me to get too close to the one he already had.  Besides, Tracey called this meeting and as hard as it might be to believe, he could sometimes be more temperamental than me.  Yes, really.

     Tracey came and sat in the chair whose arm I occupied and I braced myself for the blistering tirade he was about to unleash on Steve.

     “Steve,”  Tracey began politely.
    “Ah, he’s just buttering him up,” I assured myself.  “He’ll go for the jugular in a moment.”

     “Chris,” he then said.
     “Oh shit, he’s chickening out and wants me to do it,”

     “I owe both of you guys an apology.”
      “What did he say?”

     “Guys, this house freakin’ stinks and it’s my fault,” he continued.  “I’ve been so busy with school I haven’t been keeping up with my household duties.  I’m the reason you guys can barely stomach walking in here every day.”
“What? I’ve watched you wash your dishes,” I thought to myself.   “And you’re waaaayyy too metrosexual to wear dirty clothes.” 
     Tracey hung his head as if he was ashamed.

     “That is such bullshit!” I snapped.

     “Shut up, Chris!” Tracey snapped back.  He then flashed me a quick wink that Steve didn’t see.
     “What the hell is going on here?”

     “Guys, I’m staying home this weekend and I’m cleaning this house top to bottom… I mean everything.”

     “Tracey, you don’t have to...”

     “Shut! Up! Chris!”

      Still not taking his cue to keep quiet, I retorted “this stinking-ass house is not your fault.  If you’re wasting your weekend cleaning it, so am I.”

      “Me, too,” Steve politely chimed in.
      “Okay, what just happened?”  I wondered, not yet knowing the maginitude of this moment where Tracey's and my sanity was concerned.
      Tracey got up from his chair and walked to the kitchen.  He emptied the sink full of dirty, some of them sour-smelling dishes, then turned the hot and cold knobs to set the temperature for dishwater.  As the suds rose, he began scrubbing those nasty dishes.  He knew he didn’t dirty them.  We both knew Steve had.  And we both knew those dirty dishes were not the only source of stink that haunted our house. 

     But somehow Tracey had figured out something I hadn’t.  He knew by washing those dishes, Steve would feel embarrassed for not upholding his end of household responsibilities.  And he knew if we all cleaned the house from top to bottom and it still stank, the source of the smell would be easy to trace.  Steve knew it, too.

     That night, while Tracey washed those dishes, Steve took a long-overdue shower.  I can’t say that he, soap and water became best friends but at least from that evening on they were acquainted. 

     True to our word, the following weekend we all cleaned house.  Steve even stripped his bed and washed his sheets.  And I cannot recall another day that he didn’t clean up after himself.  He may not have wanted to but he knew he had to.  Tracey shamed him into it by falling on the sword. 

     And the moral of the story is:  If it smells too good to be you, it probably is!

No comments:

Post a Comment