Saturday, March 6, 2010

Proust, meet Bloomingdale's

When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered· the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls· bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory.

Marcel Proust, The Remembrance of Things Past

A couple of months ago I threw a package of expired basil seeds on a patch of peat moss and vermiculite, borrowed the aquarium light for a few weeks (the fish didn't squawk), and now I have a mess of basil growing in the classroom.

We were discussing axils and lateral shoots in AP class, so as I yakked, I pinched basil plants. In a week or two, they will be bushier.

As I pinched (and, um, ate, breaking a fundamental rule in science class), the aroma of basil oils wandered over to the students (hey, diffusion, another lesson!)

"That smells good!"

I had to stop a moment and chew--in my enthusiasm, I had tossed too many basil leaves into my mouth to be suave, and I looked like the contented cow bull I was.

I remember a room in the Franklin Institute--the center of the room had a large oval bar, with various sniffing stations. You put your nose right up to the screened opening, and inhaled.

They could have called it the room of dreams--close your eyes, sniff, and your brain spins into old memories, old fears, old loves.

Does it exist anymore? Did it ever?

Imagine a world where scent is used to alter your behavior, a world where science research is used to manipulate your emotions.
It's already being done.

It's no accident that the Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando smells like the ocean and waffles.
It's no accident that your
Lexus dealership might smell like green tea and lemongrass.
It's no accident that Bloomingdale's smells like baby powder and coconut.

ScentAir "is the global leader of scent marketing solutions." Their clients include ShopRite and Macy's, the Hilton and our military. ScentAir provides smells "just above the level of sunconscious awareness."

ScentAir changes behavior--at least some very smart, very wealthy businessmen believe so.


Folks who deodorize classrooms scare me.

Our 20th century culture taught us to fear our noses, to fear ourselves. Fear creates inadequacies, inadequacies create markets. We’ve become what we buy.

Gardening and sex share many characteristics, not the least of which is the need for a good nose. Both have a learning curve. Both were destroyed at the industrial level last century.

Thankfully, though, both can still be practiced well for those who remember their humanity, and even the inexperienced can find joy at the low end of the curve.

Somewhere in school a child needs to learn that monied people will try to manipulate his behavior in ways not healthy to the child. Somewhere in school a child needs to learn that all of us are intimately tied to life, to soil, to sunlight.

If your children prefer the smell of Lysol to composted manure, you may be depriving them of true joy, joy that is not measured by the model of car they eventually drive.

(This post flew out of my head after reading This Brazen Teacher this morning.)

The eraser photo is from CleanSweepSupply.
The ScentAir logo is trademarked by ScentAir.
If the html is completely fubared, let me know....


John Spencer said...

A friend of mine once told me about the precise chemical reactions created at Disneyland. He said they have machines that puff the smells of fresh baked goods, pop corn, etc.

I find it nerve-racking to experience a crazy barrage of "nice" smells. My classroom (despite teaching smelly seventh and eighth graders) does not have candles or air fresheners. The closest thing to "fresh air" I get is a few house plants (including some spice). Kids tell me they can smell the mint, but I think the smell is so subtle that it might be psychological more than anything else.

Louise Maine said...

I live on a farm (an now own 310 acres - yeah!). I am surrounded by farms and I love the smell of manure when it is spread on the fields. People think it is weird, but you have to love the smells of nature. As we are ready to head into a new season, I am anticipating the smells- things that people miss when they can't wait for this, or wait for that to come. Stepping outdoors and taking it all in - sights, sounds, smells. So many miss that. It is perhaps the best zen meditation one can get.

Smelly Kelly said...

Phew! This post stinks! (Just kidding!) But I am not going to worry about it. I love "real" smells, and some manufactured ones. I have decided to put this one on the "List of Things I Shall Not Worry About."

But I am worried about this:

doyle said...

Dear John,

I think one of the lead scientists at ScentAir started at Disney.

Do not underestimate the noses of young'uns--they live in universes we mostly forgot.

Dear Loise,

I'm jealous--the smell of our tidal flats at low tide, death and life mingling together as one, works for me.

Dear Kelly,

I don't waste too much time worrying anymore--time's better spent sitting by the bay watching the tide come in, go out, then come in again.