Saturday, December 01, 2007

Scent of stray thoughts

The other night I stopped with my youngest son at Zio Johno's, an Italian place with fabulous food and warm atmosphere. While we waited for our bagged order, an older gentleman entered, ordered food, and walked past us to seat himself on one of the wooden chairs under the beautiful mural of an Italian canal.

An invisible but unmistakable trail of thrift-store odor wafted behind him. Not body-odor (which is unbearable and, let's be honest, should not be allowed in public places!), but no, this was the distinct all-world smell prevalent in Salvation Army Thrift Stores, Goodwill Stores, and Value Village Stores stretching across America. (I tell you this at risk of revealing that I've shopped in these stores. There, now you know.)

But at that moment, I wondered about this universal scent that inhabits these stores; this scent had escaped and followed this man like the dust behind the Peanuts character, Pig-Pen. (PEANUTS © 2005, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

My thoughts careened off in their own directions: Is it possible that all those used clothing items housed together results in a blended smell? If so, is this the smell of humanity? Curious thought.

Or--recalling an unpleasant smell we once detected in our family room until we traced it to the narcissus plant that finally bloomed during the holidays (which suddenly smelled heavenly only because we knew the source; a lesson in the irony of perspective!)--I wondered, was the man simply wearing a particular cologne that I had mistaken for the scent of thrift store?

If so, what cologne could it be? What colognes do I know? Old Spice? Grandpa Swenson wore Old Spice. I think Daddy did, too--once or twice. Can I remember what it smells like? No.

Back to the original thought track: is the man wearing cologne or is it the smell of thrift store clothing, clean except for the slight olfactory trace in the fabric? Does an "Eau de Goodwill" exist for sale to men?

No, of course not. Silly me.

Good for him for saving money and being frugal by shopping second-hand. Maybe it's just that he wore his new duds to make a quick run to the spaghetti restaurant to pick up dinner.

Like us--now wafting smells of tomato sauce and italian spices and warm garlic bread in our wakes.