That Powerful Smell

Earlier this year we took a three-day vacation at an indoor water park. We all had a great time. The kids didn’t want to leave, and they still say that they’d like to go live there.

One thing about the place that stands out in my memory is the strong smell of chlorine. The smell was not just in the park’s water, but everywhere, even in our hotel room. Though we all showered after playing at the park, and I rinsed all of our bathing suits repeatedly, the smell of chlorine would not go away. It was particularly strong in the bathroom, thanks to the line of drip-drying bathing suits.

Some people like the smell of chlorine. They think it smells clean. Not me. I don’t like the chemical reek of it. So I was surprised when, as I was cleaning a toilet with a bleach-based cleaner yesterday, the chlorine smell brought back flashes of memory from our vacation. I don’t usually have such pleasant thoughts while cleaning the toilet.

Smell has a powerful effect on the brain. There are smells I encountered in childhood that still, almost forty years later, bring back wonderful memories and nostalgic feelings. So I hope this new correlation in my mind (bleachy smell = happy memories) will be equally lasting. It might make me want to clean more often, or at least enjoy the task more when it can’t be avoided!

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