Editor's Column

"It used to be that bakeries smelled like food and restaurants smelled like food, but others businesses had their own smell. Newspaper offices smelled like ink, second hand stores smelled musty, lumber stores smelled like sawdust, clothing stores smelled like crispy new Levis, and hardware stores smelled like saw oil. But today the nasally gifted realize that most stores, particularly in small communities, smell vaguely the same. They smell like whatever was just heated up in the microwave oven.Most island businesses aren't large enough to have a separate lunch room, so the microwaves are hidden behind walls, in closets or under counters only a few feet from where business is conducted. With business being slow most of the year, employees tend to enjoy a lot of hot meals and snacks. Before microwaves all food consumed on the job had to be eaten cold, which meant it didn't smell at all. It takes lots of heat to send those aromatic molecules bouncing all over the building.Upon hearing the front door opens, the hungry clerk has time to hide the plate of food, wipe his or her lips, and put on a friendly, though food-encrusted smile for the customer. But they can't hide the smell of that Orville Redenbacher popcorn or Lean Cuisine, and as a result most stores today smell like food. The aroma lingers in the room longer than an unwanted relative.Take this newspaper office, for example. The microwave in centrally located a few feet from my desk, so for years I've been inhaling food fumes. As a result I've become something of a connoisseur or food odors, and know when to sit back and enjoy or rush to open the door and window in sheer panic.Monday was a good day as employees were microwaving home-cooked leftovers from the weekend. The potato soup, pot pie and other unburnt offerings smelled fine. In the afternoon there's usually popcorn popping, and that too smells tolerable, as long as it's not burned. In that case, call out the fire department complete with breathing apparatus.Prepared foods are often a different story. Most frozen entrees are not too noxious, as long as they don't contain broccoli. Soups can range from pleasant to gag-inducing, depending on the ingredients, but the worst of all is chili. Hormel, to be exact. Hormel chili heated in a microwave smells like piping hot Alpo, so I've banned it from the premises. The one person who used to enjoy it left and probably got a job in a glue factory.I've learned to live with the smells, but I do regret that the newspaper office no longer smells like a newspaper should. So I've decided that after lunch each day I'll microwave a small bowl of ink. That should remind customers of the glory days before the microwave was invented."

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