Monday, July 8, 2013

On research, etiquette and meaningful work


I don’t need George Preti to tell me I stink.

Who does he think he is, anyway?  A “smell researcher”?

Oh.  He is actually – a smell researcher.

I didn’t know there was such a thing. 

His mother must be very proud.  Actually, I’m guessing she imagined something more for her son, a higher calling.  Surely she taught him better manners.

I know, I know – there’s no shame in honest work. 

But…a smell researcher?!

I just can’t help wondering how that profession developed.  Did an aimless George invent his own specialty?  Maybe he was in the noble, uniquely American quest to remove or mask from our experience every trace of natural human scent. 
But what drew George to the olfactory?  A childhood preoccupation with his proboscis?  Did he grow up lifting his nose to the wafting aroma of fresh pecan pies coming out of the oven at a nearby Bama Pie plant?  Or, conversely, perhaps the Preti homestead sat downwind of the funky fumes of a Foster Farms chicken ranch?

Somehow, some way, George started sniffing.  And a predilection emerged for the odiferous.  He must have been a charming child.

From there it appears he just climbed up onto Mr. Clean, his germ-free high horse and started handing down edicts.  I found them on MSN’s Healthy Living site in an article titled, “Surprising things that make you stink.”

Spoiler alert:  There are no surprises.  Except maybe that a low-carb diet can give you bad breath, unless you brush, floss and eat your chlorophyll-laden vegetables.

Maybe I sound a little touchy, but George seems bent on creating self-consciousness.  Not only that, he comes across as a complainer:  He doesn’t offer solutions, only odious problems. 

“You stink because of all that garlic you eat!”

Wow, George.  You know your stuff!  I mean, who would’ve thunk it?!  Garlic, of all things.

“Lay off the curry and cumin!” he prattles on. 

Thank you very much, oh Prophet of the Pungent.  

I can just imagine George at Thanksgiving.  Here we are at the holiday dinner table with cousin George who, like a petulant teenager, reviews the meal and tells us if we eat it, we’re all going to have b.o.

“Dairy makes you gassy!”  Yes, yes.

“OMG, don’t eat the asparagus!”

I’m sure he means well.  Of course. 

But I had to know who encouraged this guy.  Who’s the “Monell” in the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia where he works?  Someone’s laying out a lot of lettuce to study stench!  Clearly, our George found kindred spirits! 

A visit to their website tells us “the Monell Chemical Senses Center is a not-for-profit research institute which studies taste, smell, and sensory perception.”

Curiously, they never say why.  Could it be that they don’t want us to know?  Maybe it gives them a sense of power.  Maybe they keep their specialized knowledge of halitosis to themselves so they can trot it out in triumph if a bully gets the best of them. 

I can picture it.

And look!  They have opportunities for public participation in their research!  “A STUDY FOR MEN ~ Volunteers needed to participate in a study on human earwax and body odors.”

Well, there you go.

Monell is recruiting healthy non-smoking males between the ages of 21–40 with plans to collect “sweat secretions from underarm areas and earwax samples.”

I would have gone with teenage boys and their gym clothes, but that’s just me. 

In preparation for the aforementioned collection, subjects must wash their upper bodies and hair with a fragrance-free liquid soap for 10 days prior to testing.  They cannot use any colognes, deodorants, antiperspirants or lotions.

Oh boy.

Then, and here’s the meat of it, following their preparation, subjects wear padded cotton T-shirts under their clothing for 3-5 consecutive days to collect the, uh, samples.

Finally, they visit George at the Monell Smell Center lab to hand in their “homework” and to have their earwax harvested.  

It pays a hundred bucks.

Where it goes from there, one wonders.  What are they going to do with all that…stuff?  Actually, I don’t need to know.  It’s good they’re keeping a secret.

I’ll just take pleasure in Little Georgie Preti making his way in the world.  Contributing.  Social skills notwithstanding.