I recently spent a couple of nights as a guest of my sister-in-law in New Jersey as I was attending my 40th High School Reunion. She insisted on letting me use her bedroom while she took the sofa. I did lodge a small protest, but she had already arranged everything prior to my arrival. Well, almost everything.
For example, she left on her nightstand, a small lamp. While this lamp gave all indications of being a regular lamp, alas, it was not. This lamp was controlled by simply touching it. It was also the only light in the room that could be reached from the bed. There was another lamp on the other side of the bed, but it was not working and was clearly used for symmetry rather than illumination. There was a light switch on the wall, but there was no overhead light. This switch controlled a single outlet, which of course, was the one I needed for my CPAP machine. There was at least one other floor lamp that was neither near the bed nor the door.
The small working lamp had a three-way bulb in it, so in order to reach full illumination, you needed to touch it three times. This was only a problem when it was already on as I would often touch it just to determine if it were at its brightest level (I like as much light as possible). This usually resulted in plunging the room into darkness when trying to maximize brightness. I also do not see well in the dark, especially coming immediately after brightness. Since this was not my home, I would sometimes have a hard time finding the lamp after this type of outage. I would equally as often hit it too hard and knock it over. I tried clapping, but it didn’t respond to that at all.
My wife’s eyesight is the opposite of mine. She never leaves the house without sunglasses and generally keeps to the shadows during the daylight hours not unlike a prison escapee. At night, however, she becomes Vampirella, the Owl Woman. She has used tape to cover every clock face and tiny light on all electronic devices even though she uses a sleep mask and has functional eyelids. Neighbor’s floodlights across our canal over 100 yards away, somehow bend around our blinds and find her retina. Her sister apparently is similarly afflicted.
While getting settled in, my sister-in-law offered to remove a few small personal items that sat next to the lamp from her nightstand. It appeared to be a small dish containing a cotton ball and a couple of small containers. Not wanting to put her out, I told her that they were not in the way and just slid them to the edge. This would later prove to have been a big mistake on my part. After she left, I continued to set up my space. I decided to slide the lamp a few inches farther from the bed, which instantly plunged the room into darkness the instant that I touched it. Once I found it again, I gave it three quick taps to get back where I was. Hmm, wasn’t it brighter before? Maybe I tapped it too fast. I’ll tap it again…blackness. Eventually I got the hang of it.
When I went into the bathroom to shower in the morning (thank God for the sun), I got a strong whiff of a peppermint smell. Damn! I’ll bet my Colgate toothpaste leaked in my toiletry bag. Nope, it wasn’t that. I brought my own shampoo, but not soap. While looking around the bathroom, I was immediately dismayed. There was soap. There were several soaps, in fact. Each soap, however, appeared to be heavily scented. I know this shouldn’t be a problem for someone normal, but this might be a good time for me to discuss the Stinky Candle Store.
I have a mild sensitivity to many scents and perfumes. I’m not allergic and I don’t get headaches from them, but I just don’t care for most scents, particularly in bulk. You may recall a store that was in many shopping malls several years ago called Yankee Candle. I couldn’t go in the place. Quite frankly, I had a hard time walking by it. This is odd because I would stop in front of Wilson’s House of Suede and Leather and inhale deeply. My wife said it smelled like wet cow. To me, it smelled like baseball gloves and spring training, the most wonderful scent in the world.
Eventually, my kids noticed my peccadillo and began referring to any odor-heavy location as “the stinky candle store”. This affliction also limited the scents that I could tolerate. I once made a co-worker move out of our office for drinking hazelnut coffee. In another example, there used to be a “Forest” variety of deodorant made by Mennen that I could tolerate. When it was discontinued, I had to travel to about fifty different stores to find the last of the stock to buy myself a couple of more years. After those were gone, I took a trip with my family to Southern California. We took a side trip for a day to Tijuana, Mexico. Upon entering a convenience store for a drink, I found a Mennen product that was labeled “Green”. It was the forest scent in Mexican packaging. I bought all eleven units and spent the rest of the day worrying about how to get through U.S. Customs with such an odd purchase.
Getting back to my sister-in-law’s, I eschewed the vanilla/raspberry liquid soap and the bar with multi-colored swirls throughout. I ended up using the hand soap. It was orange in color, but didn’t seem to have a specific scent. I rinsed heavily and survived the experience. I headed off to my reunion without further incident.
Upon returning later that night, I spent a few minutes chatting with my host before retiring for the night. After a few fits and starts with the lamp, I was able to change and get into the bed. The peppermint smell was back, but stronger than ever. Had I brushed my teeth, but forgotten to rinse? Did I leave a glob of toothpaste on my chin? No, neither of these were the case. There must be some sort of air freshener here. No, I don’t see anything.
I finally fell asleep, but was plagued by a nightmare where several elves were beating me with giant candy canes in Santa’s workshop. I tried to cry out, but instead was choking on a massive wad of chewing gum and York patties. In the morning, the scent seemed to follow me into the shower. It was so heavy that in desperation I used the soap with vanilla, one of my most hated scents. When I packed, everything smelled of peppermint.
Over breakfast, I finally asked my sister-in-law about the smell. She told me that she uses essential oils and that the small dish by her bed had a cotton ball with a few drops of peppermint on it. She added that she had offered to move it, but since I declined, that I must have been okay with the scent. I told her that I had no idea what was in the dish, but also couldn’t figure out why in became so much more intense on the second day. She had no explanation.
I finally figured it all out when I arrived home. I brought my suitcase into the laundry room in order to wash my clothes. The peppermint was pervasive, causing me to wash the clean clothes along with the dirty ones. Even after being washed and dried, one pair of underwear still had a reasonably heavy peppermint scent. I remembered that while getting undressed after the reunion, I was reaching to put my underwear into my hamper bag that I travel with. I touched the lamp while reaching, plunging the room into darkness at which point, I must have dropped or placed the underwear briefly onto the corner of the table dipping it into the small dish of essential peppermint oil. After turning the light back on, I picked up the garment, transferring the scent onto my hand.
I was quite pleased that my temporary descent into peppermint-fueled madness had passed. I sent my sister-in-law a note explaining the sequence of events and apologizing in the event that her bedroom now smelled more like my ass than of peppermint. I took a moment to breath in deeply the scents and the non-scents of home. It was great to be back to normal. I kissed my wife as we got into bed for the night. I smiled as I turned off my lamp the way lamps were meant to be turned off. I took the mask from my CPAP machine and put it over my nose so I would sleep like a baby. During the first deep breath I got another blast…of peppermint! I was too tired to deal with it tonight. I knew I was going to be fighting some elves, but this time I’d be ready. This time I would be the one wielding the peppermint stick.