Things have been very hectic at work so no one has had time to play “What’s that smell?”

In fact, it’s been so long that I thought perhaps it had become a thing of the past.

Sadly, I was mistaken. I guess this is a sign things are slowing down a little.

Background: There’s something wonky about our HVAC system at work. At least once a week a very faint bad smell – sort of like sour milk – drifts through the building. It goes away fairly quickly, and it’s not overpowering.

Nevertheless, nearly every time the smell wafts through someone notices it and begins wandering around asking everyone else about the smell.

All work must stop while we go through the motions of a little performance piece I like to call “What’s that smell?” You only need 2 people to stage this piece, but 7-9 seems to provide an optimal cast.

Costuming and sets are at the discretion of the director.

“What’s that smell?”
“Do you smell that?”
“I don’t smell anything.”
“I smell something.”
“Wait…Yeah, I think I do.”
“What’s that smell? Do you smell it?”
“Is that sour milk?”
“Hey, why are you guys sniffing? Is the smell back?”
“I don’t smell it.”
“I smelled it last week.”
“This is a new smell.”
“No, I think it’s the same smell.”
“It seems different to me.”
“No. It smells like milk.”
“But it smells like maybe different milk.”
“Are you sure.”
“Yeah…No…now it seems different.”
“Different than last time?”
“No. Different than a minute ago.”
“It doesn’t smell as strong.”
“Do you think it’s going away?”
“What’s going away?”
“The smell.”
“I don’t smell anything.”
“Do you smell anything?”
“Does anyone smell that?”
“Should we call someone?”
“Do you think it’s coming from the airvent?”
“No. It’s not from the airvent.”
“Hey, do you smell that?”
“Yeah. It sort of smells. Do you think it smells?”
“I don’t think it’s coming from the airvent. It’s over here.”
“Isn’t that the airvent?”
“Yeah. I guess so.”
“I smell something. Do you smell something?”
“What IS that smell?”
“Should we call someone?”
“Does anyone smell something?”

Adults. Walking and sniffing. Sniffing and walking.

“It’s sort of like rancid milk.”
“It sort of smells like baby”
“Yeah. That old milk smell babies have.”
“Babies smell like old milk?”
“Why are you talking about baby smells?”
“Because it smells in here.”
“Does it?”
“Don’t you smell it?”
“Try sniffing over here.”
“Hey, you’re right. It smells. What is that?”
“I don’t know.”
“Should we call someone?”
“I don’t really smell it anymore.”
“It still smells over here.”

Are you picturing lots of people wandering around, sniffing the air? This is followed 10 minute debate about what it smells like. Consensus: sour milk. Every. Time.

The smell is usually long gone before the conversation ends.

Apparently, we’ve been playing “What’s that smell?” since the building was built. Over 20 years ago. And it’s the same people who get wound up about it every time.

Did I mention these are all actual snippets from real episodes of “What’s that smell?” that I’ve jotted down over the years? Because they are. Verbatim. Ad infinitum.

To Do lists are passe, my freaky little friends. It’s much better to make lists of the things you aren’t going to do today. Here’s my Not Do list for today:

  • Have that 5th cup of coffee
  • Chase the UPS truck down the street (again) to see if Mr. UPS Man has my computer
  • Let Nisa and our monkey butler coat me in butter
  • Yell at visual artists who try to tell me how sound “should” be done even though they don’t have a fucking clue
  • Get to work on time
  • Link to the Washington Post
  • Yodel in the ladies room
  • Wear fairy wings and coat myself in glitter

I was going to put “bathe” on the list, but that seems like a bad idea. I better get on that now or I’m going to have to change “get to work on time” to “get to work at all.”

Every once in a while a friend yanks something off the

Topics Blog and won’t

let us rest until we write something about it. I’ll give

you the question he sent out and my answer. I think you

can figure out where the problem occurred…

The Question:A lot of people have a love-hate

relationship to snow. What about you?
My answer: I’m going to make this a quickie

because I don’t generally have any strong feelings

either way. Not to mention the fact that these things

kind of annoy me. Here’s my answer so you can quit

bitching about how I never play nice. Love? Hate? Those

are strong words. I didn’t get a single cold between

1985 and 1999. I’d forgotten what I was missing. The

thing I hate most about a cold is the way one’s body

becomes a giant mucous-producing factory. I can cope

with a lot of things, but a runny nose isn’t one of

them. I hate having a runny nose. I can deal with

sneezing, so I guess it’s not the mucous I hate per se;

but the way that it chooses to exit the body. Snot is

useful, though. I can’t say this is a reason to

love it, but it’s pretty miserable when your

sinuses get really dried out so I’d say it does have a

useful purpose that one should at least appreciate. I

can’t say I can push it far enough to say you should

love it for that reason alone. I’m sorry, but

this is an incredibly stupid question and I honestly

just don’t have anymore to say about it.

(this entry has been edited due to an outbreak of stupidity on my part)

Should we just skip ahead to the part where our cars got towed? Nah, we’ll get there.

I liked Tomahawk well enough, but I felt it was more-of-the-same Mike Patton, less of a band.

The opening band, Syrup , was a pleasant surprise.

Although they had a few axe-bobbing synchronization/choreography issues in their first number, once they got into the groove they had those Motown dance steps down. They played honest-to-god Southern Rock. It was a fine and wonderful thing. Except that the crowd didn’t know what to do. So they stood there motionless. (Moment of duh: Syrup was a pleasant surprise??? Did I really write that? Syrup toured with Nashville Pussy. I know who Syrup is. The short-term memory loss is clearly much worse than I realized. I blame Husband. He kept jabbering last night about a German techno outfit by the same name. He caused my confusion.)

Sometimes, during Syrup’s set, members of the crowd would yell for Mike Patton or Mr. Bungle. Really, I don’t care how much you don’t appear to wish to see the opening act, yelling for the headliner through their set is obnoxious as hell. I felt sorry for Syrup, I felt like we should get up and dance on stage. Anything to let them know that not everyone in the crowd was a jerk.

They weren’t done yelling stupid things. When Tomahawk took the stage, they were still yelling for Mike Patton. And Mr. Bungle. And Faith No More.

  • You are at a Tomahawk Show. It’s lovely that you know the names of Mike Patton’s other bands. Your mother must be very proud. Now please shut up.
  • You are at a Tomahawk show. Has it occurred to you there are other people up on the stage? At one point, after Loud Guy yelled “Bungle Rules” in my ear for the 10th time, I contemplated climbing up on the bar and yelling odes to the Melvins and the Jesus Lizard. Other members of the band have resumes, too.
  • What was up with the groupie shopping for Tomahawk?
    I just want to go to the ladies room. I’m not looking for anyone to blow, but, uh, thanks for the offer.
  • Somewhere in the confusion that followed I lost my notes from the show. If they turn up I’ll revise this.

    So, after the show, we all walk to our cars together. Or I should say, we walked to where are cars were. Our cars were gone. For one brief shining moment I thought someone had stolen my car. No such luck, they were all gone. That means they were towed. Towed in DC. I’ve never been towed, but I know that the words “towed in DC” are not words for the faint of heart. When they tow your car in DC, they take it to a mysterious location in Northeast, and you frequently can’t retrieve it for days (while the fees add up and up). To compound everyone’s anxiety, Nisa had 2 hours to get to a plane and other members or our party were hitting the road
    Saturday morning, as well.

    We located the cars without too much trouble. Now, most people get towed OUT of Adam’s Morgan, a very crowded, parking-deprived area of the city. Not me. I get towed FROM 14th street TO Adam’s Morgan. What’s that about?

    I’m not complaining (too much). We ransomed our cars (at 180 dollars each. One Hundred Eighty Dollars. Each) and were on our way. It sucked, but it could have sucked so much more.

    I need more coffee. I suspect that this is incoherent.

    (I was right. Now I’ve edited it. It’s still incoherent, but the spelling is improved).

    We watched about 2 minutes of that Victoria’s Secret fashion show thing on ABC. It was incredibly stupid, but damn I wish I’d been a fly on the wall at that pitch meeting. “What goes better with skinny white women in lingerie than…a gospel choir!”

    I have to go now. Fox Channel 5 (“We have an hour to fill”) is doing a hard-hitting expose on cheerleaders. I think I still have a couple of braincells holding hands and this should take care of that.

    Yesterday, when I was recalling a mostly-repressed memory of a training session gone wrong, I believed that I was the only one left in the organization who’d attended the session. I was wrong. I found one other survivor clinging to the life-raft of sanity.

    Our memories of the session don’t quite add up. He insists that we weren’t actually instructed to puff up our to-do lists by writing down and crossing off bodily functions. It was all about rewording everyday interactions to give yourself “forward momentum.” Thus,
    you were supposed to notate something like “grunt hello at supervisor before going face-down in coffee” as “interface with superior and debrief for day ahead.”

    It was still an incredibly stupid, and expensive, waste of time.

    I started making a list of the things I need to do this weekend and it was getting ugly and overwhelming, especially when I factored in how much time I committed to being in the recording studio Saturday and Sunday.

    There was only one thing to do: start cheating and putting down items I could immediately cross off, thus feeling an immediate sense of accomplishment. Things like “shower,” “get dressed,” “mumble to self” and “drink coffee.”

    Some call it pathetic. I call it optimizing my daily performance-intensity goals. I learned all about optimizing my daily performance-intensity goals at a training session once about 7 years ago. It hurt really, really bad. There was a lot of role-playing. In fact, now that I think about it, I am the only one left working here out of all the people who were sent off to that session of managerial-training masturbation.

    At least the session was at a Top Secret Location in DuPont Circle so there was an excellent selection of bars for us to choose from once we were sprung from Hell. That may be why the only thing I remember from the entire session was “optimizing my daily
    performance-intensity goals.” I think the perky trainer got paid gobs o’ cash to teach us that.

    Want to know how you optimize your daily performance-intensity goals? Essentially, you take your Franklin Planner and make a detailed list of what you have to do today. You go into absolute ant-fucking detail about everything, even the softball stuff like
    “drive to work” or “pee.” Then you cross off the stuff that you listed even though you already did it, and presto! You look like you’re a high performing machine.

    The key is to never let anyone get close enough to the Planner to see that what looks like an important project is actually a notation reminding you to “inhale and exhale ryhthmically.”

    Yes, my employer made me sit through an 8 hour session to learn to do that. Fortunately, I don’t have a Franklin Planner. That would be a waste of money, because if I did have a Franklin Planner, I would have set fire to it by now.

    Last night, Husband and I were having one of those conversations about the stupid toys we had in our childhoods – the ones that are now banned because they were dangerous. This started because we saw an ad for that pre-school game “Hi-Ho Cherry-O.” I had no idea that game was still around. Those little cherries are the perfect size for a toddler to swallow; and they are probably more enticing than other similarly sized game-pieces because they are actually shaped like a food object.

    Frankly, I was kind of excited that there were still dangerous toys around. Not because I wish ill on children, but well, just because. It’s not fun unless it’s dangerous, right? Okay, maybe not. Maybe I should just drop this line of thinking and move on to a rough reconstruction of the Lawn Darts conversation.

    I said, “It was a stupid concept from the get-go.”

    He replied, “What do you mean, it’s like darts or horseshoes. You throw the darts into the target, it’s just on the ground.”

    I answered, “Yes, but the whole concept it flawed. Who thought it was a good idea to throw steel projectiles at one another.”

    He stared at me and said, “What?”

    I then described the game as I understood it, that you set up the hoops like 10 or 20 yards apart and threw the darts at your hoop while standing by your opponents hoop.

    He replied in carefully measured words, “No. You stand behind the person throwing the darts.”

    Okay, that does make sense. I have no idea what I was thinking. Maybe my cousins didn’t play the game while facing one another. Maybe I just have vague memories of it being played that way because of the alarmist tone of news stories when the game was banned. If someone tells you that you saw or did something enough times, you can start to believe it.

    Or maybe my memory is correct, because we are after all talking about my cousins. Maybe they were just playing by some alternate form of rules. You know how in Monopoly there are
    alternate rules for shorter games? Perhaps they were using the Lawn Darts Natural Selection Rules? Who can know.

    Mapquest, by trying to send me someplace not anywhere near where I thought I wanted to go, was actually trying to save me from myself.

    I thought I wanted to go to Michaels Arts and Crap. I wanted to hang a wreath from each of my windows. That’s a lot of wreaths. “They’re high-up,” I figured. “I’ll get fakes. No one will know.”

    I went through the Post ads and found one for Michaels. Michaels used to be an ok place. No store addresses on the flyer, so I went to their website as instructed. The store locator on their site didn’t work.

    I knew that one of these places is somewhere on Route One. I failed to retrieve a map on Mapquest, so I called
    information and then called the store. (It’s not in the phonebook, of course. Another sign to stay home missed).

    I got directions, got in the car, and ended up at a Ford dealership. This happens all the time, since apparently
    someone at Michael’s doesn’t want people finding them.

    I escaped the Ford dealership without a new Mustang and found the proper shopping center.

    Satan smiled fondly on this particular plaza de commerce. It only contained two establishments: Michaels and Chucky Cheese. I skirted the scary pizza place and entered the very bowels of hell. I do not know what I was thinking. I was so horrified by the shiney, ugly, plastinated nightmare that is what Michael’s has become that I ended up taking refuge in the yarn.

    After vowing not only to not hang wreaths, but to not decorate for this or any holiday ever again, I started
    to calm down. This is when things should have been getting better, but instead took a turn for the worse.

    It was at this point that I decided knitting an afghan was a good idea. I picked a pattern. I picked the yarn.
    I can do this. I made my mom an afghan once. A very elaborate one with a celtic knot design.

    In the cashier’s line, I remembered that my mother keeps that afghan in her car now. For car trips. “In case she
    throws up.” Maybe this was not a good idea after all, maybe Mapquest was trying to tell me something.

    If you should find yourself at a Halloween Party that is skewing to the Right and is populated predominantly by Hill Staffers, the following tips may be useful to you. They may even save your life.

    Unacceptable Conversation Topics: welfare, minorities, why you think airport security should be federalized, abortion, immigrants, the poor, taxes, sweat shops, homosexuality, the futility of the war on drugs, Ronald Reagan, single mothers, gay parents.

    Acceptable Conversation Topics: anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, Dick Cheney, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax, anthrax.

    Additionally, do not attempt humor. If you tire of the relentless name-dropping and answer the inevitable “what do you do?” by deadpanning that you are a dominatrix, do not worry about the ones who scatter, worry about the one who stays to chat.