What’s That Smell?

On the way to BART this morning I was met by several people donned in navy shirts and hats passing out free samples of Nivea for Men! an extraordinary skin care product. I glanced at the product suspiciously; I’m not really their target audience. He shoved three samples in my hand with the words, “It’s great for hand lotion.”

Standing on the train platform in the chilly morning air I notice my hands are particularly dry. No problem. I’ll just use this handy dandy Nivea for Men! extraordinary skin care product, perfect for hand lotion. I tear open the foil package and begin rubbing my hands together furiously, my parched skin quenched by the soothing coolness of the creamy white lotion. After a couple of rubs I’m assaulted by a noxious smell. Nivea for Men! is not merely lotion. It’s lotion plus the most offensive after shave scent ever created. Fortunately, I have a Purell wet wipe in my purse, leftover from a picnic or a cross country trip. It kills 99% of all disease causing bacteria. It does not kill the stench emanating from my hands. I can’t escape it.

As I get on BART, heads turn. No one can figure out where the stink is coming from. It’s unquestionably masculine, in the worst sort of way. I, too, participate in the sniffing, hoping that if I appear reasonably disgusted no one will realize it is me, me and my hands, proffering the repugnant odor.

Once at work I make a beeline for the restroom, writhing my hands continuously under the hottest water I can stand until I feel certain the offending smell has been washed away. Lesson learned. Don’t accept samples from strangers. Or at least sniff them out first.

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