Our senses enable us to experience many positive aspects in the world, such as my love of rice and peas and jerk fish is heavily reliant on my sense of smell and taste, but the smell of the spices in the jerk rub enrich the taste immensely.
However our senses can also become our enemies by torturing us with their properties.
On many occasions I have been crippled by my superior sense of smell, many of these situations have been since I started in driving instruction.
Winter is definitely here in the UK, the temperature has dropped and nighttime temperatures are sub zero more often than not in the Home Counties and today the snow has arrived.
My thermals are out and I’m all wrapped up, you’d think that this was the recipe for sweating and production of smells, when in the car with the heating on.
You’d be wrong, summer has been my nemesis with bodily odours and in-car training.
The absence of layers of clothing means there’s less barriers for the smells to work through.
The promises from the big deodorant companies of 24 hour protection are laughable. I’m not sure who they are testing their products on, but they can’t be everyday people, maybe they should come and see me?!
Anyway one of my clients who i’ll refer to as Jeff, made me confront my nemesis head on. This blog is not meant as a character assassination more as an informative piece confronting a social taboo and maintaining an individual’s dignity.
I met Jeff in my first summer as an ADI, it was a beautiful time I was meeting new people and learning lots about driving instruction. Jeff was a 6’ 6” guy with dark set features, full beard and a full head of hair.
Jeff always bought a smile to my face when we met, as he always had a tale to tell and had a rapturous laugh that was infectious.
He’d been training with me for a few months and was progressing well, we had built up a good rapport and had enjoyed our training sessions.
Summer had crept up on us, each week I met Jeff his clothing was becoming more relaxed and he’d appeared on the day in question with sandals on and in his army style shorts and T-shirt.
He looked very red faced, I asked him if he was ok and was happy to do the lesson. He said “no worries Kenny, I’m good to go, it’s just the heat today”. He told me that he’d travelled to meet me on the tube and it was packed like sardines and had made him feel really hot. I said don’t worry I’ll close the windows and put the AC on to help you acclimates and feel better.
Well what made me say that? The car seemed to have a green aura take over and my nose started to twitch. I thought to myself, it’s ok it will calm down but twenty minutes into our session I was flagging.
I had had many encounters with smells in the car when training but this was on another level. I hastily made some excuse about my head feeling heavy with the AC and apologised quickly turning off the AC and opening all the windows.
Jeff being Jeff just went with the flow and smiled, we completed the first half of the session and stopped to have a 5 minute break. I asked Jeff if he wanted a cool drink or ice cream he politely declined.
Towards the end of our break I thought I need to stage an intervention and got my aftershave out. I sprayed myself and then quite informally offered Jeff the use of the aftershave. Jeff again politely declined.
This caught me off guard and I forgot myself and promptly said why not Jeff it’s good stuff, he replied I know that’s why I don’t want to waste it.
What’s a guy supposed to say now?!
Well I persisted and said he wouldn’t be wasting it and I’d be offended if he didn’t use it. Jeff took the aftershave and sprayed it on himself sparingly. In my head I was now breathing a sigh of relief, when he jokingly turned to me and said “Kenny do I smell or something?”
My first response was to laugh, in shock at what he’d said and then I realised he was looking at me rather straight faced now.
This was it now, the door had opened for me to say something about the situation. So I told Jeff about how when he’d first come in the car I had noticed a pugnant smell, and I didn’t want to be rude but I had to open the windows.
I also apologised for not being straight earlier and hoped that he would understand my perspective of how it feels to spend your working day in a small space especially for me as a tall man, and be a passive audience to various smells that people carry.
Jeff started smiling and said no need to apologise and that he’d felt he was a bit grungy today especially as he’d been out the night before and had a session with his friends and hadn’t washed.
He also apologised and said I knew something was up when your smile disappeared Kenny! We both started laughing and continued the lesson in good spirits.
At the end when Jeff was leaving I gave him the aftershave as a gift and waved him goodbye until the next time.
When I came round to the drivers side, sat down and started to adjust things to drive on, I noticed that my bottom was feeling damp, I got up and felt the car seat, it was soaking wet with his sweat. Oh man!
On my way I thought back on the session and it bought a smile to my face.