November 17th, 2003


"The Smell."


It was the question on every male coworker's lips all morning. The primary topic of discussion 'til well into mid-afternoon.

"What the fuck was that smell in the bathroom?"


The men's room isn't well-ventilated. So whatever odor emanates from there lingers for a bit before moving onto wherever it is bathroom smells go, perhaps Gary, Indiana.

So every morning, when I go in for my second official urination, I generally brace myself for a gust of eye-watering goodness. Because unlike women, men defecate at least once every 24 hours, with some unloading twice or even three times. And most guys tend to be morning poopers. It's nature's way of letting you start the day light and agile like a hummingbird.

Every once in a while, though, you get something truly awful, where instead of pinching a loaf, someone pinched an entire bakery. Or instead of dropping some kids off at the pool, they dropped off an elephant carcass (Man, I can just go on and on with these.)

But what hit me this morning was truly epic in its hideousness. Rotting elephant carcass would've been a nasal oasis: I think I would've gladly inhaled a refreshing bouquet of anthrax instead of what I encountered in that restroom. There's no way it came out of a human being.


After lunch, I saw the janitor quickly scurry out of the restroom. Presuming he'd blowtorched the place clean, I walked in ... and got hit with a double whammy. Rather than using napalm to cleanse the evil away, he'd tried using an industrial-strength ammonia-based cleaner.

Now it smelled like someone had thrown the revolting Stench Beast into a giant container made out of wet cat hair, and set it on fire. Despite my warnings to pee at another floor's bathroom, my art director went in anyway and literally spent the rest of the day gagging.

A couple of hours later, I ignored my own advice and went in again. I tried holding my breath before going in, but in my already weakened condition I ran out of air by the time I flushed. The previous reek was still there, albeit a little weaker; but now a new odor had joined the party.

Somebody had gone in and blasted the place with cologne. Just unloaded the whole bottle. I couldn't tell if it was something fancy or something by Mennen. But while it no longer made me want to find a hunting knife and cut my nose off, it was still pretty nauseous - but now in a bold, masculine way.


So you can see why the other guys on our floor couldn't stop talking about it. It's one of those bonding traumatic experiences, like a building fire or botched jewel heist. Many years from now, they'll still be asking, "Where were you during The Smell of 2003?"

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