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What’s with the smell?

Posted Oct 10 2008 2:10pm
It’s been one month at the job, which is not so new anymore, and I haven’t posted anything relevant. Not that there has been lack of interesting things to relate. Just that I never get around to sitting at the PC for more than a 10 minutes a day, that’s just to check the mail. But to mark the end of the first month, I thought I might as well write something.

I have been allotted quarters in the campus, but I still manage to come home every night, no matter how late it is, except of course when I am on call, which happens once in every four days. If all’s well, I can hand over my patients to the resident on call and get home by 6. 30 pm. The first thing that greets me when I get home is my sister’s screwed up nose. Somehow she finds the very air around me offensive. My mom does too, except she doesn’t display it as overtly as my sister does. Its what they call the ‘Hospital smell’. Initially I thought that having sweated it out 10 long hours in the midst of summer, (our ward are not air conditioned), I must smell real bad. But later I realized that it was not the musty sweaty odor that bothered them as much as the ‘Hospital smell’ I carried home with me.

Frankly I myself am not able to distinguish the particular smell they talk about, but then it is not surprising, considering that I spend all day in the hospital environ. My mom even claims that the ‘smell’ has permanently stuck to my clothes, and permeated into the wood of my closet. No matter how strong a detergent she uses to wash them, the smell stays. I suppose it is a combination of the various spirits we use for different antiseptic purposes. And the occasional metallic smell of blood, which can render the strongest stomachs nauseous.

On most days I dutifully shower before partaking in the regular family routines just to please my sis. But on the bad days, her nose screwed in disgust and two words of abomination ‘You Stink’ drive me into a rage that ends in verbal altercations. And then there are days, when I am just too tired to care and hitting the sack is the only thing I am interested in.

I remember the day, when I took in the air of a hospital as a medical student for the first time and it turned my stomach. I was just one month old in med school, obviously had had no clinical exposure whatsoever. We had all just about got used to the horrible stench of Formalin, in gross anatomy, which we were exposed to for 4 hours every alternate day. A senior of mine, who was to become my best friend in the future, was hospitalized with Renal colic. Our gang was on good terms with her so we visited her in the ICU. It was routine to admit medical students in the ICU for all purposes, as the wards were too grubby.

Within a minute of entering the ICU I felt sick. Smells have a way of bringing back memories associated with them in an extremely vivid fashion. My mind got flooded with images of various times when my mother and father were hospitalized. I felt so giddy, I had to step out and leave without visiting. Over the years I have got accustomed to ‘Hospital smells’ of all sorts. No issues there.
However there are other smells that take me back to various times in the past. It would seem stupid if I go about listing them. But somehow my mind has filed away memories and tagged them with smells, so when I come across a familiar smell, a sense of nostalgia creeps over and for a second I am transported back in time. More often than not this happens with perfumes and deodorants I have used over the years. I try to stick to one perfume or deo, but never manage to.

Most people don’t get it, how certain smells can almost debilitate me if they bring back bad memories. My friends consider a personality quirk of mine how I suddenly, in the oddest of places go about whiffing the air for a fleeting scent.

Hope that my family gets used to the hospital smell soon enough.
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