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Much of human history must have been an olfactory challenge. For one thing, people are smelly, and the commonality of bathing before the 20th century in some cultures was questionable.

For another, there are recorded periods of history that are full of things like open trenches where people would flush their waste.

These things are mercifully no longer a part of our daily lives.

But that doesn't mean bad smells have been eradicated. Much to the contrary, because of how uncommon they are, we notice them even more.


Redditor JA-darkside asked:

"What smell have you experienced that you will never forget?"

Here were some of those answers.

Dark Days On The Ward

"Hospitals. Both of my parents died two months apart and I was in them every day. I'll never forget that weird, sanitized smell."-PREClOUS_R0Y

"That probably explains my aversion to Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds and most flowers. Grandpa died when I was 3, and we had many other deaths in the family before I even turned 10."-tacobelmont

Sense Memory

"Literally all of them. I'm that person who will smell a rosewater lotion and be like 'Wow this smells like the bathrooms at the Foxwoods casino!!'"

"I haven't been to Foxwoods since I was 8, though I was there semi-frequently due to my parents working there. But for real, almost any damn smell I can connect to SOME point in my life."-AriIsMySavior

It Buuuuuuuurns

"Ammonia. I did some work at a fertilizer plant, they had a urea tower where they used a lot of ammonia and every once in a while you would find yourself downwind and get a blast of it."

"Not only does it smell bad it burns your mucous membranes. You can feel the 3D shape of your sinuses inside your head when they get irritated all at once."-OhAces

These smells are sure to (figuratively or literally) burn their way into your memory.

A Little Creepy Dude

"There was this girl I liked that is friends with my buddy in college."

"When my other friends and I were visiting them one weekend, I slept on the floor of her dorm and she had this air freshener plug-in that smelled very sweet like vanilla and flowers or something similar."

"When I got back home from visiting, my pillow smelt like that for the next couple nights and it reminded me of her every time I went to bed. It was some of the best sleep I've had in my life."-Round_Rectangles

The Past In A Room

"My Grandpa's study in his very old house. His study was full of books, the smell of cigars smoked long ago, old carpet, aging furniture, scotch, etc."

"I was at a wedding recently where the venue was a 'club' for management/corporate type people. It was old, probably hadn't been updated since the 80's."

"I walked into one of the lounges and was hit with the same smell and thrown back into my childhood at his house."-ialo00130

There Was Going To Be One About Diarrhea.

"Diarrhea, once I believe I consumed food that was poisoned and I had horrible diarrhea that was dark brown, it came out like pee."

"It lasted for about a week and the stench wasn’t the worst part, it hurt like hell. I lost around 10 pounds over the span of a week because I wouldn’t eat and if I did I would either throw it up or just poo it out."-LennyGaming69

Wow, I'm On Fire!

"The smell of my hair burning when i lit myself on fire. I was trying to take a bong rip and my hair got in the way and immediately lit on fire."

"I fell out of my chair smacking my head to try and put the fire out. I could hear my hair burning and it started burning my head and my face."

"I finally put the fire out and was just laying on the floor in my room with smoke coming off of my head. The smell of my burning hair was so disgusting."

"But the worst part...I dropped the bong and my entire bowl went all over the carpet. I cried. 😭😌"-_gloomysunday_

Senses, as the most powerful tools people have, really play a part in shaping a person's experience of the world.

Why Did People Have Carpets

"The 3rd floor of my school. I had really bad anxiety and the school didn’t have proper ventilation. Like the windows were sealed shut and it was horrible during the pandemic."

"The smell mostly came from the carpet because of how old it is. It hit you when you entered that floor and my stomach would start gurgling from the anxiety."

"Strawberry kiwi kool aid tastes like how the carpet smells."-waitwhat2604

The WORST Possible Smell In The 21st Century

"Near where I live, there's a decent amount of sewerage, garbage, algae, etc, around natural water spots and mud, that you never want to go into if you can help it."

"Especially never ingest it or let it touch an open cut or wound. You can for the most part avoid the awful smell and sight, as most of these areas are hidden and not easily gotten to."

"One summer, a few years back, I didn't have much to do, so I would just walk around looking for these places(There's this pond that at I found that was covered in some pink kind of algae)."

"So because I was around these kinds of places on a consistent basis, I of course got my foot in some undesired places."

"The muddy and wet shoes would carry the smell of the place, and I don't think everyone will get the way I'm about to describe it, but it's the most accurate way I can."

"It smelled like some one cooked tortellini, pooped on it, and left it out in the sun for a year."-Jyona-San

Mmm...Rotting Produce

"Rotting potatoes and liquified bell peppers that had been donated i encountered while I did an internship-esque thing at a food bank sorting the donated food."

"Also while working at a landscaping company this older guy asked us to clean up this sorta enclosed outdoor space that he had used as his dogs toilet for months while he was recovering from some kind of accident."

"It was in the middle of summer pushing 40°c for weeks, the space was fully sealed so no way for anything to be washed into the ground, the dog had clearly been suffering from diareha for a while and on that day we had some warm summer rain."

"With all that said rotting potatoes and bell peppers are still 1#."-Karlmarx95

Miss you...

"My grandmother passed away 20 years ago. I still know what her home smelled like." ~ Down_Low_Too_Slow

mammals...

"Pig slaughterhouse. Still love me some bacon though." ~ Meat-walker

"It’s livestock, so a bit like a barn, but like industrial grade levels of unmaintained filth caused by the literal pools of shit filled pig urine that sloshes out of every truck that drives through. Then there’s this smell of rancid rotting bile under it. It’s mild, but very obvious." ~ CounterSanity

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HER

"The perfume that this one girlfriend wore, way back in high school." ~ bigredcar

"Oh man do I feel this. The perfume thing is so visual, I can still see her eyes, smile, hair, and clothing style. Kathy B. was her name. I asked her what it was once, and she told me, but I totally forgot. It was many years ago." ~ chriscaulder

The Burn

"Burning plastic in barrels at an industrial park in Istanbul. You knew it was shortening your life with every breathe and you couldn’t escape it." ~ real_schematix

Parchment

"Paper mill." ~ Positive-Source8205

"Yes! There’s none near me where I live, but I can still remember the smell from only driving past them one time! One was in Maine and one was In Oregon." ~ furnacemike

Spam...

"When I was in high school I got to go to the National FFA convention in Indianapolis and they had all these booths set up. One of the booths was for Spam. It's not a horrific odor, but it is one that I wish I had never smelled." ~ happyhumorist

Garlic Bad

"My cattle dog tangled with a skunk and got sprayed and made it into the house before I could stop her. Omg that sulfur garlic rank smell... so bad. I managed at least then to grab her by the collar and chuck her back outside to clean her off." ~ MadCraftyFox

Expressed...

"Bad smell- one night my dog expressed her anal glands on my bed while i was sleeping. It took forever to get the smell out of my mattress. It was horrific. Good smell- my grandmother's cooking." ~ amahler03

"popper"

"She parked on a north facing hillside dirt road in the middle of the Southern California desert in the summer, rolled up the car windows and locked the doors, and ingested about 100 assorted pills, We found her a week later (we call her a 'popper.' because the body is so bloated that they typically will 'pop'). That was in 1979, and I still remember the smell. 😢." ~ Maxsdad53

The End

"The smell of death. when my aunt was dying in the hospital that was all i could smell in her room. When my grandpa was dying in hospice that’s all i could smell. The smell stayed in my nose for days, and I’m still catching whiffs sometimes weeks later." ~ Life_Calligrapher779

Chocolate & Wax

"A college near me that my grandma used to work at when i was very little, we would visit everyday to bring her lunch and i remember the weird, almost chocolate smelling floor wax smell. they renovated the building and the smell is gone, but i still get scents of it when i walk in there now as an adult." ~ rainruins

Choking...

"Fumes of gas from a mixture of oxalic acid and chlorine. These chemicals must not be mixed, as it creates a toxic gas that will cause death. I accidentally mixed small portions of it when i was doing laundry. Both are effective at removing stains. It smells minty at first, but when inhaled it feels like it choked you to death, as if you cannot breathe oxygen. It nearly caused me to death, and i coughed many times in order to breathe." ~ alistairjumanji

Smells can create both positive and negative memories, just as sounds, taste, touch and sight can.

But since smell is so directly linked to our digestive system and our in-the-moment stability, those smells that aren't as pleasant can really leave quite an impression.

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