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How The World Wags

"The Smell of Money"
By Dave Kiffer


November 13, 2004

Ketchikan, Alaska - My mom likes to talk about the "good old days" when a dozen canneries clogged the Ketchikan waterfront and the "Smell of Money" was in the air all summer long.

jpg Dave Kiffer

I suppose it is a happy memory to recall a time when industry in Ketchikan was based on truly industrious activities like fishing and timber rather than the reselling of trinkets and gewgaws, but being able to smell the economy doesn't necessarily seem like a great idea. I've been to towns where the dominant industry had a distinct aroma (pig farms, sulphurous pulp mills, fertilizer plants) and about the only one I would return to would be Hershey, Pennsylvania - for obvious reasons.

Maybe it's because I'm a guy. Guys don't react to smells the way women do. Case in point, have you seen that precious new product "Scentstories"? It looks like a little pastel colored CD player, but you put a special disc in it and it emits little pastel smells.

Really. You can choose between such scents as "Strolling Through the Garden" and "Celebrate the Holidays" or maybe even "Exploring a Mountain Trail." Best of all, the smells rotate so if you are "Walking Barefoot Along The Shore" and get tired of "Splashing In The Waves," just a wait a few minutes and you'll get "Sailing Into the Bay." The product even has a celebrity endorser, Shania Twain. Makes one wonder what "scents" will eventually be packaged along with the audio to "Gonna Get You Good" and "Man, I Feel Like A Woman."

Unfortunately, that will have to wait because the product currently comes with the disclaimer "device plays scents only, does not play music." I anxiously await future "Scentstories" to see how audio CDs could really give you the live concert feel by adding aroma. On the other hand, perhaps we really don't want to experience the "live" smell of stoned Mick Jagger or sweaty Aerosmith after all.

Judging from the product "packaging" it's pretty clear that this product is intended for only half of the current population of the world. Naturally this led me to ponder what possible "scent stories" would appeal to those of us of the XY chromosome gender. "Full Beer Can In My Hand," "New Leather Car Seat," "Barbequed Baby-back Ribs" and "My First Baseball Glove" come immediately to mind and there are hundreds of others. None of which I'm sure scored particularly highly in the "Scentstories" focus groups.

But why not take it a step further? How about "Scentstories" specifically for Ketchikan homes? There's no question that our indoor air gets a little aromatically challenged this time of year (my wife tries to leave a window or two open but that gets old when pillows start floating away during the 'monsoon' season). But where to start?

It would appear that most of the good outdoorsy scents are already spoken for by the "Scentstories" developer, although I must have missed "Dank, Dark Old Growth Forest" and "Grandpa's Boot Insert" in the promotional literature."Burning Wool Sweater on the Oil Heater" was also conspicuously absent.

That leaves us with looking toward local (or what used to pass for local) industry to come up with ideas.

Nostalgia aside, would anyone really want a little mauve-hued scent player cranking out "13 Canneries at Full Production." Just the same, you probably wouldn't find many takers for "Wood-chip Dust Clogging the Air." Maybe someone would like "A Hint of Cordite near a Mine Adit"? Maybe not. Which leaves only "I Love The Smell of Tanzanite In the Morning," but what's the point of having your home smell like every store in town?

Oh well, I guess it'll be a little harder than I thought to come up with a sense of (Alaskan) scents that makes dollars and cents.

Dave Kiffer ©2004


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