Compared to most other mammalian species, we are poorly tuned to smell. Yet scents are still powerful triggers for human memories; they can instantly fill our minds with recollections of summers past. Of cut grass and hot dogs and Kool-Aid and the kind of bug spray that used to be filled with DDT.
We like to think we are familiar with and can recognize most any aroma, yet there are a few to which we are olfactory virgins. Smells that can paralyze us with memories of things that never were or are yet to be.
The one I just encountered wasn’t a minty smell so much as it was menthol. And not even the pleasant menthol of a soothing cough drop in the dead of a northeast winter, but an institutional menthol. An artificially cool fragrance of compulsive disinfection. The kind of scent that makes you feel like you’re in a place where men in glasses and ties that are just a distractingly tiny bit too short ask you questions like “Do you think you are crazy?”, and you know that if you answer in the affirmative that you will likely be there for the rest of your life yet you also are keenly aware that if you say no sir I do not believe I am insane they will smile and tell you that your treatment is coming along just fine and they tell you with feigned excitement that it is macaroni and cheese night in the cafeteria but they only ever let you eat it with spoons and everyone knows that mac and cheese only tastes good when you eat it with a fork.
All of this is to say that I am never buying cheap bodywash at Bath and Body Works ever again.