Olfactorially Offensive.

He smells of B.O., my newest colleague.

Its unfortunate as he’s otherwise a nice chap, seems a decent designer, and I don’t mind having someone else in the room (even though my Shrodinger’s Cat Napping opportunities will be necessarily curtailed by his presence)… but he smells.

Not even of fresh sweat – it is, afterall hot and humid here in Summer – but the stale acrid smell of B.O.

Really, can people not smell themselves? I mean, I know I’m obsessively clean but even people who are just averagely clean don’t smell of B.O.

And he looks clean. Dresses well. And he has a girlfriend… how does she allow him anywhere near her?

I’m not asking for a colleague who smells like dewy rose petals picked at dawn or anything… just an absence of noticeable odour would be good.

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36 Responses to Olfactorially Offensive.

  1. sledpress says:

    Back in the days when he served on a volunteer ambulance, my Albino Ex shared a shift with a smart, skilled, goodhearted man who just didn’t shower. I think it is easier when you are in a fire and ambulance company. They are people who get right to the job, and if I remember the story right, they washed him.

    Years later I met the man, who had now learned to bathe and was trying to date. He took a friend of mine out and told her all about his prostate scan. He still send out a Christmas letter that details the status of his real estate holdings and retirement finances.

    The best call we made was somewhere on the autistic spectrum, cf.: Temple Grandin and her comments about being grateful to the people who told her to use a deodorant. If your mind is hooked up a certain way, it’s just information and you don’t realize other people care about it. Does your new office mate seem curiously impervious to other sorts of social cues?

    • Norwichrocks says:

      Well, see, that’s what’s so odd. He’s otherwise ‘normal’ – sociable, friendly, smartly (even trendily) dressed. So I don’t think its an autism spectrum issue… though we have a few of those, believe me. 😉

      Those Christmas letters are odd, aren’t they? I mean, is that really what he wants to hear about from other people; their finances and stock portfolio? Or is it just that he doesn’t have a family or any fun activities to talk about?

      • sledpress says:

        The amazing thing is that he does stuff like Revolutionary War Re-enactment, to the point he had a secure place built into his townhouse for the black powder he uses. But he talks about portfolio matters. He once said he couldn’t understand why he had such dismal luck with women since he owned several properties and had a good retirement fund, and he understood that this sort of thing mattered to women.

        Your colleague really is baffling. I guess you just have to take the bull by the horns?

  2. doctordi says:

    Woo, I had this happen in my very SMALL office space when I was doing my PhD. Fantastic guy and still a great mate today, but he reeked. Had to say, ‘Buddy, we’re sharing this space, and I love that you’re here, but we both have to be comfortable if this is going to work, and I’ve gotta tell ya, I’m not at the moment, because I’m really sensitive to smell, and I find your manly pungency a bit overwhelming – I know, I know, it’s a total pain – and I would really appreciate it so much if you would help me out by switching to a less macho deodorant during office hours.’

    The main thing for me was deciding to address it as though I believed he was already *using* a deodorant. I don’t know if that cushioned the blow on the receiving end, but our little chat worked. Good luck. You just spend too many hours of too many days in that space to be gasping for air the whole time. Nip it in the bud.

    • Norwichrocks says:

      Tactful, I like it. At the moment, I can’t smell it because its 30 degrees outside and humid as hell, so we have the air conditioning on full blast.

      But it may yet come to that, as the days cool… 😉

  3. Pete says:

    Di- Love your tact there. A less macho deodorant! The other day a colleague offered me a breathmint and I’ve been paranoid ever since. Perhaps it was the slightly pained look on his face when he offered them!

    • Norwichrocks says:

      I know what you mean, Pete – those of us who are socially conscientious already only need to be offered a mint or be given perfume or soap as a gift to get ourselves into a (smelly) sweat of paranoic fear.

  4. Fugitive Pieces says:

    Oh, dammit. You can’t even send him one of those ‘anonymous’ e-mails that could come from any one of the numerous colleagues who share his workspace. I like Di’s solution – the ‘my fragile feminine nostrils are quivering under the onslaught of your sheer manliness’ technique. Desperate times…

  5. piereth says:

    Smell is a weird thing – some people can smell themselves, some need telling, and from experience some who are told simply won’t believe you.

    I don’t know why olfactory assault isn’t treated as a workplace issue but it isn’t – and it should be!

    • Norwichrocks says:

      Absolutely – there should be regulations.

      1. No wearing of low-cut tops exposing too much cleavage
      2. No wearing of hyper skinny jeans, especially when slung from one’s arse crack
      3. A daily shower and the use of deodorant is mandatory.

  6. Ohhhhhh boy. I think I’d just quit. 😉

  7. Just tell him. Nicely. (Or not nicely, depends on whether he is an ass or not. Sounds like he isn’t an ass so be nice. The first time) He may shower on a regular basis but his clothes might not be washed properly, or if he wears a sports jacket that may need to be sent to the cleaners. Some people just have a stronger odor than other people.

    See, in the Navy, people don’t get to not wash, the swabbies are pretty much like the firefighters Sledpress mentioned above. When you share a compartment with 60 other people and your space is a 2x6x4 area, if you smell bad for long you WILL become clean, and your buddies are not likely to be all sweet and gentle about it either.

    And no, people cannot smell themselves. I still recall the day my dog got skunked in the early am before I had to prepare for work. I spent a pleasant half hour washing her down, and then I showered and dressed. When I got to work I discovered that my clothing, which had been residing calmly in the closet during all the above activities, had been “scented” quite thoroughly during the approximately 30 seconds that she was actually in my bedroom reeking. I had no idea that I smelled of skunk until my co-workers arrived, I could not smell it any more since I had been so thoroughly imbued with the substance. So he may be so “indoctrinated” that he has no idea.

    • Norwichrocks says:

      Mmm, I know what you mean about the clothes possibly not having been washed or aired properly – my sister’s ex boyfriend always smelled slightly musty to me, as though his clothes had been wet too long, you know?

      But in this case, its definitely coming from the body, not the clothes.

      And it seems that English girls’ boarding schools are very nearly identical to being in the Navy: we once forcibly washed a girl who refused to bathe. Teenage girls run out of patience quickly when sharing a dorm…

      • Norwichrocks says:

        Oh, and by dorm, I mean a room with 12 beds in it – I know in the US a dorm can mean a whole building, right?

  8. modestypress says:

    Let’s look at the upside of all this. The best way to tell if you are in love with a good choice is that you like their scent. Well, it worked for me; so it should work for you.

    OK, if we must be negative: don’t sleep with people who stink.

    • Norwichrocks says:

      Good point – I once met a guy for a first date after we’d been in touch on the internet for a few weeks and really seemed to hit it off. When we met, though, I was immediately repulsed by something I couldn’t put my finger on. It wasn’t that he smelt unclean, it must just have been that his pheromones and mine weren’t compatible. I got out of there as fast as I could.

  9. modestypress says:

    However, when people fall in love, they often stop blogging. David does not blog as much as he used to. Waxing Strange is fading away. Woo, you must stay miserable and lonely so you can entertain us.

  10. azahar says:

    Has he been ill recently? My sweat still smells like onions soaked in lysol several months after finishing chemo. So if he is on any strange medication this might be the cause.

    I honestly don’t know if my body odour offends anyone. Other than showering half a dozen times a day I really don’t know what else I could do about it.

    On the other hand, maybe he just doesn’t change his clothes often enough.

    • Norwichrocks says:

      I don’t think thats it, Az. He cycles to work every morning and otherwise looks the picture of robust health. In fact, maybe its the cycling to work every morning which is the cause… we do have a shower, but its in the next door building and maybe it wasn’t pointed out to him by the boss when she showed him round…

  11. modestypress says:

    Today, I was helping with the wood ministry for the church group and as we were leaving, somebody said, “I hope somebody gets the dead rat or dead mouse out of here pretty soon.”

    I hadn’t smelled anything.

    Someone else said, It must be under that huge pile of wood.

    Maybe it was a dead skunk?

  12. catfishaway says:

    I have a co-worker who has a definite – “feminine” odour – and can’t think of any way to tell her that won’t make her feel just terrible. So I haven’t. When I have to go to her office for meetings I soak a scarf in orange oil and tuck it in my neckline.

  13. modestypress says:

    When I was in high school, about 40 or so years ago, a neighbor drove her son and me to work. One day, she said to me, “Somebody needs to tell you this. You need to start using a deoderant.” I was terribly shocked and embarrassed (being 15 or so), but also grateful.

    I am thinking, after reading your post, that there is a great opportunity for a web site to let people know that they need to wash and use deoderant. I haven’t quite worked out the details, as it involves your computer sniffing you, but as you know, I am a big picture person.

    But I will give you the URL as a starting point:


  14. modestypress says:

    I just tried that URL. Somebody has “staked it” so it will cost a lot of money. So I now suggest:


  15. modestypress says:

    Instead of saying something simple like no such address, Internet Explorer (evidently holding its nose), says it cannot display the page. Actually, pages with scent is one of the few things the world wide web cannot do. I do remember back in the days when print media was still viable, a few magazines having “scratch and sniff” advertisements.

    However, my LCD screen would probably not take it well if I start scratching at it and trying to sniff it. Perhaps if I just caress it gently…?

  16. Perhaps some of that lovely Lysol spray might help, the kind that neutralizes odors, or you could burn a few candles. The candles might be more discreet.

  17. Not to sound like a real pain, but if I had the choice between offensive BO and scented candles or that “lovely Lysol spray”, I’ll take the BO. As ugly as it might be and as unpleasant, at least it doesn’t have neurotoxins in it.

  18. Norwichrocks says:

    I think he’s solved it. It may have been a reaction to the stress of starting a new job in a week when temperatures and humidity here in Sydney were ridiculous. I think – not being from here originally – he just wasn’t prepared for it.

    But now its fine.

    Whew. 🙂

  19. OmbudsBen says:

    Have you ever cooked and been so immersed in the food odors you no longer smell them, but if you leave the hosue and come back in, the first whiff easily registers?

    Odor is like that. I think you notice it in contrast; when you’re in an environment with none, a few PPM is detectable, but you get used to it in a room you no longer sense it.

    Light is kind of that way, as you eyes adjust to darkness or a lot of intense light.

    So I think people quickly adjust to their own odors, and don’t notice them, because they’re in the middle of the “pool.”

    Of course, once you are alerted, aware and offended by a scent you remain attune to it. Anyway, glad that the issue has gone away–hope that remains true.

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