Scientists say the sense of smell is quite possibly the most effective in triggering memories. It has something to do with the fact that the olfactory bulb is directly connected to the parts of the brain responsible for handling emotion and memory. So, when you smell something, and associate a particular feeling or moment with it, that smell will continue to carry that memory for you. HOW COOL IS THAT? Since this post isn’t about the brain or how it learns or how magical everything inside your skull is, we won’t get into any detail beyond that description but it’s important for you to know because today we’re talking about a smell.
When Rich and I arrived in our charming Italian home a year and a half ago, the weather prompted, if not required, some sunny strolling. Additionally, a city lifestyle obliges its residences to oftentimes travel by foot. This strolling and walking and obligatory traveling by foot-ing is how we discovered the scent.
You see, we started to notice that many of the women passing us all smelled the same. And they smelled GOOD. As time went on and the seasons changed, we smelled the scent less frequently and then more regularly once again. But this passing time bit also put us into mission mode. Clearly the scent was a perfume. And clearly we needed it. Our strolling had gotten to the point that when we smelled the scent, we immediately perked up, latching onto that olfactory association of our Italian life.
This past Christmas we went into a delightful and gigantic department store downtown. The mission was clear: find the scent. Fortunately, one of our people happened to be
working there and quickly stepped into the role of leader of our quest. When I tell you we smelled over twenty-five different perfumes, I promise it’s not a lie. But alas, none of those smells was our smell and so the mission continued.
We finally realized there was only one way to obtain the name of the needed scent: ask a woman who we smelled it on. Of course, there were some problems with this particular branch of the mission:
- If I was by myself strolling and smelled it, I wasn’t entirely confident in my Italian skills being efficient enough to approach said Italian woman and appropriately gather the information.
- When Rich and I were together, and a woman walked by with the smell, sometimes she was headed very quickly for a particular direction. You know what’s not comforting to a gal strolling along? Two people chasing after her. Abort.
- A few times we smelled our smell walking home. At night. Once more, although I wouldn’t describe Rich or myself as intimidating characters, we decided it probably wasn’t the best idea to approach a woman, alone, at night, on a side street. Again, scaring people is not on our list of things to do, ever.
And so the scent went undiscovered, just a little memory hanging out in the olfactory bulb.
Several weeks ago, Rich and I were walking home from dinner and a young woman in front of us had the smell. It was night, which would be breaking one of our aforementioned rules, but we were on a street that was well lit and she was directly in front of us. And, just like that, she stopped. And turned towards her motorino and started to get ready to take off. Guys, the opportunity could not have been more perfect. So, we did it. We approached the young Italian woman (who had awesome hair), told her we liked her perfume, and asked what it was. Well, Rich said all of those things. I smiled and nodded as big and as much as I could.
We know have in our possession the scent. The smell that will always remind us of Italy and the time we spent here. And, guess what? When I went back to that department store to look for it, the woman behind the counter told me this perfume was ranked the #1 selling perfume in Italy last year.