17 May 2011

Just a Whiff

I have been many things in my lifetime: switchboard operator, telemarketer for USA Today, high school religion teacher, parish worker, prison chaplain, to say nothing of unmentionable or forgettable short-life things, including a camp counselor who put the kids to sleep at night with interminable stories about Abby and her sister Gertrude. 

For a brief time, when I was in college, I was a cashier at a Catholic goods and supply store in downtown Seattle. I loved the job because I got to see all the great new books when they first arrived and because the 10-cent saints medals were art, of a sort. My roommate and good friend, Laura, says, even after all these years, that she knew which days I worked at the store because I came home smelling like incense.

Like so many things in my life, there are connections between the past and the present. Being a telemarketer makes me a dangerous call for anyone who wants a donation from me. Being a switchboard operator has made me a fool for making words out of someone's number. 

Today I was up on the fifth floor at the jail, arms loaded with half a dozen bibles and other things to be dropped off in the mailboxes for the offenders. I came out of the elevator, pushed the button that would get me past the next door, and stepped into the room between two doors. I pushed the next button and then caught a whiff of something familiar. A crowd of officers heading for muster charged through the door and I went on to the mailboxes.

Arms empty, I retraced my route. Pushed the button, spotted another group of officers headed onto the floor. We all made it to that inbetween room where I caught something familiar again as I went on through to the elevator. It was the smell of incense. Truly. Or maybe something like incense (don't come along behind me and tell me it is some green-sounding cleaning fluid. Please.).

I've smelled it before, of course. Today it cranked my mood up at least 40 degrees. The jail is not a place where I expect to smell beeswax or incense. But every now and then, I get surprised.

UPDATE: I've been informed by a reliable source that synthetic THC, called "Spice," smells like incense. Hmmm. So now I'm wondering whose been smoking before coming to work! (Thanks, Erin!)