We live in sealed houses, ride in sealed cars, shop in sealed stores and generally live our lives isolated from the ugly, mean, cruel outdoors. We love our air conditioning, and our air filters, and those little dispensers that spray nice smelling air into our lives, but we might as well be on Mars, ensconced in a terrarium just like some fancy turtle that can do long division. If we claim our lives “are a zoo,” is it any wonder? We've built an indoor zoo and we live there year 'round, caged for our own protection.
Over the past few months, I've been breaking out of my little cage at the zoo. When I drive, I now turn the A/C off and ride with my windows open. If you do the same, you'll find a world of fun and pleasing scents. Drive by the General Mills cereal plant here in Covington on an early morning when they're baking up some goodness. The scent is incredible. It's like driving in a candy rainstorm. As a kid, we used to visit my aunt who lived near Little Five Points. On the trip — back when A/C was a rich man's toy — we'd drive up Highway 42 and smell the Colonial Bakery's flavor of the day wafting in through the windows of our white Ford Galaxy 500. It was almost as good as eating dessert. We have that same opportunity here in our town, if you'll just open the window.
On one of my recent “No A/C” trips, I drove through Walnut Grove and somewhere along the road, I ran into a fog of BBQ smoke. It was so pleasant to smell the wood-fired BBQ, and even though I didn't know where it was coming from, my car was filled with the scent. Recently, driving in the North Georgia mountains, I passed a campsite where they were roasting and toasting oak firewood. And in Blairsville, I passed freshly cut grass which has an incredible scent that I go out of my way to find. Had the windows not been down, I would have missed it all.
When you break out of your cage at the zoo and roll your windows down, you do run risks. I pulled up alongside a truck where the owner was puffing on a cigarette and playing the most obnoxious music possible short of opera. I hate the smell of cigarettes. Had it been a pipe, I would have been fine. So I rolled up the window for a while, and when I was clear of the stench and aural pain, I opened up to the world again. You also run the risk of inhaling car fumes which range from burning oil to that strange odor that comes from the bowels of the catalytic converter. This is life. You can't always be smelling Cheerios. Sometimes the world hands you asphalt and hydrocarbons.
So this is your challenge. Break out of your own cage and see what's out there beyond the limits, where you've walled off reality in favor of safety, and cold perfumed air. You'll certainly enjoy many of the surprise scents. And even the few awful ones you encounter won't make you regret your escape from your cage at the zoo.
David McCoy is a lifetime resident of “The Glorious South” and a repeat winner of the Georgia Press Association's Joe Parham Trophy for his humor column, Pecan Pie for the Mind. David lives in Covington, Georgia but can often be found among the North Georgia mountains, depending on the weather and the availability of clean towels and fresh, hot coffee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.