Bathroom Air Fresheners Are Out To Get Me

How could this smell be a bad thing?

Please do not take this personally if you are the building manager for a large corporation, office building, etc. I know you have good intentions. You understand your bathrooms accommodate dozens, if not hundreds, of people per day, and as such are subject to smells that might be charitably classified as “unbearable” by your average human nose.

Unfortunately, along with dribbling faucets, empty paper towel dispensers, and stall doors hung so comically out of alignment that the inclusion of a lock is a twisted practical joke, an odor that would drive Pennywise from a sewer is a defining characteristic of the workplace bathroom.

So your attempt, Considerate Building Manager, to alleviate this condition via air fresheners proves that your heart is in the right place. I certainly appreciate the gesture.

My only suggestion would be that you knock it off.

Look, I dislike the smell of frequently frequented bathrooms as much as the next guy. Literally — the guy at the urinal next to me also gave workplace bathroom ambience an 8.9 on your standard 0–10 Oh-Please-God-Help-Me scale.

In fairness, I speak specifically of the men’s room. Maybe you can place a Tic Tac on the counter in the ladies’ room and be good for a week. But the men’s room smell is nearly supernatural in its staying power. So again, huzzah to you, Considerate Building Manager, for trying to mask these odors under such daunting circumstances.

How surreal it must have been for you the first time you naively opened one of those little Glades or Renuzits only to watch it shrivel before your eyes — grape to raisin, pharaoh to mummy — in a matter of seconds. Plastic and all. Shriveling, in all likelihood, less from evaporation than fear.

So you upgraded to the super-deluxe electronic version that emits scents on a timed basis. Every few minutes it sprays its fragrant particles into the air, and you probably figure it’s just your imagination that its sound is a gasp, as though it too had been holding its breath against the vile atmosphere as long as possible. Anyhow, it keeps spritzing away and you can move on feeling like a hero.

But here’s the problem:

I come along and open the bathroom door, and while I’m not psyched for it, I have mentally prepared for the horror. I have done a certain amount of bracing. I have my game face on.

Mouth open is probably a bad idea.

When, thanks to you, Considerate Building Manager, I am instead greeted with Warm Vanilla Sugar Cookie, I am blindsided. My eyes, rather than tearing, widen.

I take a step. I smile.

Another step. Wow.

A third step that is actually verging on a skip. I look back over my shoulder for the portal that Quantum Leap-ed me to this alternate timeline where workplace bathrooms smell like five-star resort spas. What a truly pleasant surpr —

I falter on my fourth step. Just as Warm Vanilla Sugar Cookie is taking me back to the Christmas mornings of my childhood, my olfactory system pings. It has received intel indicating I am not alone here with Warm Vanilla Sugar Cookie.

No. No. I mean, the cookie smell is so good, so powerful. It is everything. It is…

…astringent? Yet earthy?

My head begins to swivel, nose lifting involuntarily, periscope-like, actively searching — God knows why — for… The Other. But there is no need to search — The Other is everywhere. It has always been here, hiding under the blanket of Warm Vanilla Sugar Cookie.

In my shock, I have come to a stop. The Workplace Bathroom Prime Directive is to get in and get out. Fast. Not to stand still as if stuck to the floor (a literal worry, at times).

I turn back, the smells competing for residence in my nostrils, trading punches like evenly matched boxers. This merging of sugar cookie with your standard hell-birthed bathroom smell — my brain doesn’t know what to do with it. It’s nice… no, it’s awfulbut cookies…

I reach for the door, knowing I am too late. I will get out of the room, but I will never truly escape, because tomorrow or next month or next year, I will walk into a grocery store or bakery or, God forbid, my very own home, and there will be sugar cookies baking.

Will my mind still hearken back to childhood Christmases? It will not. It will be dragged violently back to the men’s room at work. This cruel Pavlovian response you, Considerate Building Manager, have unwittingly engineered has me retreating, shrinking from the aroma as a vampire from sunlight.

Not the cookies!

I implore you — take down the air freshener. Yes, I will suffer, but the suffering will be honest. And finite. Please spare my memories.

Or maybe pick a floral scent.

Like what you read? Give Mike Range a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.