Not so keen on this ‘new car’ smell

Paula Tessier
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My sense of smell is so heightened all the time that hubby has always joked I could be hired on at the airport as a suitcase sniffer. Wonderful affliction when good smells abound: fresh baked bread, for example. I can even tell the difference if there’s butter melted over the top of the buns. Great smell; would make a dandy perfume.

Onions caramelizing on the bottom of a roasting pan — makes me taste the gravy even before it’s made. Wild roses always cause me to stop and take a whiff — carefully, though; it seems wild bumblebees appreciate them as well and can hide cleverly between the petals.

But the world isn’t always coming up roses, and living in a house full of men is proof that a sensitive nose is sometimes an offended nose.

Last weekend, hubby and I decided to make our one-billionth trip to our favourite warehouse grocery store to stock up on nourishment for the offspring. It was an evening after a very warm and delightful day.

While he was searching for his keys, I headed out to get into his car. Now this is a fairly new vehicle and I’ve hardly been in it at all, spending most of my time in my own little roadster, but the scent that greeted me was not one I was used to.

The second I opened the door, an odour wafted out, causing me to pause, gag a little, then look under the seat to see if there was an old sweaty, rotting pair of socks or a mouldy piece of pizza that the manufacturer may have inadvertently left before shipping it out of the shop. Or, more likely, perhaps hubby or one of our boys may have dropped a morsel of something while enjoying a road snack.

Nothing — at least, not under the seats. So I let some fresh air in, deciding the smell wasn’t as bad as originally thought. By then, hubs was getting in the car as well, so I very casually questioned, in such a gentle manner, “What the heck is that stink?”

Instantly my spouse defended his new vehicle, insisting that the only scent in it was the “new car” smell. New car smell? Now it’s been a while since I’ve had a brand new car, but I certainly don’t recall it smelling quite like that. This aroma was distinct, pungent and most unpleasant.

A small exchange ensued between hubby and me, and I could tell he was getting a little peeved with me, so I eventually dropped the subject, fearing I may have been offending him. After all, the smell wasn’t that bad (or perhaps I was just getting used to it!) and maybe, because it was indeed such a hot day, it was “new car” smell, only on broil.

Then it hit me. Earlier that day, hubby placed a bag of garbage in the back of his vehicle to dispose of once he got home. It dawned on me that, just maybe, he might have forgotten about it.

Two days’ worth of food scraps — including fresh fish and eggs — mixed with the heat of our beautiful summer sun for most of the day! I wasn’t sure what he was going to be more upset about: the fact that his smeller didn’t pick that up, or the idea of it being in his brand new car all day.

I had to ask. Instantly his mood changed from defensive about his vehicle, to “Holy smokes! You’ve got to be kidding! Get it out, get it out!!” Or something to that effect.

Thankfully, once the bag was removed, the stench left with it. And you know, it wasn’t as bad as you would have thought — not pleasant, mind you, but not that bad at all. Or, perhaps living with four men has finally done my sensitive nose in!

Email Paula Tessier at

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