Monday, November 10, 2014

Smells and Sounds

I am fortunate to live an active and varied lifestyle from the office to flying, marathon running and auto racing. I've often found myself reflecting on the unique sounds and smells in each of these environments.

The Office

The occasional smell of burnt coffee, toasted bagel and sometimes pungent smell of colleagues heating their lunches. The sudden chorus of beep, chirps and bings at 15 and 10 minutes before the top and bottom of the hour. Phone ring, pause, people stating their name as the join a conference call. The sudden change in volume and tone when people want to share privileged information but don't want to announce it to the entire cube farm. Occasional laughter as people share a joke. Many, many languages spoken as my colleagues switch to their native languages on occasion when its easier to communicate with another speaker of their native tongue.

Auto Racing

Many unique smells here... the smell of oil burning in gasoline in a rotary engine. Burnt tire rubber. Hot oil and gasoline. Hot clutch, hot brakes, hot, hot metal. Hot summer pavement. Auto racing is all about heat. Hot metal, hot laps, hot women in the podium photos.  There's the obvious sounds that everyone thinks about, engines at or near redline as the cars tear down the front straight. Backfires as the driver downshifts, squealing tires of course. There are other sounds too... the rattle and clank of tools, drills firing, whistles blowing the count down to taking the track, the god-awful clattering of gear boxes not tuned for moving slowly, generators running in the paddock at night.

Marathon Running

I don't recall too many marathon smells, perhaps that is good. There is the smell of heaven on earth, the smell of an orange slice at mile 20. But some smells are best left un-smelled! Twenty six point two miles of sweat, the pungent smell of port-o-lets. Speaking of port-o-lets, they make sounds too. A creak and click/slam as their doors open and close. Sometimes tens of them are lined up in an area with hundreds of runners carb-unloading before a race. There's also a slap-shuffle sound of the runners feet on the streets. Deep breathing at first, then huffing and puffing as the end of the race approaches. Gasps after crossing the finish line having spent my last iota of energy in a final sprint.


There are some standard smells in aviation. Avgas is one, hot oil and hot engines is another. I've found different planes have different smells. The little 172 I learned to fly in - she smells like sunshine. The Bonanza has a particular oily smell when I open the door to the cockpit. I have yet to place the smell of an Arrow, but Arrows have a wonderful sound. They have a whistle when the gear is down. It can be heard from the cockpit when the throttle is pulled back to idle or from the ground when an Arrow is on approach to land. 172 propellers make a pleasing snick-snick-snick sound cutting through the air when the power is pulled and the other racket of flying a 172 is ceased. Last night I was flying the Bonanza and enjoyed the smooth, reassuring rumble of power from its engine with the prop knifing through the nighttime air. Of course, there is one sound that all pilots of small planes love. The light scrch scrch of tires kissing the runway when you land a plane just right.


Experience is far beyond just what we see and touch. Smells and sounds are all part of what we become as we live and learn from our experiences. Next time you are fully in the moment, in a moment you enjoy, stretch out your senses and see if you can identify the unique smells and sounds of your experience in addition to the sight and touch. Treasure the entirety of the experience, make it yours forever.

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