this theory has legs


I believe that everyone has some kind of special talent - like a sixth sense or mild Dr. Dolittleism. Just stay with me here, and take a moment to observe the people in your life.

I have one friend who attracts all manner of neighborhood cats to her door each night, without giving the little buggers food. Her mother felt a sharp pain in her gut whenever she brought certain boys over ...

... or maybe you (like me) have an auto-obsessive friend who has a spyder sense (see what I did there?) for weird, rare cars. More than once, we'd be deep in conversation while driving to a movie when his head would snap left. He'd execute a raucous, three-lane u-turn, jamming the front of the car into the driveway of a tiny used car dealership or pick-and-pull or abandoned gas station because the side mirror peeking out from under that torn old car cover could "only" be British.

Sure, he could have killed us both many times over, but then he wouldn't have found that special, rusted out Italian crap-heap Lancia to restore, either - and we all gots'ta have priorities.

Like I said, I suspect many fine people are blessed with these gifts, and I also suspect there is a physiological explanation involved.

[insert a random internet crawl]

As soon as I found it, it hit me: olfactory.

Apparently, there exist men and women out there who can detect, with their sense of smell, the unique tang of even trace airborne molecules of rust, Italian oil, or errant drops of espresso dried in between the seams of the dashboard ... maybe not from 60 feet away at 40 mph, but hear me out.

Olfaction is a form of chemoreception (the ability to perceive specific molecules in the air), and - usually - the sense of smell is reserved for locating food, finding a mate, and averting danger. "The essentials", in other words.

Enter: the gearhead.

Do you know someone who claims to taste vanilla, chocolate, smoke, steak, glue, and Play-Doh in their wine? Someone who can find a Greek restaurant in their sleep? What about someone who considers offbeat cars to be the end all and be all of human existence?

You're reading this blog, so you probably know at least one.

These people have become bipedal hounds - finely-tuned instruments of discovery, focused on finding their specific "treasures", often in spite of (or encouraged by!) the horrified faces of their peers.

Back to the point about "special superpowers", then: it's smell. It's some smell thing, I think ... and I'm pretty comfortable with that theory.

That or Grey Aliens (it's 50/50).

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