Perception of smells

This may be IMHO material, I’m not sure. My guess is there may be a factual answer to this question.

Every three or four weeks, I go spend the better part of a day (say 10 hours) in a buddy’s basement where we play games. When I arrive home following one of these game days, as soon as I walk in the door, I am nearly floored by the smell of my own house. Now admitedly we are dog people, so there is some dog related aromas there, but I mean it seems to reek to my nose. By the next morning, I no longer notice any smell.

So one of two things is happening;

  1. My so-called friends and family are afraid to tell me my house smells like ass, or

  2. Something happens to my nose during game day that distorts my perception

I really hope it is number two.
A pertainent smattering of facts from the situation.

  • I don’t get this same reaction when returning from a day at the office.
  • I don’t get this same reaction when returning from a day at the lake.
  • I don’t notice any offending smells in my friend’s basement.
  • He does burn candles (two or three, scented) the whole while we are there.
  • He has a gas burning hot water heater in the basement (maybe drying of the sinuses).
  • I get the slightest hint of this same thing if we’ve been out of the house for several days (summer vacation) but not nearly to the same extent, and I usually set the thermostat pretty high while we are away, so the air has reason to actually be stale then.


Of your hypotheses, I think your first is more likely.

It’s possible that his scented candles utilize a nasal anesthetic (see Cecil’s column), and that, when you get home, it’s wearing off and making your nose extra sensitive. The slight hint you smell after summer vacation means it is always there to some degree, just below your ability to perceive. Unless your friends’ noses are particualarly sensitive, or yours is particularly not, it’s probably not noticeable to anyone else, either.

I’m not sure the effect of dried out sinuses on perception of odor, but, in the spirit of the Dope, you could try using a saline nasal spray to rehydrate them after your next gaming day before you go home.

I was afraid of that.

I will try to remember to do this and report back. We have another game day in around three weeks.

There’s a third possibility. There’s something that happens in your house when you are gone on those particular nights that make it smell like ass.