The other day the building I work in was evacuated . . . nota fire drill but for a real emergency. Youcould tell by the alarm and the guy on the intercom telling everybody to getout of the building . . . NOW.
While we were standing around out designated rally point wegot word that there was a leaking propane tank on one of our loadingdocks. We began chatting amongstourselves while waiting for the all clear to return to the building.
We could actually smell the gas. One of my co-workers commented that she liked the smell of gasoline. . . actually most petroleum products. Anotherwoman commented that she kind of liked the smell of acetone. I didn’t think they were weird because I happento like the smell of a campfire, gunpowder and Hoppes #9 (a cleaning solvent).
I thought the answer would be something fairly simplistic .. . that the smells were associations with something good . . . a good memory; but,alas, no. Keep in mind that actually enjoying the smell of something is not thesame as having a good memory of something.
It IS a psychological reaction but not for the reasons I suspected. Certain smells elicit a reaction in ourbrains that we experience as pleasure. Surely, the smells of glue, gasoline and tar shouldn’t make ushappy. But, for a lot of us, they do.
Make a note that all of the things I’ve mentioned have something in common . . . I’ll get back to that.
Taking pleasure in a smell is actually hard coded into us. Something in your brain knows when somethingis beneficial to our survival. It’s kindof like having an appetite for food or sex. If you eat you survive. If you reproduce a part of you survives . . .through your offspring. Or a phobia of heights or poisonous snakes. If youfall off a cliff you die and if you get bitten by a poisonous snake you willmost likely die. It’s kind of like that. . .
Look back at all the things I’ve mentioned . . . gasoline,acetone, gun powder, tar, glue . . .yes, even my favorite Hoppes #9 . . . all of these things have one thing in common . . . they are all highlyflammable and that’s probably not entirelycoincidental.
What do you need to survive? Food, water, shelter and warmth. What keeps you warm? Fire. To ensure that your food is not contaminated,you cook it . . . the same with boiling water.
Your brain knows that these things are can potentiallycreate fire . . . and coincidentally, they can create fire quite easily.
By directing thechemical make-ups of these substances through smell to the olfactory centers inour brain. Thus creating a sensation of pleasure through the stimulation andrelease of neurotransmitters (such as dopamine, norepinephren, and seratonin)in the same way that it would occur during sexual intercourse, eating a goodsteak, or exercise.
Experiencing pleasure in a smell . . . even a weird one . . . is our brain’sway of telling us that something about the source is good. It’s telling us something to help us tosurvive.
How cool is that??