I Have No Sense Of Smell: 5 Insane Realities

You have to lose one sense: hearing, sight, or smell. What do you choo- wow, you didn't even need to think about it, did you? Everybody ditches smell like it smells funny. This isn't just a hypothetical scenario: Some folks, like Joe, are born with anosmia, which is an inability to smell. Others, like Savannah, lose their sense of smell as a side effect of nasal surgery or a tragic bottle rocket accident. According to them, it changes your life more than you would think. For example, you find out that ...

Advertisement

5
Farts Change Everything

Morgan David de Lossy/iStock/Getty Images

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

People who have anosmia dread bringing it up for one very simple, bizarrely consistent reason:

"Without fail, anytime I tell someone about this, what they say is, 'So, if I farted RIGHT in your face, it wouldn't do anything?!'" Joe says. And they fart. They fart right then and there.

Digital Vision/DigitalVision/Getty Images
"Take THAT, basic social contract!"

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

You do have the upper hand when it comes to revenge, though:

"A bunch of my friends would always have a laugh after holding something to my face and asking, 'Can you smell that? Oh wait!'" Joe says. "Well, one night, we were driving my parents' golf cart back to the house (because that's how we roll in small country towns), and I noticed something lying on the side of the road at the last second and tried to avoid it. I ended up hitting the rear end of it with the tire, and it happened to be a dead skunk, which then engulfed the golf cart in a cloud of misery (for them). Everyone starts coughing and gagging, to which I proudly asked, 'HEY, GUYS!!! CAN YOU SMELL THAT?!?!?!'"

501room/iStock/Getty Images
Also helpful for ensuring no one tries to play through for a good six months.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Savannah's all too familiar with the phenomenon, commenting, "People are definitely not afraid to fart around me," but she takes a more positive outlook: "My family tends to be more of the, shall we say, silent but deadly variety, so that only benefits me as far as that's concerned, and my husband is a gas machine, so, if anything, this has been really good for our relationship."

Mike Watson Images/moodboard/Getty
We're suddenly starting to come around on the "there's someone for everyone!" idea.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Still, though, sometimes she "accidentally" forgets that not everyone is so fortunate: "I am sure that my coworkers think I am just the most tasteless human being because I don't even try to hold back at this point. It just doesn't occur to me. Maybe that makes me a horrible human being, but my coworkers and I are on somewhat tense terms, so I don't really care."

It's like somebody got their wish granted by the Twilight Zone: They never have to smell a fart again, but they always smell like farts.

4
Hygiene Becomes A Problem

LuckyBusiness/iStock/Getty Images

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

It's not just farts you have to worry about: With anosmia, you're the last person to know if you surreptitiously stink.

Joe and Savannah enlist two strategies for dealing with this problem: The first is a strict schedule of showering ("Oh my god, shower every day, don't be the smelly kid," Joe tells himself), and the second is a trusted ally to help them out. "I have my husband pick out all my body washes, deodorant, all those things, because I figure if I can't smell it, I might as well pick something that smells good [to him]," Savannah says.

Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images
"Bratwurst and scotch?"

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Navigating the smellier parts of Joe's life is practically his girlfriend Rhea's second job. "Sometimes when I come over, if something in the trash is starting to smell, the whole apartment will smell like it," she says. "It can be quite overwhelming at times, and he has no idea."

Until she mentioned to us that she occasionally has to remind him to close the bathroom door, Joe actually didn't realize that pee has a smell. It was pretty special to bear witness to that breakthrough in their relationship.

ehaurylik/iStock/Getty Images
Asparagus at your own risk.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

3
Food Becomes An Even Bigger Problem

STUDIO GRAND OUEST/iStock/Getty Images

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

"Without a sense of smell, you lose like 75 to 85 percent of your ability to taste," Joe says. Unless a food has a very strong taste, it might as well be Styrofoam, which leads to some pretty strange eating habits. Savannah relies on hot sauce and vinegar to feel feelings, while Joe is one of those assholes who puts ketchup on everything ... except French fries. That's because French fries are already very salty, one of the few flavors Joe can taste.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Depending on your outlook, this can actually have advantages. Savannah says she's probably lost 10 pounds since that fateful surgery. "I've kind of lost interest in food," she says. "Usually, throughout the day, you'll smell something that will remind you to eat, but since I lost my sense of smell, I wasn't really being reminded and I would forget to eat. I would have to set alarms."

monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images
"Ugh. Pancakes o'clock, already?"

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

But, for Joe, it's become a hindrance to healthy eating. "I've tried to enjoy eating salad, but most of the lettuce is crunchy water to me," he says. "I'll have to drench it in salad dressing, and that ends up more gross than anything ... I'm trying to get better at fruits and vegetables because my girlfriend is vegan, which is good. That inclines me to eat a little better."

ffolas/iStock/Getty Images
Don't worry bud; that ketchup still qualifies.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

As long as she does the cooking, that is.

"Whenever I cook something for Rhea and I, the possibility of making it taste awful from adding too much of an ingredient is always on my mind," he says. He avoids that problem by sticking strictly to recipes, but cooking for other people when you can't taste what you're cooking is kind of like doing mystery shots: You have no idea what you're going to get, and someone is probably getting puked on. "I cooked for my husband a couple times, and it seemed perfectly fine to me," Savannah says, "but I kinda noticed this look on his face, and he started eating slower and slower, and I was like, 'Well, you know, you don't have to finish it if you don't want to.'"

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

2
You Can't Sense Certain Dangers

Gudella/iStock/Getty Images

Being unable to smell or taste anything means someone with anosmia is at risk of getting sick -- we're talking "firing from every cannon" sick -- if they don't keep a close eye on expiration dates. "I used expired coffee creamer for a week without even noticing," Savannah says, entirely too casually. "You don't taste that it's off; you just taste the sweetness of the creamer. It didn't occur to me to check the date until it was making me physically ill."

Tatiana Volgutova/iStock/Getty Images
"This cottage cheese looks kind of yellow. Can you check the expiration date?"
"That's leftover eggnog."

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Aside from an urgent case of shitzkrieg, there are tons of other ways that your sense of smell keeps you out of the hospital. Think about fires and gas leaks:

"I always joke that if I get famous and someone wants to take me out, they could just cause a gas leak, cut my electricity, leave out some candles and a match, and just wait," Joe says.

"Luckily, I haven't been in too many situations where a gas leak could be an issue, but I'm always prepared to ask someone to give my place a smell test, just in case."

Basically, if you have anosmia, you have to be on top of your s**t 24/7. A moment of forgetfulness can be downright fatal. One time, "I left a pizza in my oven," Savannah says, which "wasn't too bad, but it did burn to a crisp, of course. Luckily, my husband came home before I could light my house on fire."

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

1
A Surprising Number Of Things Do And Don't Depend On Smell

rez-art/iStock/Getty Images

It turns out there's some truth to the old saying "when you lose one sense, your others become stronger." Even if you didn't know the others existed in the first place:

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

"You don't really think about it, but you still sense when you're using, say, bleach cleaner to clean your house or when you're using paint cleaner without a mask," Savannah says. "You can still kind of sense that there's something off about the air you're breathing." She can also "sense" concentrated minty odors, because "you can still sense temperature inside your nose, which is pretty off-putting, like if you get a sudden blast of cold air," she says. So, when she gets a whiff of an extra-strength mojito, "it gets kind of tingly."

_Ra_/iStock/Getty Images
Of course, that is sort of the point of a strong mojito.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

"It's interesting the things people think are only smell-based," Joe says. For example, people are surprised that he still gets all teary chopping up onions, because it's actually not the odor that's making your eyes water, but the gas.

The jury is still out over whether humans produce and detect pheromones, but all Savannah knows is that, once she could no longer smell her man, her sex drive left without her. "I thought that was weird," she says. "I would think I would still be attracted even without that manly aroma but, for me, I think it's more scent-based than people realize."

nuiiko/iStock/Getty Images
No number of missed farts makes up for that.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Another way your sense of smell plays with you is by messing with your memory. You've probably experienced this before -- you catch the smell of mothballs or bacon-flavored lube and, suddenly, you're right back at Uncle Jerry's house -- but, you don't realize how much it affects you until it's gone for a while:

"Occasionally, [my sense of smell] will work for one second, and then whatever I'm around will give me huge flashes of memories, even just to the last time I smelled it," Savannah says. "There's [something in] particular -- I think it's like a scented lotion or a kind of perfume that one of my coworkers was wearing one day -- [that] reminded me of an off-Broadway show I had seen just years earlier. Somebody near me must have been wearing that same lotion, and I suddenly remembered so many details about the show. It was interesting because it was such a nondescript memory. I hadn't thought about that show in years. I do really miss that ability to associate memories with smells."

501room/iStock/Getty Images
Not everything is roadkill and flatulent road trips. You lose the good ones, too.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

There are hacks you can use to get around this, though, as Joe discovered. "What I do instead is I try to remember a sound, like play a song or something," he says. "It seems to work exactly as strongly, if not stronger, than someone who has all of their senses intact."

So, you can have your pansy "smell the roses; remember the garden" moment. Joe will be listening to Zeppelin and remembering way cooler s**t.

Manna is all too aware of how she smells, which she often describes in loving detail on Twitter.

Have a story to share with Cracked? Email us here.

For more insider perspectives, check out 6 Ways You See The World Differently When You Can Hear Color and I Can't See Faces: 5 Weird Facts About My Life.

Continue Reading Below

Advertisement

Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out 6 Ways The Food Industry Tricks You Into Eating Garbage, and watch other videos you won't see on the site!

Also, follow us on Facebook, and let's all be thankful we can actually smell our own horrendous odors.


Check out Robert Evans' A Brief History of Vice: How Bad Behavior Built Civilization, a celebration of the brave, drunken pioneers who built our civilization one seemingly bad decision at a time.

To turn on reply notifications, click here

305 Comments

Load Comments

More Personalexperiences