Mastering the Art of
The Surreptitious Pit Sniff
Smelling My Pits
Oh, Hush! You Do It, Too
Sneaky, surreptitious sniffs. I’ve done it, and you do, too. There we are, carrying on with our lives, and the odor hits us. It could be swift smack in the nostrils or a light scent wafting toward our olfactory senses. Body odor. “Uh, oh.” We instinctively think, “I hope it isn’t me.” Heaven forbid in this age of smell well, be clean, don’t sweat it, that anyone has anything other than a bright and cheery scent. Any hint of odor would signal the smellers to pass the worst possible judgments: You are unclean. What? Have you been working in the fields? (Like that’s a bad thing, like the scent of hard labor is something to avoid.)
Oh, oh, that smell! Does anyone else smell that smell? Whenever I smell that smell, I am drawn toward getting a closer sniff to rule out myself as the source. If I’m alone, that’s easy: Lift my arm and poke my nose into the suspect area. If the right arm is clear, then I go ahead and check the left. If I’m the culprit, I make haste to squash the scent.
It’s not always easy to get a sly sniff. When the odor wafts our way and we’re in public, our first reaction is to look around and check for anyone who looks like they just left a construction site, the gym, the beach, or a homeless shelter. If nobody fitting that description or scent is nearby, then our next reaction is to suspect our own pits. In mild panic, we ask, “Is it me?” Next, we look again to be certain no one is too close before we make our next move: Checking the pits beneath our own arms. This must be done with care and caution and a bit of finesse. Nobody wants to be seen doing the surreptitious sniff.
The surreptitious sniff can be done in a few ways. The easiest is the sudden development of an itchy area on your nose. It’s best to perform this maneuver when your hands are full; otherwise, you look like an idiot. You might look like an idiot anyway, but that’s probably better than smelling like a cutting board covered with a pile of just-minced onions. Turn your head to the right, or left, and lift your arm just enough to touch your nose and rub it a few times with said arm. That’s long enough to determine whether it’s an offending pit.
Subtle, surreptitious sniffs also can be accomplished by some yoga-type neck stretches. You suddenly develop a kink in your neck (oh, oh, that smell), and must relieve it right away. Bend your neck and drop your chin to your chest, then in a slow, gentle, non-straining action, move your neck so that your head almost rests on your shoulder. While your head is near your shoulder, take a deep breath like you’re relaxing, but what you’re really doing is taking a deep sniff. Using a circular motion, move your chin back to your chest, and then repeat on the other side, being certain to take another deep breath/sniff.
Another way to check is to lift your hand to touch your lips and then look over your shoulder while taking another deep breath/sniff. Again, it looks weird, but with a bit of practice you can develop the important skill of pit-checking.
If you discover that you are guilty of emitting eau de skunk, your next steps are pretty clear. Clean up your act in the most expedient way possible. If you’re free and clear of noxious odors, then carry on, or go back to chopping onions—which is what I was doing the last time I did a pit check. I conducted a few sniffs, came away with clear nostrils, and then looked down at the cutting board. I said to myself, “Oh, right. That’s the source.” Carry on.