Smelly Hands Are Clean Hands

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Smelly Hands Are Clean Hands

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I welcomed my first child into the world at the very beginning of the COVID-19 crisis in the United States, leaving my fiancé and me isolated at home with a newborn. After three months, we desperately needed a night away from our precious bundle of joy. The only restaurant open was a sketchy looking German beer garden blasting accordion music, but we were just thrilled to be spending some adult time together while our son was with my mother for the evening. Upon walking into the restaurant, I readily pumped some off-brand hand sanitizer into my hand, and nudged my fiancé to do the same. I rubbed my hands together as we were seated, and breathed a sigh of relief that we were free from the colicky cries of our beloved child for the night. Suddenly my nostrils filled with the stench of bottom shelf tequila. The hand sanitizer wasn’t simply off-brand, it had been homemade by the restaurant. It was as if whomever had concocted the sanitizer was convinced that the best way to ward off the COVID-19 virus (and the fear attributed to it), was to completely bombard the olfactory system with the smell of alcohol. My fiancé remarked that because the sanitizer smelled so horribly, it must be killing all of the germs; unknowingly, he became a perfect example of how individuals have come to associate certain scents, like alcohol, with the illusion of cleanliness. Thinking back on that experience, I find myself pondering just how effective their homemade hand sanitizer really was. Or, more than likely, was it a last ditch effort (forced into action by society’s panic buying of cleansers), to provide their customers a sense of security through unconscious sensory associations.

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This item was submitted on January 11, 2021 by Malloy Sells using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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