Okay, ladies and gents, after being idle for several months, I’m back in the saddle. (At least for today!)
In general, I’ve been pretty lucky to have the Houseguest as a roommate after she moved in for a “temporary” stay 3-years ago. She’s thoughtful, kind (usually), has a pleasant personality (unless ranting and raving), trustworthy, and generous. She’s a good cook who occasionally shares something tasty with me. She is a bit of a slob, but people in glass houses can’t throw stones, right?
The Human Bloodhound
Now, in spite of all her good qualities, the Houseguest does have one drawback as a roommate. She has an overdeveloped sense of smell. Seriously, she’s some kind of genetic freak possessing a hyper-sensitive nose. Apparently, she’s half Parsi, half Caucasian, and a hundred percent bloodhound. How sensitive is her sniffer? Well, if there were an escaped fugitive in the neighborhood, the cops could press her into service to track him down. Seriously, I’m convinced she could moonlight at the airport sniffing for drugs. Don’t even think about stealth farting around her.
I became aware of her… I hesitate to call it a superpower because it’s more like a super pain in my ass. So let’s refer to it as an enhanced ability (smellability?). Anyway, I discovered her sensitivity to bad and strong smells over time. She would complain about the odiferousness of the garbage, even if it was only half full and insist I take it out. She was also perturbed when I went through a phase where I was trying to perfect my skills at pan-searing steaks in a cast-iron skillet on the stove. This invariably resulted in billowing smoke filling the house and setting off the fire alarms. The house smelled like steak for a day — three if you are the Houseguest. (Though, is a house that smells of steak a bad thing? Hint: it is if you’re the Houseguest).
Anyway, so, the garbage was the main bone of contention — until I started heating up pot pies. That is when I uncovered her true sensitivity to odors and revealed her amazing detection range.
The Great Pot Pie Conflict
The problem started after I began buying pot pies. I love pot pies (I mean, who doesn’t? Even the Houseguest likes a pot pie, just not the brands I buy), but I hadn’t had one in years because of the insane fat content. (Seriously, check out the nutritional content on the back of a Marie Callender pot pie box — you might as well skip the middleman and guzzle melted lard.) But then I found a couple of microwaveable brands that both have a lower fat content and taste decent, and so I started eating pot pies like they were going out of style. There were two brands, Boomerang pot pies, an Aussie pie that has an actual upper and lower crust (this is rare among pies) — and Blake’s, which only has an upper-crust.
The problem is, while I think Boomerang and Blake’s pot pies smell fine, the Houseguest finds both brands to be odiferous and highly objectionable as if I’m heating up the contents from a cesspit. The first time I microwaved one, the Houseguest materialized in the kitchen, frowning, her nose wrinkled, asking with obvious distaste as to what I was cooking. Every time I’d heat one up, she’d let me know she was not a fan.
Unfortunately, Blake’s pot pies seem designed to maximize the odors wafting throughout the kitchen. When reading the back of the box, I noticed the directions mentioned that during cooking the “gravy may bubble over.” What they really mean to say is that “gravy will absolutely bubble all over the place like a lava flow.” The top crust is a simple disc of frozen dough that does not appear to be firmly attached to the rest of the pie. Every single time I cook one, it bubbles over, intensifying the smell, and aggravating the Houseguest.
The summoning ritual
Putting a pot pie into the microwave is like performing an arcane ritual guaranteed to summon an angry banshee. Within seconds of the microwave whirring to life, the Houseguest is either popping up from nowhere asking in a strangely accusatory yet anxious voice “Is that a pot pie you’re heating?!” or shouting at the top of her lungs from another room “Did you shut my door!?!?!” followed by the sound of her hurrying down the hallway. If I hear her bedroom door slamming, I know I’ve fucked up and an ass-chewing is about to commence.
When it comes to heating a pot pie, to avoid the Houseguest’s wrath, there is a specific procedure I have to follow to avoid her transforming into a vengeful Fury. First, I have to announce that I will be cooking a pot pie so she can close her bedroom door or I have to go close it. She’s informed me her bedroom door must be closed prior to the heating of the pot pie. Turning the microwave on and then strolling to the back of the house to close her door is insufficient and doing so will produce a withering glare and browbeating. You’d think I’d started up a nuclear reactor while innocent technicians were still inside working on it. I’ve argued that it doesn’t matter because the pot pie must obey the laws of physics. The smell does not travel at the speed of light. However, my argument continues to fall on deaf ears.
I have also pointed out that her door is a poor barrier to pot pie molecules. Even if there wasn’t a gap under it, they will still infiltrate her room by traveling up through the air conditioning vent in the kitchen. The Houseguest does not care — she seems to think there is some mystic, impermeable shield that engages once her bedroom door clicks shut. I have to follow this procedure even if she’s not home. But Sean, how would she know, you ask? She does, trust me. And the fact that I consumed the pot pie hours ago has no bearing. She’ll step into the house, she set her stuff down, stop in mid-greeting, and sniff the air.
“Did you close my door?” she’ll ask sharply.
God help me if I fuck up and forget — which I have. You would think I had tossed a sackful of kittens into a river or eloped with her work nemesis and moved her into the house while the Houseguest was away. It’s not pretty. So I always close the door — if I remember. But I’m a guy. Every once in a while, one slips past the goalie.
The late-night offender
One habit her supersensitivity has broken me of, for the most part, is cooking late at night. When I got laid off last year, I reverted to my natural night owl tendencies. That meant eating dinner late — I’m talking anytime from ten p.m. to midnight. One time I baked asparagus at 10:30 p.m., thinking it was harmless, but no. Pungent is the word she used (and one of the politer ones) while she tore me a new one. Point taken.
The Houseguest’s previous job had an irregular schedule and, occasionally, she wouldn’t get home until ten or later. One time she walked, in, sighing and looking beaten down as she set her purse on the table with a sigh. Then she stiffened and her eyes locked onto the box in my hand.
“What IS that?” she asked accusatorily. We both knew that she knew what I had.
“I was just going to eat.”
She laughed but it was the kind of strained laughter preceding a manic breakdown, of someone who is one more indignity away from becoming an ax murderer.
“No! You’re not eating a pot pie tonight!” Then realizing she had no real power to compel me, she switched pleaded with my humanity. “Please, I can’t get to sleep if you heat up that stinky thing.”
So, I didn’t heat it up and went out and ate a burger. Hey, I’m not a complete asshole. Now, in my younger days, I might have gambled and waited until I thought she was asleep and then tried to stealth heat my pot pie, hoping the whirring of the microwave (she also has exceptional hearing) or the pot pie molecules didn’t wake her. But not now. Too many things can go wrong. It’s just not worth the aggravation — plus, if she couldn’t get back to sleep, I’d feel bad. So, I no longer heat things up once she starts settling down for the night.
It’s in her DNA
The Houseguest claims her ancestors left Iran over a thousand years ago to preserve their ancient religion after the Arab Invasion. I’m suspecting the real reason is their countrymen kicked them out because they kept annoying everyone else with their complaints about how overpowering their cooking smelled. Those genes have been passed down until the present.
Anyway, so that’s the downside to having a houseguest who is a human bloodhound, but it’s a small inconvenience for having such a good roommate.