Thursday, February 14, 2013

1993: How she shock

She was a pleasant woman. A qualified lawyer, not unattractive, married to a successful barrister, had popped out four kids by the time she was 29 (which was now) and she was my new boss. And she smelled. Really, really badly.

I'd been working there since 1989, had been shuffled about a bit and finally was being moved to the journals department. Deadly dull of course, but perhaps not quite as deadly as it had been. Plus, it was a fresh start for me within the company - I say fresh - and probably my last chance to wake up and the smell the coffee before I was fired for obvious lack of interest.

I have to say it was better than it had been before, and one of the main pluses was watching my new boss and her super-ambitious deputy at war. They both bitched about each other behind each other's backs and it was a relationship that had been rocky from the start and was now rapidly falling apart.

I liked them both, not hugely, there were sides to both of them. The smelly one was unreliable, flaky and a giver of misinformation. The deputy was sneaky, a major brownose, talked 19 to the dozen (especially over lunch), looked like Jim Carrey in The Mask - 'Smokin!' we'd utter as she walked by, clearly had an eating disorder, was saddled with a neanderthal boyfriend who was properly obsessed with football but made a wonderful lime cake which she never touched. In the end she reigned victorious as the other one, who went slightly AWOL though I can't recall the circumstances, was forced out.

So why did she smell? And what of? Imagine never having washed. It was that. New people would ask what the funny smell was as she wafted down the corridor. Other would be checking the soles of their shoes. Her office was treated like there'd been a toxic spill and no one ever wanted to sit next to her at lunch. She was in an important role, she had to meet authors and go to functions, if not through her work then through her husband's. Perhaps it was in the nose of the beholder because not everyone got it, but the majority certainly did. 

After some subtle investigation, it was concluded that it was because she had all her clothes dry cleaned rather than washing them and, as we all know, dry cleaning doesn't get to the heart of the problem. Then someone said it was because she was having sex in the morning and not showering. Stomachs turned.

One day she announced that she and I were going to visit the printer, and she was driving. The thought of being in a confined space with her made me gag. I prayed for a sunny day.

I got my wish, but she insisted we close the windows on the motorway as she cranked up the radio and I turned a shade of green. On arrival, printers backed away. I hoped they didn't think it was me.

Some months later, just before she left, the smelling stopped. Whether it was a medical condition that had at last been cured, she had started using the washing machine or someone had quite simply had a word I'll never know, but she ended her days smelling, quite literally, of roses. The HR woman breathed a sigh of relief. She'd never quite got round to having that little chat.

When I hear this song I can still smell her.


  1. Eew. I can imagine that smell too well; you occasionally get a waft of it on the tube or bus. Sort of congealed human grease.

    I once had a colleague who enjoyed a regular morning session with her chap, and on such mornings she would make a huge show of fishing her cap case out of her bag around 10am, and heading off to the loo with it. Of course we'd all have guessed already as the waft of warm rubber and spermicide had long since given the game away. Happy Valentine's Day.

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