Smells are Just as Good as Music at Triggering Past Memories
What takes you back and triggers your memories? For me, one of the biggest triggers is music. Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer", John Mellencamp's "Scarecrow" album, A Bangles concert my junior year of high school. Yet today, while in line at the McDonald's I was reminded that it's not just music or sound that can trigger strong memories.
Smell can do the exact same thing. I was in the McDonald's drive thru line and caught a whiff of that breakfast / coffee smell that's uniquely McDonald's. It immediately took me back to being a kid and staying at my godparents house. They'd take me and their son to McDonald's for breakfast. And for a few seconds in the drive thru line I could picture my ten year old self sitting across from my godparent's son eating hotcakes and sausage.
Occasionally I'll walk into the radio station here and it will smell just like my grade school. And for a few seconds I'm back in grade school walking into a classroom with those green chalk boards.
Or I'll walk into a damp, musty, bar and smell stale beer and it'll remind me of walking with my Dad on the concourse of of old Comiskey Park in Chicago. The ball park always had this musty, stale beer smell.
And almost any time I walk into a pizza place it'll take me back to my first job bussing tables at a pizza place. Maybe, that's not completely the smell. Maybe that's the environment. But pizza places just have this distinct smell. And I remember coming home at 2:00AM after a long night of bussing tables and that smell just permeating the white dress shirt they made me wear.
I'm sure this isn't a phenomenon unique to me. It's not. Tonight, my friend Matt posted a Facebook status update: "What if they sold air fresheners that smelled like places no longer around? I'd like Western Auto, Blockbuster & Radio Shack." You think he doesn't have memories associated with those places.
Or that just born baby smell. When my wife smells that, it triggers memories of when her parents brought her little brother home from the hospital.
What smells trigger memories for you? And are they ones you're glad to remember, or ones you wish you could forget?