Friday night was a bit of a stinker. I do not mean to say, “Well, poo. I cannot go to the local establishment and meet with my throngs of associates. Woe unto me”. No, there was an actual stench in the air.
My first thought was to blame my neighbor. He ignores his rental agreement and smokes choice elements from his balcony. I see wispy clouds ascend towards my window. I get sample smells of the newest offerings. It is a smoker’s paradise.
I have developed a stance on this. I reason that it is not my job to police my neighbors. If he is causing harm to someone, then I act. If I heard him beating on his girlfriend or setting the place on fire then I need to do something. But if he is only smoking legal substances? Perhaps he is louder than I prefer. In those instances, I try to shrug it off. City life has its downsides.
However this intrusion was getting me queasy. My stomach was starting to churn. I was becoming lightheaded. I could not prove it was my neighbor. When I poked my head outside and got a clearer whiff, I was met with a woody smell; as if someone was using their fireplace. I wondered if that could be the source of my discomfort.
Four hours later, I was feeling just as ill. I grabbed my sleeping bag and I sought out refuge. I made my way to church. (You could even say I sought sanctuary. What, too on the nose?)
I tried to get comfortable on the flat floor. I did a search on whether or not phantom smells were a symptom of Covid. I logged a few hours of sleep.
The next morning I absconded the church’s air freshener and fans. I drove back home, opened the windows, sprayed liberal amounts of canned fragrance, and put the fans to work. I hopped the bus and went to my job. Surely ten hours of circulation would improve things?
When I came home that evening, I found no real relief. The smell from outdoors had returned. I did not truly think it was my upstairs neighbor, but I was ready to blame anyone. I looked to all the chimneys and did not find any smoke. Following my mom’s advice, I called the fire department.
I feel two things should be pointed out regarding the first responders around here. First, it has been said that I live in the best area of the country to have a heart attack. The response time is amazing, the hospitals are close, and this is the place to be if you are dying. I can partially confirm that. I heard a siren wail as I was hanging up with 911. I walked outside, and sure enough, there was the fire truck. Speedy service indeed.
The second matter that has to be addressed; what is with the handsome firemen? They were all fully clothed in jackets and all, yet I assume they have to be quite muscular to haul all that gear around. No, I am talking about their faces. That tanned, slightly darkened skin tone that they all had. It is as if they had the soot and coal running through their veins and it was showing in their pores.
And those chins; I believe that for every life that they save, their chin grows in prominence. Robust, jutting, attention-deserving chins commanded my respect on all three of their faces. Fire fighters; they save lives and draw the eyes.
Where was I…
The firemen were perfectly nice. They came down to my apartment and did some investigating. They too smelled something. They thought it was a normal fireplace smell. They explained that they could not go around to neighbors and dictate the terms of their heating apparatuses. (I did not ask them to. Honest.)
They tested for any inhalation concerns. They checked to see if any plastic might be burning in the wood fire. Perhaps chemicals were making their way through the air to me. No concerns were found.
I asked if they had any suggestions. They offered that I should use circulation. Keep the fans going and clear the air. This still does not make much sense to me. If the trouble is coming from outside, which I was sure that it was, then how is opening the window and blowing that air around going to help me? However they showed up and they tried to help. I cannot ask for more than that. Hope for, yes. Ask, no.
Next I called up my pastor and asked her to pray. I wanted whatever was being burnt to stop. I wanted to feel well again. My pastor had similar notions, but took a different track.
She started talking about mold. An eleven minute conversation and she kept going on and on about mold. How this friend had gone through mold. How others had greater sensitivity to mold. How there was this kind of mold and that kind of mold. As I sat there, barely listening, I wanted to say, “Stop talking about mold! I want to feel better!”
My pastor is practical like that. When a congregant asked for prayer to get to her medical appointment, my pastor simply asked who could take that person. Like the Reverend Sykes, in To Kill a Mockingbird; who does everything needed to raise ten dollars. Prayer works. Practicality does too.
I had asked for prayer and she obliged. After we hung up, I got to thinking. I had never cleaned the window sills since I had moved in. I had noticed some black specks in the kitchen. What if mold was the problem?
Thus I spent two hours scrubbing and attacking my window sills. From the picture, you can see that there is a perfect environment for mold. Cold cement. Quite a bit underground. Shaded areas. Access to rain, but not heat. Voila. Put ingredients in blender, stir, and the resulting concoction serves one.
I like science. I like a higher power. I do not need to know how things get fixed in my favor. What I do know was that my health problems stopped. For one, the fireplace smell went away. Huzzah. Also my window sills are now less gross. Whee. More likely than not, it was mold that was out to get me. I cannot say for sure. However it was fixed, I was glad that prayers were answered.
What I do know is how easy it was for me to blame others. Of course it was my upstairs neighbor. If they are smoking things that affect my health than I can finally turn them in! I can rat them out! Then I can find something else to be irritated by! Not them? Okay, then it must be some other jerk. How dare they start fires in the middle of spring! Who do they think they are? Do they not get that someone within three miles of them is somewhat inconvenienced? The presumptuousness! The nerve! Hrmph.
I will assume that the effort I put into cleaning improved my health. The crap that I had accumulated in my life was the real cause of my troubles. Home is supposed to be a refuge, not a place for refuse. I ignored it for too long and harm ensued.
When I ask other people to fix what I see as trouble spots, it does not help. When I do not take care of my own responsibilities, it only serves to make me sick.