Three-Sided Square

Three-Sided Square

By Margaret Van Every


three side squareI was seated at The Three-Sided Square, my outdoor surrogate church, before the program got underway. Someone wearing the kind of perfume that rocks your space sat down a couple of rows behind me.

—“O-h-h-h,” groaned my seat mate, rolling her eyes, “in Canada public gatherings like this have a fragrance-free policy.” We both started to cough. “I’m allergic to perfume! Can’t stand to get a hug from perfumed people, but sometimes it’s impossible to stop them. When they come running toward me with outstretched arms, gushing with anticipation, how can I tell them ‘back off before it’s too late, your fragrance makes me sick?’ But then if she does hug me, I’m stuck smelling like her till I shower and wash my clothes.”

—“I understand, my friend, but I’m curious how Canada enforces its vaunted freedom from fragrance. Is there a plain clothes sniffer at the door or does someone report the offender to a bouncer? I have problems breathing around perfumes, too. I have to avoid the detergent aisle in the grocery store, and once I had to change my season tickets to the symphony because a perfume wearer had season tickets nearby. The other night a guest brought a beautiful bouquet of too-fragrant lilies to my party and I had to put them outside. As we age and our sight and hearing begin to fade, I suspect our olfactory sense gets sharpened. I don’t remember being so sensitive to smells before.”

—“Here’s a helpful tip. I learned that I can endure the lilies if I snip out the stamen in the middle of the blossom. It’s the culprit loaded with the pollen.”

—“Sounds good, but I wonder how the hostess manages that as other guests are arriving (with their flowers) and the meal needs constant last minute attention.”

—“I’m also allergic to the color yellow.”

—“No, that can’t be. You’re putting me on.”

—“No, it’s the truth. If I wear yellow or sit next to yellow, I get very hot and start to sweat. If I don’t move away from the yellow, I might break out in a rash, could even die. Look,” she says as she reaches into her purse,” I always carry my emergency shot with me, just in case!”

—“Wow, lady. You win the prize. I’ve never heard of being allergic to a color. I hope for your sake the sensitivity doesn’t spread to other colors. Say, I guess if the perfume really bothers you, you could complain to the committee that runs this thing. You know, people complained about dogs, and poof, the dogs vanished just like that. In fact, that same committee banned all pets, including birds, though the wild ones chirping in the trees are allowed to stay. While they’re at it, maybe they could chop down this tree that dumps its pollen-laden stuff on us this time of year, though I was ok until they told me to stop wearing my hat.”

—“Well, just look around. We’re not the only ones. It’s obvious, many of us are allergic to this particular tree, blowing our noses throughout the presentation. I happen to be allergic to bird feathers, too. If the tree comes down, you can bet the birds will go somewhere else. People should come first.”


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