Thursday, October 30, 2008

Nostalgic (?) smell

Way back when I started this blog I was working at a food research center on the south west side of Chicago. Now that I've been gone for nearly 8 months I find the things I disliked have faded into the mists of memory and I miss some of the folks I used to work with.

This morning I was reminded of one of the things I do not miss about working down there. Our building was originally part of the Corn Products International plant. Corn Products, as it's name implies, is a huge plant that processes corn. That one plant in Summit-Argo is responsible for around 90% of the world's high fructose corn syrup. (If you've got a bragging point, stick with it!)
Because it works around the clock, non-stop, it often looked like the pic below. (note that it's winter in this pic so the stacks look even more productive)

Because of the round the clock production, the area always smelled like the processed corn it worked with. The closest thing I could compare it to was that the area always smelled like a chicken coop. Except for the days when they were cleaning then it smelled like bad bleach in a chicken coop.

This morning as I got off the train at Harlem, that smell, albeit faint, was waiting for me. Because I have such a strong sense of smell, often I find that a familiar smell will be a strong trigger to memories. Stepping off the train was like stepping off the 63W in Summit and being battered in the nose by chicken feed stank. I always wondered how people lived down there, but I'm sure you get used to it. When I lived in Charleston SC, if it was humid (which it usually was) and the wind was right, you could smell the paper mills and you got used to it. But this smell is there... always...

But I miss the folks I used to work with. If you're still reading, miss you - but not the smell.


Bunny said...

We've been attending a church in N. Charleston and the paper mill smell is often quite strong when we leave the service. It's so yucky, I actually feel a bit nauseous when I smell it. My husband worked for a time as a contractor at a paper plant's IT department in Michigan and he used to come home smelling so bad that I would make him go directly to the basement, put all his clothes in the washer, and then shower and put on clean clothes before coming in contact with our son or me. Awful.

cb said...

Mmmm, smells like Peoria!

SUEB0B said...

I remember when the Milk Duds plant used to be in Chicago...boiling caramel and chocolate. Mmmmmm.

Max's Dad said...

The Purex plant I worked at one summer ruined my sense of smell. Purex was a soap factory. Trust me, the stuff you rub on yourself in the shower is beyond disgusting. It was kind of like smelling stanky ammonia all day. Ugh!