Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The corpse upstairs. (Or, why I can never smell vanilla again.)

The e-mail from my condo's management company seemed innocuous enough, titled simply: "Unit Owner."

Innocuous until, you know, I opened the thing.

Hi (Redacted),

I don’t have a current phone number for you on file. I wanted to inform you that one of the unit owners passed away and it appears that he has been in the unit for some time. There is an extreme smell from the body. We are doing everything that we can to alleviate this odor. We are also trying to contact some family members to help out with the unit’s smell.

If you have any questions, please let me know.


This was August and I'd just returned from vacation. The corpse in question had spent at least seven days decomposing in a chair above my bedroom, following a fatal drug overdose.

Neighbors would discuss the tragedy of the situation at length: a guy so alone no one noticed he was missing until someone complained about the smell. I, on the other hand, am mean and was a little too preoccupied with the rotting corpse smell that wafted through my walls and ceiling, burrowing into my mattress, my sheets and everything else I owned, to be particularly weepy about the man's plight. The only member of the family that seemed delighted in the condo's olfactory plight was the dog, who couldn't contain her glee at the smell of death and spent the next week running around batshit like she'd been given some canine version of catnip.

To solve the odor issue while the condo management wrangled over who was responsible for decontaminating the unit (here's a hint: paying two 14-year-olds to haul everything _ including the chair he was found in _ down my back stairs to the building communal dumpster? DOESN'T CUT IT! Thank you for later realizing this after a series of angry calls and e-mails and hiring a professional crew. A week later.), the building decided to install vanilla-scented plug-in air fresheners in the stairwell.
I decided to burn every candle I owned, while blasting the air conditioning and opening each and every window for the course of three weeks. (P.S. My strategy? It totally worked faster.)

But now, fall is here. Temperatures are falling to the mid- and low-40s at night. And the windows in the building are being closed for the season. That means every time I open my door, my poor traumatized nostrils are assaulted by the overwhelmingly pungent odor of fake vanilla air freshener.

Oh, vanilla. We used to have such a good relationship. You were in my candles, my body lotion in middle school, every cookie I've ever made. But now? I can't do it. I want to gag every time I climb the flight of stairs to my landing. I hate opening my door, knowing the air movement will somehow create some kind of karmic vacuum, sucking in the God-awful smell. It's in my sofa. And I can't even bring myself to make chocolate chip cookies from scratch because they require vanilla extract.
CURSES! And so, here I am, two months later, and pissed off by an albeit less disgusting smell. Aside from going rogue and ripping the damn things out of the wall, anyone got any vanilla-killing suggestions? Or, you know, some dysfunctional sinuses I can borrow?


jay said...

Um -- just rip them out of the wall. If they don't like it, they can replace them.

Liberty and doughnuts said...

Dadgum, Noodles, sucks to be you. As odd and sad as that whole situation is, I cannot help but be amused at the dog's reaction. We're all just meat, until were just bone.

Whitney said...

Not sure how I missed this post. I am so disturbed by so many parts of the situation. Mostly, the email. Just a little much. Wow. I'm very sorry for your situation.