Our ability to smell is an important defensive sense. We can smell if food is rotten. We can smell if we have a natural gas leak. We can “smell the scent of danger in the air.” I try to take care of my nose and sinuses with a neti pot infusion every day, and I do think that therapy helps keep my sniffer alive and active and sensitive.
Lately, in Jersey City, I have been smelling a familiar — yet absolutely utterly new — sensation while I take my daily walks. The smell is that of Hellfire in the air — and if you’ve ever been in a house fire, as I have, that smell of death and danger is something that never leaves you. That scent of Hellfire awakens you at night and panics you in silence on the street.
Over the last few months, I’ve noticed that intensive burning smell on the street, and every single time I smell it, I turn around looking for a fire. I actually say out loud, even when I’m alone, “Someone’s house is burning!” I get tense and concerned, and yet I never hear a siren or see a fire engine careening down the street. Hellfire isn’t smoky. Hellfire is the smell of intensive flames.
Almost as soon as I smell the Hellfire in the air, the scent disappears, and I feel silly and I wonder if I imagined the whole thing.
It has taken me months of deductive analysis to finally drill down to figure out what is throwing the smell of Hellfire into the Air: New Jersey’s new natural gas busses!
It was tricksy divining the Hellfire was from the busses — not all busses — and not all busses on every route. The busses were infrequently in an around the PATH station, but never at the same time and never in an instance of more than one.
I finally figured out the smell when one of those busses almost ran over me and I was overwhelmed with that instantly identifiable Hellfire smell as my life flashed before my eyes.
Over the next few weeks, whenever that Hellfire would leap into my nostrils, I’d stop whatever I was doing and look for a bus; every time, there was a bus — right there! — turning a corner or accelerating near me.
Scent solved, but problem brewing!
As more of these natural gas busses start careening down our streets and pathways to replace their diesel brethren, what are we going to do with that horrible, acrid, Hellfire stank they emit? Will we have to hold our noses to hail a cab instead instead of boarding a burning bus?