When people find out I like to participate in urban exploration, they’re usually full of questions – some of them good and pertinent, some of them less so. Isn’t it dangerous? Isn’t it illegal? Isn’t it scary? Have you ever found a dead body? A meth lab? A Satanic altar?
I generally have answers – most of them good and pertinent, I like to think, but a couple somewhat unavoidably less so.
A surprisingly common question is “Don’t sewers smell bad?”, and the easy answer is no, they don’t. Is “damp” a smell? Or “damp concrete”? If not, the best way to describe is is to say that a storm sewer generally smells slightly musty, like the inside of a refrigerator, perhaps.
Sanitary sewers – the kind that carry, you know, sewage (which is mostly water) are another story. They have a kind of distinct smell that’s incredibly hard to describe. It’s complex, but kind of sweet, is usually how I describe it, often to slightly incredulous looks. It’s one of those things that, if you’ve ever been in a sanitary sewer, you’ll never forget, because it’s pretty unique.
To be fair, I should point out that this is only really true of sewers in residential and commercial areas. Sewers near factories tend to smell like whatever the factories put down the drain – a sewer near a brewery has to be one of the foulest places on earth, whereas a sewer near a shampoo factory can smell disturbingly… girly. (There’s something fundamentally wrong about a sewer that smells like flowers.) Someone like Sangamon Taylor would probably greatly enjoy the wide variety of subtle odors found in sewers near industrial areas. I’m not Sangamon Taylor.
I don’t know how they do it, but this smoothie stuff is truly amazing – it pretty much looks like vomit, right down to the consistency, and it tastes exactly the way a sanitary sewer smells, if that makes any sense.
I mean that in a good way, let me point out before the lawyers come knocking down my door. I happen to like how sewers smell – not in a “I love the smell of a sewer in the morning!” kind of way, but in more of a “I find that unobjectionable” way.
So… if you’ve ever really wondered what a sanitary sewer smells like, buy a bottle of Naked’s Strawberry Banana smoothie, and take a sip. Then you’ll know.