Archive for April 13th, 2010

Oooh, That (Indescribable) Smell

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.

Anyway, over the weekend I was at a Bruegger’s bagel shop, and ordered a bottle of Naked Juice‘s “Strawberry Banana” smoothie drink to accompany my bagel.

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.

Published in: Geekiness, General, Urban Exploration | on April 13th, 2010 | 1 Comment »