Shopping for Scents by Mask

The importance of examining the label but even more so, the ingredients list

A disadvantage of wearing a mask is that you really can’t “sniff” the perfume, air freshener, candle, soap, or any other scented thing in the shops nowadays. How can you tell the scent is good or not? Read the label?

No, actually. The label will mislead you.

The other day I was at our local Sprouts grocery store.  I thought I would try a “natural” deodorant. So I looked at the labels and recognized a brand I believed at some point to be good quality. The label looked like it would be a good scent. I mean, I happen to like the scent of roses, and “delicate soft rose” sounded like it was right up my alley.

I did not feel comfortable lifting up my mask in the store to sniff all the stuff. So I bought by sight.

Purchased the bottle. Came home. Tried the substance on.

Horrible, horrible.

Talk about misleading marketing. The scent was overwhelmingly chemical and reminded me of some sort of bug killer.

That’s because, low and behold, there is a bug repellant in this spray. At least in principle.

Citrenellol. Pretty much Citronella. You can’t smell anything BUT the Citronella. There are lots of other citrus scents in here too. Not sure who came up with the lovely, highly marketable description of ‘delicate soft rose’ but the idea was brilliant, even though I was the one caught in the ruse.

This was definitely a lesson I will remember. If it says citronellol in the list, don’t buy it. Unless I’m going camping where lots of mosquitos live.

Last time I checked, mosquitos don’t like Citronella. But neither do many of us humans. But now I do have a pretty pink-lidded bottle of bug spray.

Look out mosquitos, the ‘delicate soft rose’ stuff is coming to get you!

NOTE: not that it matters on the grand scale, but citronellol and citronella are apparently two different things that smell bad. One is from a geranium and “rose-scented”. The other is from a lemon grass and is what the mosquitos don’t like.

Meanwhile, I had to go back to the stuff I already know, the stuff I bought before the pandemic. The stuff that smells ok. Not super, but meh. Still far better than this new stinky stuff.

I can’t wait to go to the store someday and sniff things without a mask. But if that day never comes, at least I’ll know to look for suspicious ingredients. And I won’t buy it if it has citronellol in it. Because I’ll probably still have this bottle. A memento and a reminder not to buy without a sniff.

Seeking Silver Linings

It seems like 2020 was the year of cancellations, bad news, and ugly media. Now, in 2021, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t necessarily more of the same.

I mean, after all, there’s an “antidote” circulating now, right?

Forgive me if I sound naiive. I’m not. But with the arrival of vaccines, it just seems that we were destined to turn things around. That there was light at the end of the tunnel.

That there were things to start looking forward to again.

That was my thinking this year when I was putting significant dates into my calendar. One significant date was on January 17.

We’d purchased an “Intro to Kayaking” class for Christmas through REI for my daughter, and of course, I was going to go too. On January 17.

I wanted to learn how to kayak. I have visions of myself on the lake, maybe even at night, paddling along.

Unfortunately, like many things, the kayaking is now on hold. REI is sending us a refund because they cancelled the class.

So many things got cancelled in 2020, it was old news.

Photo by Jeffrey Czum on

Somehow in 2021, it seems like it shouldn’t be more of the same. Or should it? What has really changed?

Not a lot. The world is still in the grips of this thing, with all the accompanying panic and fear pandemic propaganda can bring. So now I’m seeking silver linings. And bargaining. And telling myself this too, shall pass.

But just promise me one thing. OK, maybe two.

One: you won’t exercise by yourself outside in the middle of nowhere…wearing a mask.

Two: you won’t drive your personal vehicle, with no one else inside, wearing a mask.

I promise you, wearing a mask during those two moments of isolation will not help you. And neither will carrying that teddy bear you got when you were 5 years old. Comforting, maybe. But it’s not a silver crucifix pointed at a vampire. Or kryptonite at Superman. Wearing a mask does not mean you won’t get sick.

A mask is just a mask.

And I’m disappointed. Again. No kayaking this month, and maybe not this year.

Oh well.

But at least I won’t have the moral dilemma of wearing a mask on the water to calm down the anxious ones or not wearing a mask, for my own comfort.

No choice needs to be made.

Someone else has made it for me.

Crossing my fingers for a better season…someday soon.

Strange Times in Cootieville

Today was an odd day.

My spouse and I decided to go for a walk to the mailbox about half a mile from our place. Instead of cutting through the parks and walking the greenbelt, we decided to walk along the main road in our neighborhood.

It was a nice day, blue skies, not too cold, windy, or anything extreme. Just a nice day, generally.

We don’t wear masks when we are outside. Mainly because, well, science? There were no ther humans on the street within a quarter mile or so.

Until we saw the kid. But he wasn’t really a kid. Maybe late 20s. Dark hair, grocery bags in hand from the local Nugget grocery store. And a super large mask.

It wasn’t surprising to us to see someone wearing a mask as they walked outdoors, alone. Or to see masks on drivers in theri own cars, with no one else in the vehicle. We typically just shake our heads and wonder how much the person actually knows about immunology and the transmission of viruses.

What WAS unusual was how the kid-not-really-a-kid reacted to us. We were walking toward him on the sidewalk. When he saw us he stopped dead on the sidewalk then half ran onto the driveway of someone’s house. He was clearly terrified.

The last time I saw someone react like that to others was when we played a tag game in kindergarten and the person who was “it” had “cooties.”

But here was an adult male, twitching and obviously in distress.

I couldn’t have scared him more unless I ran towards him waving my arms and shouting ooga-booga! (For the record, I did not do this.)

Meanwhile, both the spouse and I were puzzled and somewhat concerned about this person’s reaction.

I can assure you we take the spread of infection seriously and would have provided this person more than six feet in a courteous passing of each other on the road.

I’m just wondering how much that person knows about science. Obviously, not very much.

I suppose there will be those who will read this commentary and assume I’m being flip. I’m not.

We were, however, more concerned about that person’s mental health than anything else. It must be hell living in a world where everyone has cooties and even though you have lots of options such as handwashing, Vitamin D, rest, and other immune system supports, you think the mask is your only option and that even thought you are wearing a mask, it’s not enough.

I wonder how people handled flu season every year, before this year? Flu isn’t magical.

You should have been washing your hands last year too.

Photo by Burst on

I’m hoping that the scientists and the armchair policy people realize what they’re doing to anxious people out here. It isn’t good.

Oh, and the new phrase for Californians now is no longer “Have a nice day.” It’s “Be safe.” Sometimes it includes a “Be well.”

No one cares about having a nice day anymore. Just make sure you don’t breathe on that guy in the street. He might have a heart attack.

Be safe out there. For real.

Run with a Mask or No?

I debated with myself a bit yesterday about how I would approach the morning. I needed to complete two runs by Sunday to stay on track with RunBet but the air and the heat this week have been unusually challenging. The sky has been red–the sun blocked by haze and smoke. I posted before and after my run on FB:

Today I will be running with a mask. Or, I guess I should call it, jogga-waddling. I’ll be moving as fast as I can for about 40 minutes. Then coming inside and washing the remains of someone’s worldly possessions off of my skin. 😬 It has to be done. The jog and the wash. I will be testing the theory that you should not run with a mask on. I’ll let you know how it goes. 

ON Facebook
Smoke occludes the morning sun in Sacramento, California, due to ongoing fires

#StrangeObsession #NotMinimizingIt #CaliforniaBurning

When I was out there, I had time to think. It wasn’t as bad I thought, getting outside about 40 minutes before sunrise. I did check the AQI and was well hydrated. And I got my run done. As promised, I reported the mask experiment on social media.

The morning run is done. What I learned: masks while running suck. Even lightweight medical office masks. About 5 minutes in, I had to take mine off. I felt like I was suffocating. I’d rather get a whiff of faint campfire than slowly choke on my own exhaust. Two, it’s wonderful to run in my neighborhood before dawn. No one was out. It was me and a canopy of trees. Divine. And three, the level of commitment I seem to have recently made to running is nothing short of surprising. I wasn’t able to talk myself out of it this morning. Now to dissect why that is and apply it in other areas of life. I think the key here is #commitment. In any event, hope your Friday is good and that you are safe wherever you are.


A friend of mine commented that he “wussed out” on his run today. I responded — barely recognizing myself. Who have I become? It’s mind-boggling.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought. If you keep an eye on the AQI and go when it’s clearing a little do to dew in the air, you should be fine. Depending on how long you’re going for, though! Plus give yourself permission to go slow and to tap out if you need to. I feel MUCH better now that I got ‘er done!

Final Facebook post for the day

Lesson for the day: #KeepOnRunnin

About Masks

The other day I had to go into the office building from my safe shelter, so I strapped the homemade, home sewn mask over my face. Babushka sewed it for me, so of course it has flowers and is a bit girly.  I would actually have preferred something bright red and angry looking or maybe a cami-mask or some sort of shark jaws–it should be something that broadcasts to the viewer: Don’t come near me, ‘cause this chick [b–ch] will fight you. But no, instead there’s a delicate violet pattern, small enough to tempt someone to come closer and to trace the florals over the bridge of my nose.

I placed the mask over my nose and chin and went in at Oh dark thirty, to see few people and to get in and get out.  It was still slightly dark outside and on a regular workday, before the Q*, there would be folks here, pacing the halls.  Former prison guards now in suits, banished by ambition and notable work to the One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest halls of HQ.

The elevator was ready for me and pinged a greeting.  Empty. I used my knuckle to press buttons, and dragged the bag of legal files and codebooks in. It was me and the control panel.  Ping.

We rose rapidly to the third floor, the elevator and me–not a soul around. Just me and my floral disguise.

On the third floor I exited. Again, deserted. I swiped my badge and walked into the darkened hall leading into my office.

The past came swimming back to me like Michael Phelps, but with a clumsy splash.

The last time I was masked like this was in Yountville. I wore an N95 mask, similar relaxed clothing, a dark hoodie and loose pants. The facility there was also eerily empty, most of the elderly and disabled had been medically evacuated to other locations. The floors were mostly deserted. Except there was smoke in the air. Cinders. Bits and pieces of the surrounding hills and the once green forests and undergrowth floated down, only to be turned away from my lungs by my N95.

At Yountville, I rose to the third floor as well, but there it was bustling in Incident Command.  And the bustling resembled a hospital even more so–because it was a hospital, albeit mostly deserted.

I wore an N95, carried sugar free cough drops, eye drops. I wore a baseball cap and rings of fatigue. I hadn’t slept for days and the power had come on and off multiple times.  The emergency generators had kicked in and were burning through precious fuel faster than it could be delivered.

In contrast, during the Quarantine, all I seem to want to do is sleep. I sleep as long as I can, whenever I can. The air is clear, mostly. With rain and wind at times. The family is together under one roof.

The last time I masked, I was alone, having sent the entire crew out of the Napa Valley. We were surrounded by flames–you could see a ridge of them, bright orange under the night sky. Power was knocked out everywhere, so the only light was that of flame. A great big bonfire, moving faster than expected. So fast that law enforcement was speeding from remote house to remote house, trying to get people out.  Not all of them got out.

Those early days of masking, I went home to the small house we had, next to the mess hall. No power there, so I turned on a flashlight and curled into a chair with a blanket. I couldn’t sleep, no matter how much I tried–even though my eyes were like sandpaper and my throat was scratchy too.

Now, I often curl up under my plush purple blanket and sleep as if I never slept. Children and adults can be heard late into the night, loud conversations about this and that.

I sleep well now, and often.

The last time I masked, I had to be awake–so much to worry about.

Now, all I have to worry about is the floral pattern on my mask and whether I need to respond to an email.

This masking is better than the last.

But sometimes I miss seeing the enemy at the gate, the fire at the door.  The air filled with the aftermath of broad destruction. At least I knew when the battle was over, when the mask could come off.

Now, in this masking, we don’t know when or if it will end.

The floral disguise 2020

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