When I came home Sunday, there was a package waiting for me at my doorstep. Delighted and pleasantly surprised upon reading the name of the sender (a good friend who will not be named but is appreciated greatly), I dropped my bags inside and set about to open the USPS box to see what goodies awaited me. Slicing off the tape with scissors, I reached through some brown packing paper and pulled out a large Ziploc bags holding two smaller holiday bags. I squinted and peered through the narrow transparent portions of the bag, trying to figure out their contents.
Cookies, I surmised, turning them over till I could see. Ah, yes, I could see the wonderful doughy edges and corners now. Excellent.
It was at this point that my nose began to tickle. A particular strong odor was now present in the room. While not unpleasant nor disgusting, it was immensely potent and not one I recognized. I opened the ziploc bag in my hand and stuck my nose in to take a whiff. No, that’s not it, I thought as I set aside the bag and reached into the box once more. Rummaging through the paper, I felt another smaller sandwich bag at the bottom of the box. It was heavier than the larger bag and much more solid to my touch. As it cleared the edge of the box, it became very apparent that it was the odor source. It too held a holiday bag, although this one had split during the course of its journey. My scientist brain kicked in.
White. Looks like granular sugar. Smell powerful but don’t know what it is. No label on the bag.
There I stood for a few minutes, turning this bag over and over while my brain tried to match it to anything it could in vain.
Sugar? No. Crushed peppermint? Doesn’t smell like it. Salt? Why would she send a bag of salt? To keep the cookies fresh? Really? Hey, man, I just work here. You oughta kick this one up to Analysis.
Rather than spend any more time wondering, I texted my friend.
Me: Oh, thanks for the package! Merry Christmas! Saaaaaaay, I see two of the bags are cookies. What’s in the third bag?
The next day, I get a reply that only deepened the mystery.
Friend: Not sure
I look at the phone, quietly contemplating this new development. Was there a mistake? Did she send me dishwasher powder or some other cleaning agent by accident? (That’s another theory I came up with over time.) How many packages did she mail so that she would not be able to recall what she had put in mine?
Undeterred, I texted her back.
Me: You sent it to me!
Friend: Lol it’s a surprise! Just eat it!
Well. Ok then!
After I got home that day, I grabbed the bag off my dining room table and examined it again. Still white, still granular looking, still very strong in odor. I’d say it wasn’t like anything I’ve ever smelled before, but as a man, my smell categories are limited to “masculine”, “not masculine”, and “other”. As it was not the clearly not the first and not immediately identifying itself as the second or third, it presented a quandary. But, having been assured that it was “a surprise” and that I should “just eat it”, I opened the sandwich bag.
While I thought the smell on the outside of the bag was very strong, cracking open the bag pushed the line upwards to “universe enveloping”. It would be akin to going from the scent of second hand smoke linger beneath your nose to taking the lit cigarette and plunging it upwards into your nasal cavities. The word “omnipresent” has yet to find a better non-divine example.
Needless to say, this created many doubts as to my friend’s assurances. My quickly established inner compromise was to take a singular grain onto the tip of my finger. I sniffed it once more as if that particular dot on my finger was the problem and not the hundreds of thousands if not millions of its brethren still sitting in the bag inches away. Nothing new was gained from this and so, in one swoop, I dabbed it on the middle of my tongue.
It was neither sweet nor sour nor bitter nor salty. It was vile. I made an all vowel noise that universally signifies across the multitude of human cultures that what I had tasted was a very big mistake. In making a a b-line to the sink, I spit out what was left of the grain, all remaining saliva (contaminated or otherwise), and anything not firmly attached to gums or jawbone.
Surprised? Indeed, I was.
Now I was stuck with an immediate mental aftermath full of questions. What the hell did I just try to eat? When was the last time I pissed her off? Was she trying to poison me? (Historically, women are poisoners so this was a remote yet plausible possibility.) Or was this a recipe that had gone horribly, HORRIBLY wrong?
I settled on the last one as the most likely explanation as I dumped the bag into the trash. I could still smell it, so I pushed the bag way down in the trash bag in the hopes that the decaying kitchen garbage above it would mask the smell till I took the bag out. I took the time honored vow to thank her once more and then never mention it again.
Six hours after our text conversation, I get another message from her.
Friend: I just realized what you were asking me about. The bag? It’s bath salts.
That all vowel noise that I made when I tasted what I now discovered was bath salts? Yes, I made it again.
We then had a lovely text conversation about what it was like to taste bath salts (“horrific”) and how incredibly sorry she was for not labeling the bags. I discovered that the odor I did not recognize was in fact lavender (to which it was properly placed in the “not masculine” category). I rescued the bath salts from the trash, put it into a new sandwich bag, and am looking forward to using the bath salts in the proper manner in the near future.
As they say, all’s well that ends well. There were two important things to learn here:
- Label your all Christmas goodie bags since you never know how might try to eat them.
- I will try to eat anything.
Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas, folks!