“Ooh, that smell! Can't you smell that smell? Ooh, that smell! The smell of death surrounds you.”That was what many Singaporean were probably singing (if they were Lynyrd Skynyrd fans) recently on what I will forever remember as “Smelly Monday”, thanks to a particularly pointed New Paper headline.
On that day, the National Environment Agency (NEA) received more than 100 calls about a strange chemical smell.
And it wasn’t caused by the haze. The NEA doesn’t know what the smell was. I can’t tell you because I didn’t smell anything on Smelly Monday.
But then, as my wife has pointed out, I’m not good at detecting smells. This could be due to my body odour and flatulence problem. To me, everyday is Smelly Monday.
And when everyday is Smelly Monday, Smelly Monday is just Monday. Smelly is a given and redundant.
When I first met my wife, I was living in Jurong West. When she first came to my place, she asked, “What’s that smell?”
This was after we had been going out for a while, so I didn't think she was referring to my BO and gasworks.
I said, “What smell?”
She said, “Can’t you smell that smell?”
I said, “Lynyrd Skynyrd!”
I guess because I had been living in Jurong - an industrial area since before I was born - for a few years, I no longer noticed the thickness of the air caused by the factories.
“How can you people live like this?” asked the future mother of my children.
My wife had lived in the east of Singapore all her life. I have noticed that people from the “right” side of the island tend to be a bit uppity and look down on the rest of us non-easterners.
Then last week, The Straits Times revealed the source of the stench that so offended my uppity wife.
The newspaper reported:
“For some two decades, the smell of burnt cocoa has been pervasive in Boon Lay. Part of the smell comes from the Cadbury factory located about a kilometre away from the Boon Lay MRT station.”
That’s just one MRT station from my Jurong home, where my mother still lives. So I have another excuse not to visit her.
After marrying the uppity easterner, I moved to Choa Chu Kang, relieved that we have finally escaped the stink. Or so we thought.
According to the same Straits Times report,
“Choa Chu Kang residents do not have it any better: they have had to live with the smell of chicken dung coming from the poultry farms in Sungei Tengah”.So basically, I have upgraded from the smell of burnt cocoa to the smell of chicken shit.
Sometimes not being able to smell stuff is not such a bad thing after all.
My wife isn't so uppity anymore. Nowadays, her relatives back east look down on her.
And when the fowl smell of chicken shit hits me, I just yell out, “Free bird!”
Then after checking that it’s not my own flatulence, maybe I’ll flick my Bic as if I were at a Southern rock concert. There’s an app for that.
- Published in The New Paper, 12 December 2010