You’re tooling along Green Bay Road when the smell of a burning cigarette teases your nose. Unexpected and hard to explain. You’re not smoking, and never have. You’re alone in the car. Where’s it coming from?
The smell is curiously comforting. You’ll figure out why in a moment. But first, how’d it get in your car? Mystery solved. The driver in front of you has a cigarette, and wisps of smoke are streaming from his open window.
Hard to believe you could sense this scent a couple of car lengths away. But today, when tobacco smoke has become pretty uncommon, the slightest whiff of it is noticed. Even in moving traffic.
You muse about this smell that wasn’t always a rarity…
In times past, colleagues smoked up conference rooms. Pool halls and bars operated in a gray haze. Your young ex-girlfriend smoked, contributing to her “ex”-ness. But, why is today’s tobacco smell carrying that oddly comforting vibe you felt back there?
And it comes to you. You’re a little kid in a nighttime room. Your dad tells you a bedtime story, and you see the glow of his cigarette. When he takes a puff it gets bright orange, a nice sight in the dark, and a pleasant memory.
You understand now that your room back then must’ve had that smoky smell. The whole apartment probably did. When today’s driver on Green Bay let a few molecules of smoke drift your way from his car’s slipstream, it brought you a sense-memory from childhood.
The smell of the past, here in the present. A present, in a way, itself.