chapter  1
20 Pages

Toward a Sociology of the Senses

R eturning home from a doctor’s appointment, I (Dennis) park my vehiclein the garage and enter my home through the rear porch. Nobody is home. Walking in the porch, I immediately smell a potent and toxic aroma that unleashes a flow of adrenalin, quickens my heartbeat, and accelerates my breathing. “Natural gas,” I quickly decide. My four-year-old son has in the past managed to turn on the oven burners, causing them to belch deadly gas into our home. Bolting indoors, I immediately race to the stove to check whether it is the source of the noxious odor. Not this time. The oven and burners are off. I check to make sure the pilot lights are working properly. Yep. Everything seems normal. I continue to investigate my home and make my way toward the basement. Perhaps the pilot light on the furnace has gone out. Maybe the water heater? By now, the toxic odor has dissipated. I no longer smell anything unusual or out of the ordinary, but I am still anxious. For the next fifteen minutes, I find myself sniff-testing the various zones of my home. Something caused that odor. What was it?