Monday, September 13, 2010

The Cheap Perfume Caper

My next door neighbors are going away on vacation and want me to watch their house. This is my chance to do something I've wanted to do for a long time. They are amicable enough people, but through some unfortunate genetic abnormality or on-the-job accident, they've lost their collective sense of smell. And in order to make up for this shortcoming, they've immersed themselves in what they call "aroma therapy," which, from the smell of things, includes dousing themselves with a minnow-bucketful of cologne and perfume before leaving the house. That's not the problem, as I've developed a technique of surreptitiously holding my breath while having short conversations with them.

The problem is their dryer vent. It's aimed at my house (the houses in my neighborhood are very close together), and they use this perfume-enhanced laundry soap and dryer sheets that are completely suffocating. It truly smells like there's a dead hooker in the bushes, no joke. I assume it's part of their aroma therapy. I've been breathing this stuff for years, and as far as I can tell, here's the unforgettable potpourri that wafts from their dryer vent:

--Dollar Store perfume
--a hint of mustard gas
--Dollar Store cologne
--a smidgen of mothballs
--day-old dead mouse
--urinal soap cake
--Shell no-pest strip

On a hot, humid day, this delightful combination of toxic odors sticks to everything (my hemlock bushes now permanently smell like this unique proprietary blend).

When their dryer is on, we have "dryer drills." One of us yells "dryer!" and we vacate the yard and scramble to close the windows of our house. It's like in those old WW II movies when the skipper of the submarine yells, "Dive, dive, take her down below depth-charge level!" Then, like the captive submarine crew, we wait it out until it's safe, as if the enemy destroyer (the S.S. P.U.) has passed and we can once again open the windows.

A few years ago, I complained and gave them a summer's supply of unscented dryer sheets and detergent. They used them, but quickly returned to their cheap-smelling petrochemical-laden stuff when my thoughtful gift ran out. I even made up a story about how scented detergents are banned in The Netherlands, and they gave each other a look, and one of them said, "Figures, what can you expect from those people with all their crazy sex and recycling." So you can see what I'm up against.

Now's my chance. I have the key to their house and a whole week to pull this off. I could sneak in their basement and empty their asthma-bag laundry soap and refill it with some scent-free detergent. Same with the dryer sheets. This would give us a scent-free yard for the remainder of the outdoor season. I'll pack the containers to the brim; even replace them with the family size, if necessary. Trouble is, I wonder if they would notice the lack of petrochemicals in their laundry. I figure this could have two potential outcomes:

1. They would vow to buy a stronger perfumed-soaked brand the next time they shop for detergent (thinking their current brand isn't strong enough), making the stink even worse.
2. I could become a suspect in the great perfume caper and ruin my relationship with our neighbors and face some sort of criminal charges. With all this new forensic technology that law enforcement uses nowadays, there is a chance I could get caught. Who knows, I could leave cat hair from the bottom of my shoes at the crime scene (they don't have a cat).

Normally I'm not this sneaky, but I don't know what else to do, and I don't want to screw this up. And I think they already suspect I'm on the side of the recycling-crazed Dutch.

What really worries me is if I'm caught and do time for this caper, what do I tell my cellmate. I'm guessing that switching-out perfumed laundry soap with an unscented brand is not a well respected crime in most prisons, so you can see this may have serious consequences.