Can’t you smell that smell?

An interesting aspect of my new job is the surroundings I now find myself in.

In fact, that was a detail I was asked about, casually but with poorly-hidden concern, when I interviewed. The staff member who showed me around that day was familiar with the place I was leaving and knew how it compared to this place.

My prior 13 years in church ministry took place in an immaculate building in the upscale suburbs. I’d recently moved into a state-of-the-art, beautifully decorated new office just down the hall from a bright and attractive new cafe area.

Now I drive to a ninety-year-old ex-firehouse every day. The scarred paint on the walls ranges from dirty white to an off-yellow shade to a grubby grey. The upstairs floor (where my new office is) sort of waves up and down so you have to walk carefully if you want to keep your balance. Ten people or more share a one-hole bathroom. (Actually, two holes – a toilet AND a urinal in the same room. The luxury of choice.) Years of accumulated grime on most surfaces.

What my tour guide on that interview day didn’t know, though, was that I was actually thrilled to leave the pristine trappings of privilege and get out into the real world. The gleaming affluence I’d been surrounded by for so long was wearing on my nerves, as well as my conscience.

A couple of weeks after my tour, I moved in and started creating a cozy little nest for myself here in the firehouse. It’s become a gathering place for friends on staff to hang out, have lunch, or just spend a minute visiting.


Yup, that’s the fire pole.


An extra desk for the volunteer who comes in one morning a month to enter data. And what looks like a closet door is actually hiding the 20-foot shaft where the firefighters used to hang their hoses to dry.


Just below the left window: My solution to The Smells.

I love my new digs.

But there are Smells.

Not every day, mind you, but often.  Today, for example, we have a killer melange of stale cigarette smoke, overpoweringly strong men’s cologne, a touch of weed, and poo stench wafting from that communal staff restroom. This disturbing aroma originates from both volunteers and clients. How it manages to hover in the hallway outside my office door and waft into my office, I have no idea.

I’ve battled the worn-out visual enviroment with friendly decorating touches. And I fight The Smells with a plug-in wax melter and scented cubes. Pumpkin pie in the fall. Douglas fir for Christmas. Orange spice, currently.

I’m making the most of my home-away-from home.






8 thoughts on “Can’t you smell that smell?

  1. Your office looks comfy to me. I love old buildings but the smells…..well. I worked in an old building downtown Seattle. It overlooked the Puget Sound so the view was spectacular. However, the homeless would sleep in the entrance to the building and the smell of urine in that area was horrid. I overlooked that because again, I love old buildings.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The mature adult part of my brain says that you’ve done a beautiful job turning your drab office into a really comfortable environment for yourself and other volunteers- well done! And good for you, for so enthusiastically embracing the space, rather than be bothered by it being aesthetically inferior to your old workplace.

    The immature part of my brain is giggling at the idea that hey, you could do pole-dancing in your office. 🙂

    The scientific part of my brain is guessing that the 20-foot hose-hanging shaft was probably designed to include ventilation so hoses would dry and not rot. Possibly air flow moving through the cracks around the door is compounding the flow of smells? I’d try putting tape (clear packing tape) around all 4 sides of the door and see if it made any difference. Tape along the ceiling edge too, if I’m interpreting the picture right and the walls around the shaft don’t quite reach the ceiling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahahaha you’re right about the closet door not having a good seal. But it’s totally human smells that waft upstairs on days when the waiting room is particularly crowded. The problem is compounded on Tuesdays by the fact that it’s the day our volunteer repair team comes to work on renovations to the building – old retired men who wear WAY too much after shave!


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