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Friday, February 19, 2016

Aramis - The Agent Orange of Middle School

If you've ever been a teacher of 5th and 6th grade boys, you have likely been on the receiving end of something little short of a chemical warfare attack. You may be suffering its after effects to this day.As puberty strikes boys between the ages of 11 and 13, for some inexplicable reason, their little bodies express this sudden effluence of testosterone by making their feet go bad. Bad is, perhaps, a wholly inadequate word for what happens within the confines of a 6th grade boy's tennis shoes.

The military is always experimenting with doomsday weaponry; I feel they have missed something by not collecting and testing middle school boys' sweaty sneakers from their school lockers. The smell coming from a roomful of sixth grade boys in the throes of pubescent is quite over-whelming. Imagine being a teacher trapped in that classroom, day after day, unable to leave. And unlike factory workers, garbage men and sewer staff, middle-school teachers are not required by OSHA or even allowed by the school board to wear surgical masks soaked in disinfectant, to wrap their faces in a wet bandanna or to break out a war surplus gas mask. School authorities, of course, fear that to do such a thing on the part of the teacher would be to damage the self-esteem of the precious snowflakes we are raising them to be.

It was actually better back in my day because Keene Public School had no air-conditioning. Mrs. Webb, my sixth grade teacher God rest her soul, used to open all the windows in the classroom and turn the big stand fans, that we had back in those prehistoric times, so that they would face outward. She sometimes did this in the wintertime. I remember my pencil once iced up during a math class.
During WWII middle school teachers often held extended gas mask drills ostensibly so that the children could "get used to breathing in the things". Shropshire sixth grade teacher Dudley Ramsbottom actually made a formal proposal to his school board to make the masks standard equipment in grades 5 through 8 classrooms. Sadly, nothing ever came of his excellent idea, much to the disappointment of middle school teachers throughout England who had rather enjoyed the brief respite from the combined fumes of strong cheap cologne and really bad feet afforded by the drills.

The worst part of it is that, what with the surge of youthful hormones suddenly bringing the presence of girls to the attention of these budding young Lotharios, they are suddenly struck with the idea that some sort of masculine scent would be appropriate at this juncture. The human nose is strangely immune to scents emanating from its own body. It is perhaps this biological self-defense method which seems to protect the boys from the pungent fumes rising from below their school desks. This scent-dampening effect may be the reason boys are drawn to cologne scents strong enough to peel paint off the walls of the classroom. These guys are not even trying to mask the smell of their sneakers. They are blissfully unaware of it. 

Now imagine yourself a teacher facing a roomful of adolescent boys, their shoes giving off toxic fumes and their necks emitting an array of powerful scents from the most pungent colognes they can buy with their paper route money. In my day, the favored scent seemed to be Aramis.  There were other less powerful knockoffs that were tried, but for the recently sexually awakened 12 year old male, there is nothing quite like Aramis. It makes little girls swoon and teachers cry.

It's a wonder Aramis didn't use that as a slogan in their commercials!  Just looking at a picture of the bottle still makes my eyes water.

Tom King © 2016

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