"Can we get an air freshener for the bathroom?" I would ask my mother whenever we encountered them. The promise of filling the smallest room in the house with a cheerful bouquet or a wander through a rainforest as shown on TV had convinced me this was a requirement for any civilised home. It is not that I was particularly sensitive to toilet fumes, but of course I was attracted to the notion of nice ones.
"No, I don't like them. They smell like the toilet," was my mother's immediate (and final) response each time I asked.
From this, a life of olfactory espionage was borne. While in supermarket aisles I would surreptitiously sniff nozzles and when that failed to admit me into its world, I would steal a puff of heaven when no-one was looking. As I drunk in the promised smell, I did not smell toilet. I chalked that assessment up to my mother's well-documented neurosis.
I dreamed of becoming an adult. I would have my own bathroom, do my own shopping and have the freedom to buy the air freshening spray of my dreams. I would finally have an indoor country garden of my own without the slightest knowledge of botany.
When that time eventually came, on my very first shopping trip buying items to furnish my first apartment, a toilet spray made the cart. I was filled with a sense of victory over my mother each time I sprayed it, but surprisingly, this feeling was short lived. I went from feeling that I had scentually arrived, to slowly becoming aware of the evacuation smell encroaching on my imaginary lavender bush. Before I knew it, disgust had set in. What started as a stroll through a country garden became regarded as a walk through a garden of fecal flowers. I concluded it was simply that particular spray and another variety would satisfy my nasal cravings.
From then on, a parade of sprays would march through my home and each time, their story would have the same arc. Even after adopting an industrial raspberry scent I found at work, delicious raspberries soon became raspberries and shit. I came to realise that while the usual odours, though unpleasant, would evapourate within fifteen minutes or so, the addition of the spray meant that the shit + rain, shit + roses, shit + rainbows smell would linger for more like forty-five. I decided this to be worse than shit + nothing.
Meadows and Rain. They left out " and shit".
Yet even after this extensive research and a long stretch without artificial nature, I was tempted to try a variety that merely deodourised. No smell, just plucking bowel gas from the air and concealing it in the droplets. I was hopeful, much like a battered wife returning to her aggressor, but the scene played out as it always did. The "This is great! This is it!" honeymoon period quickly followed by, "I'm going to be sick if I have to endure this vile smell for a moment longer. Oh god! It's wafting into the living room!" Apparently shit + clouds has a greater ability to network with the other rooms in the apartment than anything the human body produces alone.
This product attempts to mask the smell before it's even made by being sprayed into the toilet water before it is defiled.
I had finally given up, but the can remained atop the cistern, apparently just to invite trouble. A friend made a brief bathroom visit, only to freshen up. The smell of her jeans bothered her after a long flight and she sought something to mask it, she chose not to bother me for body spray or perfume. She came out, dragging the smell of the toilet spray all over the apartment. Even without it being methane infused, all on its own, I could barely contain my gag reflex. Soon after, four of us piled into the car - five if you count the ubiquitous air freshener smell - and I attempted to find the courage to eat dinner in what felt like a freshly christened bathroom wherever I went.
It was at this moment I had to grudgingly concede. My mother was right. They do all smell like the toilet.