Coffee and Skunk… by JoAnn

A black and white drawing of a cat drinking coffee

Some of my most favorite memories of younger years come by way of road trips.  When my dad took a new job in a different state, regular road trips “back home”, became a common habit.  We would make the long trip from the coast of Virginia, to the Northeast mountains of Tennessee at least three times a year.

There are a lot of things that continually remind me of those happy road trips with my parents and sister.  But one in particular always leaps out front of the others.  

Science tells us that a smell can be one of the strongest catapults that emotionally thrust us back to our past.

I warn you, the smell for me is strange.  It’s the aggressive smell of skunk, and fresh brewed coffee.  I’m not talking about the smell of skunk spray and coffee, but skunk with coffee!  As if the two smells are blended together in one of the most potent of nature’s perfumes.

You see, every time I drive or ride down the road and smell skunk, I smell fresh brewed coffee with it.  I’m sure you will understand when I tell you that never, have I ever, shared this with anyone.  Needless to say, for the risk of being thought of as completely bonkers 😊.  I have always had the impression that people tend to think of me as being on the weird side anyway.  I usually shy away from intentionally offering information that might confirm this opinion.  

So that being said, I have kept this skunk and coffee thing to myself.  Surely thinking I am the only person in the world that would think such a peculiar thought and never speaking of it out loud, until I met someone new.

A few years ago, I needed to make a long road trip to a new job.  I was going to a brand-new city to care for an elderly lady that was the aunt of an extended family member, and my latest travel buddy.  She had generously offered to drive me herself to my newest home and place of employment.  Although she was an extended family member, we were complete strangers, having never met or communicated with each other until now.  I was a little nervous and uncomfortable to be with a stranger on such a long road trip, but I smiled and planned to make the best of it.  

Lucky for me, my newest acquaintance was very comfortable taking the lead with our conversations.  But my anxiety did creep in after a couple hours on the road.  Just when it did, she said something that would flip my switch and make her an instant best friend.

As we proceeded along, suddenly, the car was filled with that ever-familiar smell.  I let out a “Whew!”.  She responds with “I always think that smells like skunk and fresh coffee!”  

Whaaaat?!  She didn’t!  Did she?!  I was speechless, but my heart was joyfully calmed.  Right then and there I knew that Lisa June and I would be lifelong friends!  And we have been.  

But after doing some research, I found out this skunk and coffee thing is not so extraordinary.  It seems that when a skunk has been dead for a while, it’s mercaptan levels (sulfur compounds that cause the powerful, offensive odor), have faded considerably, thus giving an aroma similar to fresh brewed coffee. As the 1940’s radio star Edgar Bergen use to say, “Who would of thunk it?”