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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Best scents won't hide what's foul

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

Does your house stink? Reek of small dog? Large cat? Bad plumbing?

Whatever it is that might be fouling up your space, there is an air freshener to cover it right up.

There are contraptions for sale on the shelves of your favorite grocery store that belch perfume with names like "Island Ice" and "Mountain Berry" every few seconds both of which, when you think about it, sound like perhaps they could be innuendo for some bad, malodorous stuff. Usually when there's the smell of Island Ice in the air, HPD has to call in HazMat, and Mountain Berry sounds like one of those euphemisms cowboys use for stuff that gets stuck to the bottom of their boots.

There are things to plug into outlets, some with special daytime smells, others with a little night-light for PM odors.

Some you have to ignite. Others you have to push. One has a microchip. Some are meant to be displayed like a crystal tchotchke. Others are meant to be smelled but not seen.

One even has a "scent disc" that plays an album of smells like tracks on a CD.

Or you can clean your house.

True, ridding the source of the stink is a lot harder than just covering it up, but just because you can't smell it over the cloud of Island Ice or Morning Meadow doesn't mean it's gone. Under the perfume, the stink remains.

And so it goes in civics and politics as well, right? So much powdery aerosol and so little hard scrubbing.

Paint some doors at the high school and pretend everything is fixed with public education.

Set aside some money for a study and pretend something is being done about traffic.

Upzone land for high-end housing and pretend that will help the homeless.

Give two computers to a public-housing coalition and make like that's going to bring folks up from under.

Use the words "aloha" and "mahalo" liberally in a speech to make like you support Native Hawaiian causes.

We all know the song. Feel free to add your own verses.

The storm drains get cleaned only after the big rain.

The geologists are sent to look for precarious boulders only after the big one comes crashing down.

The shoreline studies are financed only after the row of houses are washed away by big waves.

And in between, there's mass amnesia, allowing the problem to begin all over again.

The trouble with sweet-smelling coverups is that you have to know the truth about the underlying stink to be able to eradicate it. Sure, you can live your whole life with a hankie to your nose or a vial of rose-scented oil plugged into every electrical outlet.

Or you can clean the house.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.