It plugs into the wall and plays "scent CDs" and features Shania Twain, somehow. Hail, Satan
by Mark Morford
The Rule of Gluttony goes like this: When a given society's needs become so ridiculously oversatisfied and oversatiated and just plain obscenely stuffed like a Bush daughter on Bud Light, it begins to invent utterly useless landfill crap no one really needs and that actually turns out to be dangerous to its health.
Enter the new Febreze ScentStories thing, an adorably insidious 40-buck appliance you actually plug into your wall and stick on a side table next to the fake flowers and the cat-shaped fringe lamp and then insert any number of $6 CD-like disks each containing five preprogrammed synthetic scents that, at the push of a button, will then "play" in sequence, just like a music CD -- only, you know, not.
Yay. Rejoice. Weep with a renewed sense of hope for humankind, because if there's one thing we in America desperately need, it's another goddamn appliance to do something a simple candle will do 10 times better for a fraction of the cost and a sliver of the insidiousness and none of the noxious petrochemical landfill.
You know Febreze. You have seen the ads, even if you haven't. Febreze is that frightening Procter & Gamble air freshener whose commercials feature perky sexually denuded khaki-pantsed housewives and cutesy overweight dads running around the house with a can or three of the heavily scented aerosol and spraying huge fogs of it into every room in some ecstatic fit of orgiastic bliss, and then immediately inhaling the misty cloud as deeply as possible into their happily toxified American lungs and smiling like they just discovered heroin and Cheez-Whiz and anal sex, all at once.
What happened? What vile marketing decision was made, and by whom, that said we must now progress from static mute little tabletop chemical-bomb air fresheners to more sinister, electronically activated Glade plug-in thingies with silly little built-in fans to full-fledged toaster-size appliances that require huge amounts of plastic and massive marketing campaigns and full AC power and interchangeable chemical-soaked disks?
This is the marketing strategy: each disc is apparently designed to somehow lift you out of your sanitized tract-home suburban kids-'n'-dogs-'n'-minivans dystopia and transport you straight to the Misty Mountains or the sultry Bahamas or the Brazilian rain forest or whatever, and, according to the Prozacian pastels-'n'-blue-sky ScentStories Web site, it all has something to do with Shania Twain, somehow, inexplicably, because there she is, her photo splashed on the pages for no apparent reason whatsoever and smelling very much like mediocrity and commercial bloat and fast saccharine death, and if her hollow endorsement's not a surefire sign of the apocalypse, baby, nothing is.
And, of course, it's all carefully marketed directly at gullible and slightly narcotized women, housewives and soccer moms and chronic Banana Republic catalog shoppers who dream of escaping their husbands and their suburban stasis and their white luxury carpeting, with its perfectly symmetrical vacuum-cleaner track marks, and running off to the tropics and lying on a hammock or strolling on the beach or hiking in the mountains and numbing their senses to the point of sweet-smelling comatose bliss.
Which of course makes you wonder why P&G just doesn't cut to the marketing chase and be honest about the whole thing and release more apropos scent adventures, like Desperate Affair in a Cheap Motel Room, or Whatever Happened to My Dreams of Opening a Small Business, or Mommy's Valium/Gin Headrush Chocolate Cake. What, too bitter? Naw.
Because then you may also think, hey wait, why aren't there similar scent bombs marketed to men? Why isn't Black & Decker hocking up a similar gizmo and creating discs like I Like to Lick My SUV, or Hey Baby Dig My Pleated Dockers or Sometimes I Wish I Was a Female Mountain Gorilla? Honesty in advertising is all I ask.
Saturation has been reached. Every new household product is now just a silly mutation, a gross plasticized landfill-clogging exaggeration of something simple and functional that came before, brooms to blenders to bread machines to the Swiffer WetJet to Scrubbing Bubbles™ Fresh Brush™ Toilet Cleaning System. You're choking on it.
And it is now no longer a race for which product can offer your life more ease and convenience, what gizmo will reduce stress and calm your exhausted body and actually pretend to be innocuous and fresher and cleaner. Rather, it appears to be a mad race for which product will cause what part of your increasingly toxified American body what virulent strain of cancer first.
Dibs on the lungs! screams the ScentStories appliance. Dibs on the heart! screams that double-cheese McMuffin. Dibs on the brain! screams your cell phone. Dibs on the bloodstream! claim any number of major pharmaceuticals. Dibs on your bone marrow! claims the case of Diet Coke. Dibs on your very soul! screams your television.
See, there is this line. There is this boundary separating logic and common sense and acceptable karmic/environmental damage from utterly laughable and debilitating pain, and it comes into play as we recognize how there are gizmos that are incredibly fun and that add a whole new dimension to the coolness of life and that make your days more interesting and your nights more juicy and your vibrator more waterproof and that can carry 20,000 of your favorite songs on one little machine the size of a deck of cards.
And for the existence of those devices, well, we make some sort of deal with the devil. We know they're toxic and hurtful and will last 5 million years in a landfill, but we make the trade-off, claiming the value they add is worth the effort and if we're careful and maybe just a little more conscious maybe we can minimize the damage and the karmic toll and, besides, 20,000 songs! Dude!
There are bearable and acceptable trade-offs and there are epically bad and deleterious trade-offs, and then there are trade-offs that just make you sad and ill and that you just know with every fiber of your being are simply useless and small minded and point up everything that's wrong with the American mind-set and that infect your home with synthetic scents that poison your dog.
Look at it this way: much like white zinfandel or "Cathy" cartoons or the George W. Bush presidency, ScentStories could vanish tomorrow and no sentient being anywhere on the planet would miss it, ever. And that, verily, is the scent of true perspective.