I was having a conversation this week at work with someone. She is a civvy controller, I’m an ex-police civvy controller. It was during a quiet time when we weren’t particularly busy & sometimes the conversation drifts round to the old war stories.
I can’t remember how the conversation started but I found myself talking about smells, specifically about smells you come across in your role as a police officer.
Inevitably post mortems were mentioned. The unique smells, which kind of defy description, of a human body being cut up & examined. I used to take probationers to post mortems, it used to be just about mandatory to see a dead body & the process which takes place when a cause of death needs to be determined. It’s not now, too potentially upsetting for the modern recruit’s sensibilities.
Then there was the smell of death, again just about unique. You can’t always remember the smell in your mind, kind of visualising it, after a while but the moment you smell it again, you know exactly what it is. That tell tale whiff you get when you sniff through the letterbox of a neighbour who hasn’t been seen for a while, the release of bodily gases when you move a body to examine it for wounds.
Of course, the smells on some of the living customers can be pretty damned rank too. The smell of an alcoholic’s breath, so different from a person who is just pissed. The people who for reasons of lack of access or laziness haven’t seen a bath or a shower or a change of clothes for weeks.
The smells you get in a hospital A&E, both the clean, fresh, chemical smells & the bodies, alcohol & B.O. One of the worst was the smell of blood. We once babysat someone who had cut their wrists but was refusing treatment. He was violent too. We had to stand in a locked room with him but the staff couldn’t treat him. He spent over an hour bleeding everywhere. Not gushing but just enough to have a regular supply to spray up the walls, all over the floor, everywhere. After an hour in there the smell was so pervading I am surprised I didn’t faint. Once he eventually collapsed he was treated.
Of all the smells I came to the conclusion the worst one was when I was sent to get some milk for the tea club. I can’t remember how but the milk got spilled all over the back seat of the panda. I dabbed it up as best I could during the shift & left it in the parking bay.
Two or 3 days later my name was mud, it was the height of summer & the smell in the car was so overwhelming it had to be taken out of commission & professionally cleaned.