When I was three years old (or so, they tell me), I found some spare change on my dad’s night table and sat down to play with it. As kids will do (and as I did frequently) (they tell me), I put a penny in my mouth. I remember the taste of copper and dirt and – something else, salt or something – and I remember swallowing it.
I also remember knowing that I was going to be in a heap of trouble. And I was.
The doctor, of course, looked at the x-ray and told my mom that the penny would find its way out in a couple of days, and not to worry.
But everyone did worry, because back then, there were still zinc pennies in circulation. Now these were a big deal in 1943 during WWII because the copper was needed for the war effort. But some of them were still floating around when I developed a taste (literally) for money.
And zinc, in large concentrations, can be toxic. So they watched. And waited. And the penny did come out all right, and it was copper, and everyone heaved a huge sigh of relief.
Fast-forward to about ten years ago. I noticed that nothing smells right any more. My nose was out of kilter. The doc (different doc, of course) told me not to worry (they’re very big on that), but that I was losing my sense of smell due to age.
“I’m not that old,” I argued.
“Then it’s probably a lack of zinc in your system,” she said.
So I tried zinc supplements, but they did indeed make me sick if I took them in full strength. I would reach the point of zinc toxicity very quickly, and then back off.
But an interesting thing happened: every day, for about fifteen minutes, I could smell.
So I’ve done some experiments with zinc tabs, and found a dosage that I can tolerate, for the sake of being able to smell for fifteen minutes each day.
Some days it’s terrible: diesel fumes, wet dogs, fermenting garbage. But others – this morning, for example – it’s spring flowers, pine trees, and the lovely, heady perfume of morning rain.
As I write this, I am back to not being able to smell. But I look forward to tomorrow.
If you had to give up one of your five senses, which one would you lose?
And what would you sacrifice to have it back, even for fifteen minutes a day?