Extraordinary Stories

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Saturday, April 1, 2017

The "Ah! The Sweet Smell Of Printing Ink!" Story

The sweet smell of web-printed ink.
It was an ordinary day.  Just opened my latest edition of "Wired" magazine and took a long whiff of the ink odor emanating from the interior of the magazine.  Carol looked at me, as usual, and said, as usual, "That's gonna make you sick some day."  But, sometimes the best thing about a newly web-printed magazine is that wonderful sensation of "bibliosmia" or the effect the magazine has on the nostrils as you breathe in the scent of the pages.  For over half my life I have worked in the print shop at Manheim Township High School; first as a teacher and school in-house printer, and now, after retiring from teaching, as an independent contractor hired to do in-house printing.  
Blue ink smells like ... heaven!
And, I never tire of opening the door of what at one time was Room 308 and smelling the sweet smell of printer's ink.  At first I used oil-based ink, but in the 1980's changed over to rubber-based ink.  No matter which ink I used, the smell as I opened the door lingered throughout the room.  It's often said that the sense of smell is most likely linked with memory - and rightly so, since the olfactory receptors are intrinsically linked to the limbic system, which comprises the networks that dictate memory and emotion.  
Colors galore ... all with different smells.
For me, that goes way back to when I was a child and lived in a semi-detached home located directly next to Science Press in Lancaster, Pennsyl- vania.  The grass in our back yard touched the cement-block walls of the building that housed the presses and the rear of our property ended at the door where the presses could be seen inside the building.  I can still remember, at the age of perhaps seven or eight, the smell of the presses that ran inside, while I shot baskets ten feet from the door in the alley behind my house.  
A single linotype slug that reads backwards.
The presses used linotype metal slugs to print their brochures and at times would have loose slugs strewn on the floor inside the open door which I confiscated and used in my backyard Army pup-tent print shop.   I would use a stamp pad to ink the linotype slugs, which were part of the job 
in a printed Science Press brochure, and then press the image onto paper.  Nothing ever made any sense since the lines never weren't meant to go together.  
But, I was a young printer who could smell the nearby odors of printer's ink that to this day still linger in my nose and mind.  Eventually, after setting up the printshop in the high school Industrial Arts wing in the late 1960s, I was in heaven once again.  So, why wouldn't I automatically open any new magazine or brochure to take a long whiff of those odors that have been part of my life since childhood.  I know it may sound corny, buy I love the smell on ink on paper and no matter how many times my wife tells me its going to make me sick, habits are hard to break.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.     

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