So Thursday night is “date night” at our house. Basically, that means it’s the night we almost always go out for dinner. Tonight, since I was over on that side of town, we decided on our favorite Vietnamese place, Pho Hien Vuong.
Pho Hien Vuong has been in the same place, and we’ve been eating there, for over 20 years. They’re in this little sideways shopping strip on Spring Garden near Market St. The strip has three spaces, and over the years, they’ve expanded to fill the whole building. The food has always been excellent, with great service. It’s not a fancy place, but the food is the point.
Today when I went in the door, I was almost knocked over by the smell. Usually when you go in a restaurant, if you smell anything at all, it’s the food. This was not food. Nor was it the incense from the altar by the register. This was a chemically produced cross between some really bad floral scent and and the outside edge of hell.
As I trailed the waitress to the table, I asked her what the smell was. She said, “Oh, it’s the food.” I said, “No, it’s like floral cleaning stuff.” She indicated that they had installed automatic air “freshener” squirters in the dining room. There was one right beside the booth where she was trying to seat me; there was one at the door where I came in. (These two spots are less than 50 feet apart, by the way.) I asked to NOT sit there, and she took me to a booth on the other side of the restaurant, just past the altar with its incense. The incense is nice, but not when paired with industrial strength poop-smell-cover.
These automatic air “freshener” sprayers are NORMALLY found in public restrooms. They are designed with a timer, and they periodically squirt a burst of scent designed to cover up other, less pleasant, smells. Unfortunately, the scent that’s being used at Pho Hien Vuong is apparently designed to knock out an entire battalion of port-a-potties, and they’re using a L O T of it. A LOT. The scent is so pungent, I could taste it. I lasted less than five minutes before I had to go outside to escape, so, no Vietnamese for me tonight!
Here’s the thing about air “fresheners”. They don’t freshen ANYTHING. People who, like me, get migraines, people who have asthma, or chemical sensitivity, or other respiratory issues, can quite literally be put down for the count by breathing these artificial chemical pollutants spritzed into the air (not to mention that (1) the sense of smell is closely tied to the sense of taste, and thus the taste of the food would be altered, and (2) the spritzing is happening directly over somebody’s food.)
And while I’m at it, lemme just say that I include perfumes, colognes, hand lotions, body sprays, personal care products, and scented detergents in the ‘artificial chemical pollutant’ category. If I’m not close enough to kiss you, but I can smell your chosen scent, YOU’RE WEARING TOO DAMN MUCH!!! That stuff should be between you and your lover – nobody else needs to know you have it on.
So now my favorite Vietnamese place is ruined. Finding a new one could be fun!