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September 14, 2023 2 min read

It's Thursday, so I guess this could be called a Throwback Thursday vs Memory Monday. Writing a Memory Monday on 9/11 would have been extremely difficult, because who could forget the tragic events of that date? Now a few days later, I can write a memory connected to scent on 9/11:

I was in my Coty office on Park and 33rd, and had just started my first full week there. I was wearing a green dress (that I have kept, and wear only on 9/11) and a black sweater over my shoulders. I had a 9:30AM appointment with our Givaudan salesperson, Lisa Popoli to review reworks for a Calgon shower gel (remember Calgon's slogan "take me away"....?) and the two planes had already gone into the One and Two World Trade Centers when she arrived from New Jersey.
I met Lisa at the elevator of my floor looking like most of us...mouthes and eyes wide open in disbelief and shock and told me that when she was coming down Fifth Avenue, she saw the smoke from downtown billowing up into the sky. I remember thinking that our meeting came at such an awkward time, but no one knew the attack on New York (and elsewhere) would happen that day.
I also remember the uneasiness and self-abasement as I stood in the fragrance evaluation room above the sink with the warm water flowing as I checked the fragrance diffusion and "bloom" from the jar and as I lathered up to check the size of the bubble foams and lift of the fragrance into the air from my hands. YES. This was all part of the evaluation process of how we judge the hedonic and efficacy of a fragranced product such as a shower gel, shampoo and soap. I felt so little, so insignificant and how irrelevant I was--and how pitiful it was-- what we were doing in that room on Park Avenue --to what was going on downtown.
I can't clearly recall what I told Lisa about how I felt about the fragrance, except I knew that the fragrance was too sweet for an oceanic scent. I do remember that I thanked her for coming in, but did not feel that it was the right time to objectively critique a formula or to continue a meeting and urged her to go back to New Jersey as soon as possible and that I would revisit the fragrance submission as soon as I could.
I suffered from guilt after that day: I questioned what I did for a living--critiquing fragrances for often meaningless, unnecessary products--all in the effort to sell products at good margins that some people can't even afford. I was ready to quit the fragrance industry until one day, my friend Rose Eckert told me "but Ruthie, what you do is meaningful to people. What you and others create help people to feel good about themselves." This my friends and followers, is what saved my faith in what I do.
I will never forget that day. Ever. And may all of the victims and their families of that most awful day in my lifetime know that they are in my thoughts forever.

1 Response

Aundraya Fontaine
Aundraya Fontaine

November 20, 2023

I’m getting to like the group of the five senses

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