BEE Shop Files: The Odor King – Part II

Mark Conley

Active member
Its amazing what Air Force personnel will call the Bioenvironmental Engineering Office to complain about. Odors certainly were at the top of the list: some of the best stories shared around the desk on Fridays meeting often involved some of the most unusual things ever smelled in an office…

One day, we got a call from a Generals Office. Now, this was just your run of the mill one star type General: Stationed on a base where we had a couple of four stars on down, well, a one star never really rated a second look on that base. But, a General is a General, and a call for help was a call indeed. So as the unloved lowest ranker in the office, I got the assignment.

When I got to his office, after passing through all these security areas and sign-in desks, I finally reached his office. I was checked in by a young Senior Airman ( E-4) administrative assistant, and allowed into this man’s inner sanctorum.

Well, his problem was very obvious from the get go: his office had the heavy rank smell of something that had literally died. Indeed, it had a familiar haunting smell: something I kind of remembered from childhood, Very familiar, but I totally could not place it.

Well the usual remedies did not work: a search above, below, and around his office failed to resolve a location for the odor. Frankly I was stumped: For once, I just couldn’t find the odor source as I could from my previous dealings.

Finally, when I was looking up for some divine inspiration, the overhead vent poofed with that sound of air being exhausted into the room from the air conditioning…and the smell hit me full force right into the nose. Ah ha I said…check the air conditioning coils. Could be a dead bird or two...clean em up and I’m on my way!

When I opened the air conditioning room up, two things became very apparent. 1. The darn thing was sparkling. A very efficient service crew had cleaned even the dirt in the filter section. 2. No dead animals were present. No dead airmen either. No dead nothing. There hadn’t been anyone in that filter bay for about 2 weeks according to the work line tag on the door.

Well the only thing left was to crawl the vent tube itself. Now days, there is no way I could have fit in that duct; but as a skinny half baked airman, I was right at home. Getting out my flashlight, I proceed to head for the man’s office.

I must have crawled around for about 30 minutes in that duct. The only consolation was that at least it was a cooling duct: I had air conditioning all the way. Finally, I was at a point about six feet inside the duct from the General’s return that I ran into it. It was a simple paper plate. On the plate was about 10 pounds of sliced cheese. Limburger cheese. This was some smelly cheese. I doubt very seriously if a mouse could have eaten it, it was that smelly.

Well I had found it: Now what to do with it. I put all 10 pounds in a plastic garbage bag I had brought for those dead birds, and started backing out of that vent. I finally got to the start point, and proceeded down stairs.

When I got to the General’s office, why the old man was actually smiling. The room air had cleared fairly quickly once the cheese was bagged, and the odor of many room air fresheners put out to counter it was kicking in to say the least. Of course, he asked the obvious question: what had caused it?

I was just about to relate what I had found when I took a look at the Senior Airman at his desk in the outside office. Although he appeared busy, the young man was sweating and looking very, very distressed. I immediately told the man it was a couple of birds that had lodged in and had died in the ducts, and making my excuses, retired from the office as quickly as I could.

Well it was few days later that I trapped that Senior Airman in the corner of the base recreation center, and by threatening him with turning the cheese over to the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) for fingerprinting got the full story. I had no idea if cheese actually can retain fingerprints (but then neither did he) so he came clean immediately.

Seems like the ole boy was denied some leave. So he decided to get the old man back by a subtle biological attack. He went down, purchased a few pounds of the old Limburger, and every day before the General would come to the office, using a long broom handle, he’d place a few more fresh slices on the plate. It actually was very ingenious indeed.

Well until the guy’s tenure was up, and his transfer to another base went through, he was the nicest source of favors any guy could want. We actually became friends and still call each other occasionally. And by the way, you actually can get fingerprints off a piece of cheese…. :shock:

Good one! It's more subtle if you rub it onto the coils, though. :twisted:
Um, at least that's what I heard...