Smell Matters (At Least It Does to Bill)
Ooooh that smell
Can’t you smell that smell
Ooooh that smell
The smell of death surrounds you
Bill Gates is at it again, saving the world where it needs saving most. This has taken him to places like Africa and India, to some of the hotbeds of disease and urban strife. He’s obviously a man on a mission and, when Bill gets his mind set on a problem, he’s got the intellect — and money — to make things happen. Show him a way to improve third-world issues and he’s all over it like a dirty shirt (or, in this case, something even more dirty and more smelly).
That’s right, folks, now he’s tracking smell because, as he says, “Smell matters.” Recently, he traveled to Switzerland to learn about, of all things, pit latrine odor. Seems pit latrine odor is causing people in densely populated places like India to — for lack of a better term — “go in the woods.”
According to Bill, one billion people have no access to toilets so they defecate out in the open. India is trying to stop this “bush dumping” by creating open pit latrines but, oh, it’s stinky there. As Bill surmises, if people don’t like the stink (and they don’t), they go elsewhere. And it’s the “elsewhere” that’s the problem. All these bush league toilets are seeping into water and food supplies.
So, Bill’s been to Switzerland, meeting with a family-owned fragrance firm called Firmenich (actually, they do a lot of flavor-enhancing for beverages and foods). He figured these folks, knowing fragrances the way they do, could come up with a way to improve sanitation (or the smell of it) in the world’s poorest countries.
Firmenich decided to attack the problem at a molecular level, essentially creating a fragrance you can use in open pit latrines. They’re still working on it but, as Bill explains, he’s trying hard to “develop solutions that people value and that will improve the health and dignity of urban slums and other densely populated communities where the need for better sanitation is greatest.”
Well, okay, we all see the need for better sanitation and, sure, “smell matters,” especially if a few million people have used the same pit before you. Thing is, Bill, while you’ve been solving third-world smells, your gang back at Microsoft has created a smell of their own, and this one won’t be solved by a fragrance. Frankly, it stinks worse than an open pit latrine.
The smell in question is Microsoft’s Office 365 Campaign #GetItDone. They came up with a clever poster outlining (let’s call it emphasizing) the need to work wherever you are. Nothing like a few statistics to motivate the employees, eh, Bill? And these ones make open pit latrines seem like a mere piffle by comparison.
Let’s take vacations as an example. According to the poster (I guess this is part of solving health and dignity), 47% of employees have worked when they were on vacation. A bad thing? No, this poster says it’s a good thing.
Better yet, how about this clever little missive: “You don’t have to miss the kids’ game or recital when you can work anywhere. 20% of parents said they have worked at a child’s event or activity.” Now, I know this is nothing compared to epidemic diarrhea, Bill, but working during a child’s recital? Is this really part of how you’re working to solve health and dignity?
And then there’s my favorite” “No need to record your favorite show when you can work on the couch. 44% have worked when they were watching TV.”
Now what’s wrong with a little motivation? Surely this only helps productivity which, in turn, gives you the bucks to handle looming third-world issues.
But let’s look at the problems here at home for a minute. According to a study done by the University of Virginia (Kushlev), 95 percent of smartphone owners readily confess to using their respective devices at social gatherings, and one in 10 admit to checking their phones right in the middle of sex.
If someone’s checking their latest messages during sex, or the latest Excel spreadsheet on the can, aren’t we faced with a sociological problem, not to mention a sexual and intimacy one? And isn’t this — as Kushlev reported in his studies — contributing to significantly higher levels of hyperactivity and inattention?
It’s one thing to address health and human dignity in third world countries, it’s another to ignore problems right here at home. Will you solve sanitation issues in India while your own employees disconnect from family and friends because of pressures from programs like #GetItDone?
I know you’re probably saying smartphones aren’t your fault. Why don’t I go after Apple or AT&T? Because, Bill, Microsoft is leading the way in “getting things done,” meaning stay working, even when you should be paying attention to your family, or lover, or some intimate pursuit like thinking.
If the end game is to improve overall health and dignity, Bill, I’d pay more attention to the smell at home. Billions of people are already addicted to their phones and the whole idea of connectivity. ADHD-like symptoms are growing daily and student attention levels are decreasing dramatically.
If that’s not a serious world health issue today, Bill, I don’t know what is.
What do the rest of you think? Do you notice a smell with all our connectivity today? And is it a threat to our health and human dignity? Let me know at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Cormack is a freelance copywriter, novelist and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. Check out Yucca Publishing or Skyhorse Press for more details (you can also buy my book from them).