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Jewish World Review Sept. 10, 2001 / 21 Elul, 5761

Steve Young

Steve Young
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Consumer Reports

Smelling out a real hero -- I'VE been hearing about a general lack of heroes in our world today. Perhaps it's not for a lack of heroes as much as our looking in the wrong places.

Websters Dictionary defines "hero" as "a person admired for his achievement and qualities." I would add that these people likely accomplish things that most people wouldn't even dare to attempt.

I submit for your consideration one such candidate for the title of hero...the people who serve humanity in the most heroic manner. I speak, ladies and gentlemen, of the "Breath Sniffers."

For the uninitiated, Breath Sniffers are specially trained human sniffers whose job it is to assess the breath or the odors wafting up from scrapings of film from the back of the tongue. Another words, they get paid to smell stinky breath. How many applicants do you think are lined up for this position?

Why do we even need people to do this? Well, without them millions of people might go untreated for all kinds of ailments that are signified by bad breath. Gum disease, chronic sinus infections, tooth-rotting and dry mouth syndrome..

Sometimes, bad breath can provide clues to more serious problems like kidney malfunction, stomach ulcers, diabetes or hepatitis.

As far as I'm concerned these people go above and beyond. Some mornings I can't take my own breath. Becoming intimate with some stranger's rank odor is, to say the least, not on the top of my wish list.

I don't believe any of these inhalers of foulness are just, excuse the expression, rank amateurs. So where do they come from? Is there a Putrid University somewhere on the New Jersey Turnpike where you can learn the all the aspects of stink? And in the hallowed halls at good old P.U. do they have classes in Stench 101 or Advanced Halitosis. Does some poor slob have to play mascot by dressing up as a rotten egg?

The answer is "no." Fact is, these selfless protectors of our air just happen to be very sensitive people who have chosen a career path that most of us would hold our noses to.

Isn't it about time that we look past the sports fields, gold records and movies for our real heros. You'd have a pretty difficult time classifying the sacrifices of these so-called superstars as anything other than selfless. When's the last time you had to pay to get an autograph from a breath sniffer?

So instead of bemoaning the lack of heros, let us all take off our gas masks and bow gracefully to the defenders of clean air; the gallant men and women who heroically breath the gamy odors of your so that we don't have to. Let's tip our hats and doff our face masks off to...the new hero...the Breath Sniffer.

Steve Young is a Prism Award winner and a Humanitas Prize nominee for his television writing and is author of "Great Failures Of The Extremely Successful. (Tallfellow Press). Comment by clicking here.

09/04/01: Don't give up on that dream!
08/24/01: Pitch day at the Mouse
08/21/01: It Depends On What Your Definition Of "Unlimited" Is


© 2001, Steve Young