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The Unreliable Guide To…Browsing

By Nat Shepherd on September 29, 2021 in Satire

You smell delicious. Photo: Claudia Sniffer

Here’s a thing The Unreliable Guide never expected to miss – browsing in shops. Due to COVID-19, browsing is currently an illegal activity in NSW, but it was never something I particularly enjoyed anyway. Shopping for me was always more of a mission – I targeted what I needed, went in and bought it. I was a mall ninja, a highly-skilled commando shopper. I took no prisoners and I was quick and effective.
But now I’m not allowed to wander around shops, stroking fur cushions and sniffing the leather on fancy jackets, so I find myself browsing online instead. For hours and hours. And it seems I’m not alone. Statistics show that this lockdown has caused a 36 per cent increase in online purchases compared to this time last year. I understand why, but it’s just not the same.
It turns out we shop with far more than just our eyes. Not only are the goods now two instead of three-dimensional, they don’t smell, taste or feel of anything. And this has got me thinking about what kind of world we are moving into.

Does it Pass the Smell Test?

We often forget the fact that we are animals, driven by animal urges. This is important because an online world driven by data cannot satisfy those urges. When The Unreliable Guide first met their other half, it was their smell that made me realise they were The One. They smelled perfect, like home. And if you think that’s weird, science has long known that certain body odours are significantly connected to human sexual attraction.
When we meet someone we fancy, we subconsciously analyse their scent to identify if our potential mate will provide favourable genetic traits for our offspring. And this is something that is absolutely missing when we choose our partners from a pile of two-dimensional photographs or videos. And it’s the same for online shopping. Those shoes might look fantastic on the website, but when the delivery arrives and you open the box they smell like petrol and have a weird insole that feels like walking on knives. The only option is a shoe-divorce. Put them on Gumtree or eBay and hope some other sucker falls for the photo like you did.

The New Normal

So is this isolated online world going to be our new normal? Lockdown has forced us all to stay at home, but recent trends show we’ve been doing that more and more anyway. Many of us now genuinely prefer social media to socialising. In a world terrified of the next pandemic, a simple solution seems to be to wrap us all in cotton wool and make sure we avoid all physical contact. No sneezes means no diseases. The only infection you’ll worry about will be a computer virus. But at what cost to your animal self?

Finally, The Unreliable Guide suggests that we all get out and sniff the breeze, while we still can. Hug the people in your bubble and tell them that they smell great today.