The Smell of Google

September 6, 2008

You wouldn't know it by going to the Google search page, pressing your nose against the monitor, and inhaling deeply, but Google has a particular smell. As I enter the fourth floor office in New York every day, the scent wafts over me signaling my arrival. It's reminiscent of when my mother used to bake a fresh batch of banana bread. Simultaneously sweet and a little stale or overripe, like fresh paint or warm clean blankets that have been sitting in a musty trunk over the summer. It's an enveloping, exciting smell laden with energy and promise -- deep espresso notes and a hint of molded plastic.

It's a smell that, should I come across in a distant unrelated context, will always invoke that first year, walking through the Google office marveling at the creativity playing itself out in Lego sculptures and engineers happily zipping by on foot scooters. It has become, in effect, part of that larger complex aroma of New York City that ranges from stinky Chinatown streets to moldering park leaves in the fall to bleached subway cars to the smell of Italian food wafting from sidewalk cafes. Smells that will constantly be my passport back to this very particular moment and what it meant to me at the time.