I’ve been mistaken before


Have you ever read the book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat? Written in 1985 by neurologist Oliver Sacks, it describes some of the unusual brain disorders Dr. Sacks observed in his clinical practice.

Like many of you, at night I like to read myself a bedtime story before I go to sleep, and one night a few years ago, this was my chosen storybook. Right before I fell asleep, I read the chapter “The Dog Beneath the Skin,” a description of a medical student who takes a large amount of drugs and wakes up with a dog-like sense of smell. For a limited time, he can distinguish people just by smell and is overwhelmed by the multitude of odors around him.

Later that night, I woke up from a deep sleep because of my sheets. They had that fresh, crisp smell laundry has when you hang it outside on a clothesline. After burying my face in the delicious scent of the pillowcase, I fell back asleep. When I woke up, the smell was gone.

We didn’t have a dryer then, so I hung our clothes out to dry on the balcony. But I had laundered the sheets earlier in the week. They had a mid-week smell, nothing more.

I’ve never been able to figure out what happened. Was it the power of suggestion, a dream, or was my brain running some tests on my olfactory nerve and accidently woke me up?

Why did I think of Sacks’ book this morning? Winter showed up yesterday with lots of snow, and my husband just woke up and mistook me for the weather: gray and gloomy.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for the Weather