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Danny Wallace presents to you: a life-changing fact

"The person I mention it to is blown away"

Danny Wallace presents to you: a life-changing fact
09 August 2018

The other day I stumbled accidentally across a very interesting fact while “cyber surfing”, and you are lucky I am going to share it with you here.

It is this: the lovely earthy smell you get after it’s rained for the first time in ages is called “petrichor”.

This was, I decided, precisely the kind of fact I should know. It is not just fascinating and enriching, but also speaks of a unifying human experience, and also and most importantly, no one else at all knows it. Facts like these can be used as weapons. They elevate you. You are respected just for knowing what nobody else knows.

I mean geologists know it’s called petrichor, probably. And maybe farmers. And you know it now. (And if I know you like I think I know you, I know you’ll say you knew it already and that everybody knows it, but just so you know: I know you only know it because you just read about me just reading about it.)

There’s a whole bunch of other stuff the site said about petrichor, like what it means and why, but really, who cares? Just knowing it’s called petrichor is reward enough. People are free to do their own subsequent research once I have imparted my wisdom and inspiration, and I look forward to receiving your essays and notes.

But right now I am mainly excited for it to rain again. Ideally in constant stops and starts. Just so I can use the fact on people who don’t know it (ie, everyone).

This is going to be pretty big for me. I won’t tell people I got it off the internet. I’ll act like I learned it along the way as I travelled life’s journey. It will be more impressive that way. I’ll offer it to strangers in parks as I sniff the air after rainfall. Sometimes I might just hang around allotments or open spaces and mutter “petrichor” until I’m approached by small groups asking me what that mysterious word could possibly mean. I imagine people will ask me to tutor their children, and The One Show might do a segment on it, which they’ll ask me to host (I’ll say no).

And the first time I whip out my petrichor fact and take my place as the petrichor king, it works a treat. The person I mention it to is blown away. He says, “I did not know that smell had a name!” And I say “Yes! It’s petrichor!”

And so I continue.

I tell one of my neighbours that the smell he smelled the other day is called petrichor. And I tell a colleague. I am met with amazement, and genuine smiles from people who perhaps for the first time have realised I am here to selflessly enrich their lives.

But after a little while, it also has another impact. A darker one.

I begin to completely lose respect for anyone who did not know before I told them that the earthy smell you get after it hasn’t rained in a long time is called petrichor.

I mean, I’ve known it for ages now, ever since I read it on the internet less than a week ago. How have other people – grown-ups – gone through life not knowing this? It is not my job to educate the entire world on what petrichor is. Sooner or later, people have to start learning for themselves, just like I did, five days earlier. I decide to stop telling people about petrichor. And then I meet Adam.

Adam can play the guitar and speak three languages and sail.

I find out all this within the first few minutes of meeting him, but someone else tells me, which is so much cooler than Adam telling me himself. Adam’s a chef and he’s got sleeve tattoos. This is all a lot to try to compete with, but remember: I’ve got a little something up my sleeve as well. A fact weapon! I just need to wait for someone at this party to mention all this weather we’ve been having recently, which means I might have to wait up to less than two minutes. And then…

“That heatwave was intense,” says someone who I haven’t really taken in because I’m focused on impressing Adam. “When those storms hit, it was, like, thank God!”

And we’re off!

“You know the smell you get in the air right after it rains?”

I say. “I found out recently that’s called ‘petrichor’!”

Everyone goes, “Is it?!” and, “Ooh!” and Adam nods and raises his beer. But incredibly, it is not to thank me; it is to indicate he has something to add.

Wait… to add?!

“Yeah, it’s Greek,” he says, nodding again and making it seem as though we’re a cool info duo. “It means, ‘Fluid flowing in the gods’ veins’, I think. The way the water runs through the earth.”

Everyone goes, “Wow!” and, “How did you know that?” but he knew that BECAUSE HE READ IT ON THE INTERNET. Just like I did! Except he read a bit further!

“Just picked it up,” says Adam, as everyone forgets about me, but I know his lie.

Faker Adam tries to talk to me some more that night but I am just not interested. I simply cannot hang out with someone who pretends they know stuff they just read online.

Our friendship is doomed. Fact.

(Image: Getty)