They can lead us to love and amour and to babies that need to be changed; they can also warn of us danger and set in motion our flight or fight response.
But they can also detect odors that are almost enough to make us vomit.
And when this happens at your place of employment -- as it did at mine yesterday -- it's enough to make your face turn green.
This, for the uninformed, is a red snapper. In this form, and on its own, it's a beautiful fish, although I have never eaten one before. No, the offender yesterday was this.
Red snapper, apparently microwaved in the cafeteria downstairs, and brought up somehow unnoticed to our third-floor office by a wanker of an employee who likes to eat at his desk.
Almost immediately, the unbelievably rank odor of this animal started wafting its way through the entire newsroom and into the olefactory sensory thingies of about 100 noses.
At first, we all laughed. Then somebody found a reference on the Web to how a chemical called arsene (I'm assuming it's where arsenic comes from) can smell like cooked or fried fish.
The smell was so bad, people could not work. Passing supervisors were asked what the smell was. Someone, only half-jokingly, wondered if the office should be evacuated and the HazMat unit called.
Eventually, someone tracked this guy down. He sits in a little cubbyhole behind some screens where no one can see him.
And when the entire office converged on him to express their displeasure (in a joking way) and tease him about polluting us all, his thing was, "What did I do?"
There's enough putrid smells at work as it is, on occasion, with people kissing bosses' asses at times and with the stinky stench of people talking behind others' backs.
He has the right to eat whatever he wants, of course. But did he have to bring into the office and make everybody else smell it? I don't think so. Or maybe our Health and Safety committee needs to provide noseplugs.
What are some of the dunderhead, inconsiderate, me-first things you've seen fellow employees do at your place of work? Or do you think this guy was fully within his rights to do what he did?