diary of a mad
gassing an urban legend
As they often do, an urban legend popped up in Delphi's Navigating the Net Forum. This one was the one about a woman accosted in a parking lot by a stranger, who offers to sell her an expensive perfume at a low price. The woman sniffs the perfume, and awakens, minus all her valuables, to realize that it was ether.
My net friend Angela quickly responded with a link to Two Sniffs and You're Out! while I was composing my lengthier reply. I didn't hesitate to say that the story is almost certainly a hoax, because I have some first-hand experience in this area:
Some 25 or 30 years ago, my family had a tomcat who was returning from his nightly rounds with fresh, bleeding wounds almost every night. The subject of neutering came up, and a friend with some medical experience (he sold and installed computer systems for hospitals) suggested that it would be cheaper to do it ourselves than to pay for the services of a veterinarian. Pat volunteered to be surgeon; I was drafted as anæsthesiologist.
The game plan was:
It didn't work. All we got from that attempt was one very angry tomcat, who steadfastly refused to be anæsthetized.
Pat hastily called a hospital colleague, who may or may not have been a real anæsthesiologist. He instructed me that I'd have to hold an ether-saturated cloth firmly against the cat's nose for at least half a minute to obtain the desired effect, and that I'd have to keep it in place throughout the operation, because it wears off quickly. In fact, it was closer to a full minute before the cat was quiet enough to begin surgery.
The actual procedure probably took less time than that; Pat's two swift, tiny, neat incisions enabled the desired result with the spilling of only a few drops of blood. The cat quickly returned to consciousness, but it was many months before he would have anything to do with me.
Based on this experience, I'm quite sure it would require a much more violent action than a mere whiff of ether from a perfume atomizer or vial to cause a human to lose consciousness.