Thursday, January 18, 2007


Taking a break from wearing perfume can be a really good thing, but taking a break from personal cleanliness is just disturbing.

Every so often a woman drenched in perfume will sit near you. Tell me, what is worse thanbeing strangled by a toxic amount of perfume?
Long ago, I was on a flight from Paris to New York. This man sat down next to me.
Actually, I smelled him before I saw him, before he sat down. I smelled ... and looked up. He was putting his bag into the overhead compartment. His entire head seemed to be coated with some oily substance. The jacket he wore looked like it had a life of its own, it could probably stand up by itself, and even walk away.( Maybe the last time it was on its own, it rolled in some crap and rummaged through a dumpster.)
Stinkyman was wearing old bedroom slippers instead of shoes. He sat down and the very bad sniffathon began.
He smelled like a combination of sweat, urine, grimy clothes, rusty metal, layers of dirt and wet cigar butts. He kept his diseased jacket on, eased his slippers off, (ooof!) and relaxed.
Although he ignored me completely and remained mute, even to the stewardess, his stench grabbed me and would not let go. So there I was, with Stinkyman, my new neighbor.
The flight was full, and considering the circumstances, no one would even think of changing seats with me. I stood with a stewardess in the back of the plane and she chatted with me about him. She too was appalled. She told me stories of stinky flying people she had encountered, but the stories did not make me feel better, even though they were amusing. Yes, laugh -- and then go back to stench. I finally remembered some perfume sample vials I had in my handbag. I had completely forgotten about them! I had to hold back tears of joy...would it work?
I didn't have to wait long for Stinkyman to fall asleep. I gave his filthy suede jacket a healthy spritz of perfume. Only then could I drift off to sleep myself, the stench subdued by jasmine and roses. Every so often the stench would return full force -- I bravely re-spritzed, and the stench retreated.
When Stinkyman awoke near the end of the flight, he slowly came out of his daze, and twisting his head from side to side, began to sniff suspiciously at his jacket. Although we never made eye contact I knew it was dawning on Stinkyman that "someone" had sprayed him. As we deplaned, he became suddenly courteous to me, and spoke at last, saying things like "Excuse me" and "Please, let me help get your bag down."
I imagined this to be his unspoken apology for not bathing or wearing clean clothes.
Every time I must suffer an over-perfumed person, I just think of my 8 hours with Stinkyman on that fight from Paris, and then it doesn't seem quite so bad.