Monday, June 2, 2008

Unfortunate Lingering Odors

The problem with the public library is that it is public and thereby I have no control over the people who may or may not sit in my general vicinity. I would personally like to put out a ten foot no fly/walk or passing of gas zone radius around my body that would be effective at all times unless you have been specifically approved to enter into my personal space. And of course at any given times, people normally allowed access to my personal space could be arbitrarily kicked out for specific offenses commited in my safe haven.

I say this because especially at the library, I have been the unfortunate victim of the Lingering Odors phenomenon. There I sit, earnestly typing away or reading for research, breathing, like I normally do, the clean and pleasant odors of books and paper, occassionally interspersed with the slightly unpleasant very old book smell that occurs when someone is perusing the stacks and opens an oldie.

And then it happens. Without fail. Someone will either burp, fart, take off their shoes or just have failed to use their deodorant on an unusually hot day and I begin to suffer.

Listen I'm not trying to be mean about this, I just happen to have a very sensitive nose. It is really more of a curse. I spend most of my life breathing through my mouth to avoid unpleasant smells. I am cursed by sympathetic vomiting not because of the visual but because of the odor. Taking the NYC subways all my life was the bane of my existence because nothing smells funkier than the subway tracks. I am paralyzed by port-o-potties and would rather crap my pants than go into one. But I would rather jump in front of a Mac Truck rather than crap my pants. At least I would be dead.

So the other day a pungent offender came to sit next to me. The acrid BO smell had high notes of gamey meat and low notes of garlic and middle notes of IthinkI'mgoingtovomit. On top of the complexity of his STINK, he had compounded his offense by spraying himself heavily in some expensive I'mgoingclubbingtonightandhopingtogetlucky cologne. Holy crap are you kidding me? Let me explain something to you, showering in cologne does not actually make you smell better if you don't actually clean yourself first. And to make matters worse. Oh yes there is a worse. Everytime he shifted in his seat, you could smell nasty butt stink. That actually made me angry and in a huff of gagging fury, I packed up my laptop and books and ran away to another available spot across the room from Stinky butt man.

I thought I was safe, I really did. This time I was seated next to a woman. Women usually smell better then men. But not this woman. Perhaps she had a glandular problem. Perhaps she ate a particularly pungent meal that day. Perhaps she was related to Stinky butt man. I don't know what it was, but it was nearly as bad. Nearly. At least next to her, it wasn't a lingering in your face odor. Hers came in waves. I'd be typing along at a fast clip and suddenly a wave of sweaty dirty sneaker odor would hit me and make my eyes water. Then it would pass and I would be fine and then a few minutes later I would smell sweaty musky underarm odor. And then someone in my area burped and I swear they must have been eating hot dogs and onions. You could almost smell mustard in the air.

Not the type to pretend and ignore such a stink, I waved my hands frantically in the air and glared at all three people sitting in their separate cubicles next to and in front of me. The two guys in front of me wouldn't even look up but funky woman next to me had the audacity to sit there holding her nose and glaring at me! Can you believe the nerve? Her stinky ass giving me the evil eye?

Indignant, I had to defend myself.

"That was not me!" I whispered at her.

I could tell from her facial expression that she did not believe me.

"I'm telling you that was not me! I did not have hot dogs or onions for lunch!" In a louder whisper.

All of a sudden another wave of odor hit us, making my eyes cross. We turned to stare at the men sitting in front of us, both studiously avoiding eye contact. I looked at her and stuck out my hand at the men, as if to say "See! Told you!" She nodded her head and then turned an evil eye at the both of them. By this time, I am nearly hyperventilating because I'm trying not to breathe through my nose and I'm mad and I think it is the old guy right in front of me and I have a sneaking suspicion he is deliberately blowing them my way but I can still smell musky woman next to me and when the next wave of onions hits me I have had it!

"That's it! I can't take it anymore!" I muttered as I angrily packed up my stuff and glared at both men. This time they looked up at me. The younger man seemed a bit bewildered to see me glaring while the older man was indifferent. Musky woman eyed me sympathetically and glared at the men again. But it is too late, the odors have done me in and I left the library and headed home where at least I knew I would be safe from unpleasant odors.

At least until the kids and Da man get home.

I think I need to invest in a gas mask.


Anonymous said...

ah Ello...I agree. I don't have an overly particular nose but I really, really hate smelly people. I have had a habit, ever since I was a kid, of not breathing in immediately after someone walks past me until I feel that little delayed rush of wind that says they are gone because I hate the smell of clothes washed in hard's stupid, but it's the overly cheap soap smell. Most perfumes and stuff are not such a big deal..unless it's that shyte that 16 year old girls like to drown themselves in that make them smell like three day old sex. And I've had it appear out of nowhere so I know they buy it in bottle form. They can't all be skanks. Augh. If we ever get the chance to meet, I hope I pass your smelling standards hehe. Just do like the cartoons and wear a closepin on your nose. (c:

Anonymous said...

Oh poor Ello! I had two immediate thoughts after I stopped laughing and regained control of myself after reading, "I am paralyzed by port-o-potties and would rather crap my pants than go into one". My first thought was that I'm grateful that my sense of smell isn't overly sensitive. I imagine your discomfort around smells is similar to my discomfort sitting across from someone who's chewing with his mouth open or making loud smacking noises while he eats. The second thought I had was, "OHMYGOD, what if I stink and I don't even know it because my sense of smell isn't that great!!??" It was even worse when I read that Riss can smell what kind of water and detergent a person did her laundry in (no shit?). My sense of smell isn't completely inoperable. I can smell stronger smells, like big time BO, perfume, garlic, whiskey, or if someone is a smoker. I've smelled feet on an airplane (uck) and of course I can smell it if someone rips one in my vicinity. When (notice I didn't say "if") we finally get a chance to meet one of these days, I'm totally fasting for three days first and wearing all new clothes!

Anonymous said...

Hmnn, you might have a problem living around me. Seeing as I have no sense of smell and have to rely on Lana as my designated smeller.

Anonymous said...

*smells armpits and stops scratching butt*

Oh Ello, this is quite funny! Nasty butt stink-that's a classic!!

Anonymous said...

"At least I would be dead before the shit came out."
OK sentences like that should come with a warning. I am currently full of either a cold or allergies and having me snorting with laughter is just plain wrong!

I have a regular old nosey so I'm just forced into the gag reflex at the usual stinks. My particular bĂȘte noir is horrible feet. Last year I was in line at the post office when my eyes rested on the sandaled feet of an old man - purple and yellow, scaley, covered in scabs, long black and yellow curly nails . . I'm nauseous just remembering them. I had to leave as Puking was inevitable if I'd stayed. I wasn't close enough to smell them thank God. Poor Old guy but ... BARF!

Anonymous said...

Sister! This is my problem exactly, and I really do know how you feel. I am also a sympathetic vomiter; imagine how I felt cleaning up after my kids when they got their yearly kyusei icho-en (acute gastroenteritis) and I had to deal with upper AND lower stuff four or five times an hour. Thank God my kids have stopped this, and thank God I finally got the younger to regularly change her socks.

Don't breathe through your mouth: you are ingesting the molecules of smell! Go out right now and get yourself some of those surgical masks. Have them in your bag and whenever you encounter a stinky person, put on two. There is an added benefit: many people will assume you've got something awful like TB and will give you a wide berth, making your problem a lot easier to bear. I used to take the NYC subways AND the Tokyo chikatetsu -- in the summer, no less -- and I know what I'm talking about.

Anonymous said...

I had to learn to turn OFF my sense of smell or I never would have been able to raise my kids, have pets, etc.
Are you available as a smell consultant?

Anonymous said...

it would be funny if it were not so true... i'm with you, i could not remain in such an area, either

at home, if i fart, at least i can burn a match... if i have to stay around myself :O

Anonymous said...

Ah Riss - but clothespins hurt the nose but I am with you on the cheapass perfume young girls wear! They are horrible!

Lisa - We will meet and I bet you you do not stink! Most people who regularly shower don't. Just don't spray yourself with a ton of perfume before you see me and I will be fine! ;o)

Charles - I know you are fine because you have Lana!

Chris - rhinothongbutt must have stink butt - I mean look at that thing!

Janey - stinky feet kill me! Absolutely kill me. It is one of the reasons I don't like fritos or doritos in the house because I swear they smell like stinky feet!

Mary - seriously, I am definitely going to buy those things! I think I desperately need them and I couldn't care less what people think! Poor you on all that vomit! I had the same thing with oldest who was a projectile vomiter until we realized she was allergic to milk.

Bernita - please tell me how to turn it off!! please! I'd pay for that information!

Laughingwolf - but my farts don't stink! ;o) he he

Anonymous said...

I was feeling a little woozy just reading this post. Very funny, though.

Actually, I found myself holding my breath while I read :)

Anonymous said...

hahahahaha! poor ello, but told so eloquently! love this post!!! i hate stenches, too. it's esp bad when i'm trapped on the ellipitcal machine. i've literally done 30 minutes with my head turned the other way. i hope they grab a clue. blech.

Anonymous said...

Ah, public libraries. Aren't they a treat? While I do love the library and all its wonderful books, the inhabitants (especially at our downtown branch) leave me wondering if they know what SOAP is. Every time I leave that place, I immediately wash my hands. I just feel icky.

Anonymous said...

The one thing I really don't like about San Francisco is that it's a smelly city. You can't walk thirty feet without getting a whiff of dried urine, fetid sewer, or stale B.O. And I'm one of those with a weak sense of smell. Or maybe it's just selective.

I am, however, reasonably sure I don't stink most of the time because my wife is ultra sensitive. I mean in smelling.

Lisa, I was right there with you until I misread your last line: I'm totally fasting for three days first and wearing all new clothes!

At first I read "farting" instead of "fasting." I figured you were planning on getting it all out of the way before meeting. Thank goodness I reread it. :-)

Anonymous said...

Ugh, I have a sensitive nose, too. Last summer I was woking on amission trip in Puerto Rico, fixing an old lady's house, and I lost my appetite because of the smell every day.

And strong perfume gives me a headache; why don't people know how to apply it properly?


Anonymous said...

I'm with Janeyv - "At least I would be dead before the shit came out." is an instant classic.

You could have that on your gravestone - "I beat the shit to the finish line."

Anonymous said...

I can't stand garlic on breath either. I can sense it from 10 yards.

Anonymous said...

i mean my own, esp. after i make/consume my special wuffy chili :O lol

Anonymous said...

Don't feel so bad...the main branch of our library (where I used to work,) had an elderly gentleman patron whose kids would drop him off every day to spend all day there (I guess we were babysitters. I was told early on NEVER to make eye contact with him.) Long story short, a few months back he actually crapped his pants in the library & the police (& his kids,) had to be called. The director finally put her foot down & banned him from the library unless he was accompanied by one of his kids.

Anonymous said...

I relate to this one too, sadly enough. The whole post got me, but here in the comments:

"I don't like fritos or doritos in the house because I swear they smell like stinky feet."

I've called Fritos "Feetos" for years for that very reason.

Anonymous said...

lol @ flo

i call em: dori-toes, free-toes, and toasty-toes ;)

Anonymous said...

The realities of life -- but you made me think about something that I hadn't before. Public places are rife (and ripe!) with various odors. But one place I never expect that and never want to is in the library. It's somehow such a sacred place to me. Much as a Church.

Anonymous said...

My nose is quite sensitive too.
Sometimes I can trace back the path of a very stinky person, when we are in the same small shop for example.

But I guess some stinky people
suffer quite much from their very own smell.
Just imagine: you go away and leave the stuff, but s/he is cursed with it.

Anonymous said...

Pregnancy was a rough time for my sensitive nose. The whole world seemed to dare me to vomit...

B.O. is the worst. For sure.

Anonymous said...

I have this problem, Ello. I can't stand funky smells. Ugh. Too much cologne, too much BO, you name it. Luckily my library is usually extremely bare. Why not try Vicks Vaporub under your nostrils? That's what CSI and cops use before going on stinky crime scenes. If it can cover up the scent of death, it might work on hot dogs with onions too.

Big hugs to you. I feel your pain.

Anonymous said...

OH my gosh! Look at all of us complaining about the stinkers in the world! Maybe we can form an association. We could be the PASA - People Against Stinky Asses.

Anonymous said...

Ello, carry Vicks with you and apply under your nostrils as needed!

Anonymous said...

Vicks, spearmint oil, cinnamon oil. All things we dabbed inside our masks in nursing when dealing with the worst of the worst.

Here's a point to ponder, Ello: what to people do in the bathroom to motivate their intestines? It's the classic, take-the-paper-in-with-you. I swear reading stimulates peristalsis. So the library would be a haven for gas-passing of all flavors.

Me, I can't walk into a hallmark store without getting the raging farts. Fortunately I have the good sense to leave the store but not all are as courteous.

BTW, how do you handle being in a house with such fart-obsessed kids?

Anonymous said...

Larramie and Mom in scrubs. I am gonna try this!!!

Mom in scrubs - my middle and youngest love to come and fart towards me because they know I'm going to react. I should stop reacting but I can't stop the gag reflex so I will get some face masks and vicks to counteract them! ;o)

Anonymous said...

:-) :-) :-) :-) :-)

Ello, what the hell's going on at that library?!?!?!

I feel for you, I'm rather sensitive myself.

I think that wearing a lot of perfume is in bad taste even if it's worn on a clean skin.
Bad smells... It is said that is why the French were heavily using the perfumes in the times of Louis XIV, for example - to cover the smells of pee and other nasties coming from all the corners of the Louvre... Just imagine yourself living in those times! :-)

Anonymous said...

On my flight to LA there was a multigenerational family of roughly 40 people from a country that doesn't share our cultural belief in deodorant. Then, after I sat down in the middle seat, the passenger who had the window seat sat down. She said, "Let me apologize right now. I've got motion issues and I will use the sick bag."

Yeah, it was a GREAT flight. But I count myself lucky since American had delayed my flight due to mechanical problems and I was on stand by with United and was actually able to make the event I was going to that evening.

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