The energy of the mind is the essence of life. – Aristotle

Gasping For Air

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Several years ago, on one of my trips to London, England, I boarded the crowded subway or “tube” as the English call it during rush hour.  The car I happened to be “queued” up for was full, and as the doors slid open and the female voice articulated the name of the stop I happened to be leaving, no one on the car seemed to be needing the Tower Hill stop.  The people in front of me, along with myself, boarded the car as quickly as we could, carefully “minding the gap” and getting more acquainted with each other than a can of sardines.

There is standing room only.  I am positioned a few inches from the holding bar next to an older gentlemen on his way home from work.  It’s probably 40-50 degrees outside, and he is carrying his suit jacket in hand to reveal his long sleeve white shirt.  Those of you who know me, I stand at five foot tall. Compared to the man next to me, I don’t quite come up to his shoulder.  He is holding on to the bar shared with ten others, with his hand higher than everyone else’s because he is the tallest one on this side of the cart.

As the doors close, and the train starts to move, I find my nose six inches from the gentlemen’s armpit and the aromatic fragrance coming from it.  That was the most rancid smell I have ever sensed in my life to this day, that unfortunately, I could not escape.

The train slowed, and I prayed that this gentlemen would get off the train, or half the people on the train would get off so that I could move to another spot.  Or maybe that I would be able to grow 2 inches towards the heavens.  No such luck.  As the doors closed once again, my eyes watered and stomach began to turn.  I tilted my head downward and leaned my forehead against the pole so that I could dodge the stench.  Bad idea.  As the train slowed for the next stop, my head slammed into the pole face first.

The smelly gentlemen next to me noticed and asked if I was ok.  Luckily, I could use this as an excuse for my eyes watering.  The dampness under his arm stretched from four inches from his elbow to two ribs from the bottom.  I held my breath and tucked my nose into my shirt as discretely as I could for three more stops.  Finally, he was on his way, and I could gasp for fresh air or potentially dream of a good dinner again.

Words like deodorant come to mind.  This guy had never heard of this word or product.  We seem to think of toiletries like this as a daily practice that everyone goes through.  Can you remember a time you didn’t use deodorant?  Yes, you can because you regretted forgetting, and probably found yourself at a store to purchase some; or maybe you even avoided people at every chance so that they would not notice your foul odor and pungent trail you left behind.

To ad a bit of history, deodorant was invented about 1941 and was widely distributed by the 1950s.  In case you were wondering, you can probably ask your grandparents about life without deodorant.  We take for granted so many things and technologies that we have today that seem so small and insignificant now, but that without, life would be more repulsive and revolting.

So thank your friend, neighbor, or coworker next time you see them.  Thank them for making approaching them more pleasant so that we can all breathe friendly.


Author: Jess

Texan by birth, Okie by current address. Journalist who caught the travel bug. I have a healthy dachshund obsession and spend endless hours reading about world history on Wikipedia.

One thought on “Gasping For Air

  1. Never noticed the pingback all these years. Thanks !
    -Rahul (garnishednonsense)

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