I had a hunting trip (the subject of an upcoming post) in November, but that’s a poor excuse for going three weeks without a blog entry. You get to working a lot, dealing with family and social engagements, and inertia takes over … until something jolts you out of that. Something so horrible, so awful, so ridiculous that you have to shout about it a little. My ride home on the Acela Express on Tuesday was just such a galvanizing event.
Everyone’s been in uncomfortable positions, where someone didn’t have quite the same standards as do we for public behavior. We’ve ridden the subway next to someone who decided to save time by clipping their nails on the way to work; we’ve been stuck in elevators with people halitosis and no concept of personal space; we’ve flicked that unfortunate glance sideways at a red light and caught someone with a finder so deep in their nose that it seems like their massaging their hypothalamus gland. Yesterday, for the second time in a week, I encountered a savage who was unable or unwilling to clench their buttocks.
For a laugh, check out Alison’s encounter with the flatulent, and just recently we had another run-in with a smelly fellow human being when we went to see a fairly worthless movie (spoiler alert: Harry Something or Other). I kind of wish, but mostly don’t, that she could have been present to witness a true Stench. I was unsuspecting when I departed New York — I cut my trip short and caught a train back to DC mid-afternoon. There was only a crowd on the quiet car, so despite my misgivings (and having posted a status update that morning requesting that if I ever forewent the quiet car on an 0600 train, someone should put a bullet in my brain), I settled on one of the cars close to the front of the train.
A quick aside. I’ve always experienced an odd effect on trains, whether real ones or the DC Metro: people don’t sit next to me. A friend of mine postulated that I look ornery, but I have always rejected that explanation. Don’t tell me I smell bad, because I don’t. But I’ve literally made a show of moving my bag out of the way for newcomers to take the aisle seat, and they’ve instead woken up the person across the aisle to move a bag and coat to sit down. I suppose that’s a mystery for another day.
So I found myself alone but bracketed by business travelers in front, behind and to the side. The woman on the aisle across from me looked like the Shadout Mapes (without the blue eyes) and she kept shooting me dirty looks. The guy behind me was cracking himself up blaring bad jokes into his cell phone. The conductor had an intercom and a captive audience, and apparently a foiled career in standup. All in all, it was a typical afternoon on the train, so I cracked a beer and sank into a movie on my laptop.
The first salvo in a war that lasted the entire way to DC was fired about the time we were pulling into New Jersey Penn Station. As with all major conflicts, the first steps were subtle. I smelled something. It was playful, with caramel overtones and only a hint of menace, but it coallesced slowly into something decidely unpleasant. The effect faded after a few moments and I put it down to a random, unfortunate episode. But about 15 minutes later, it happened again. I instinctively put a hand over my face and glanced around to see who might be smirking or shifting uncomfortably. No luck identifying the culprit.
Did I say “about” 15 minutes? Because someone’s colon has an embedded timer. Every 15 minutes of the ride, a new cloud of evil washed over the car. I was looking around now for someone who’s pants were either literally burning or disintegrating. By Philadelphia, the look on my face must have been bordering on feral, because when I checked behind me, Loudmouth finally ended his phone conversation. Every time the Stench would fade away, I would glance at the time. It was like sitting on death row, again and again and again.
I recognize that in a blog, I have only words to relate this story, and that until they invent scratch-and-sniff monitors, words are the only tool I have. They are insufficient. The Shadout Mapes’s eyes were watering. Paint peeled off the walls. I swear I saw birds dropping dead from power lines as the train flew past them. I’m pretty sure my computer considered crashing more than once. Unable to concentrate on the movie I was watching or get any real work done, I sat stock still like a sniper utterly focused on identifying my opposite number and killing him before he killed me … again.
So I say to you, Fart Ninja, Silent but Violent, you are mighty. Thanks to all that is holy that I stuck with the Acela, 45 minutes and presumably three Stench attacks shorter than the Northeast regional. And I take some consolation in the fact that, despite my complaints about seating choice that morning, the quiet car wouldn’t have protected me at all. And they have electric outlets on the Acela, so I have my fingers crossed that no one complains about my Glade plug-in on my next trip.