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"The Stink"

Garden variety smells lingered throughout the metropolis I called home. “It smells really weird around here” was a tired expression in my world. Just as it’s routine to put your shoes on before you leave the house, it was equally trite to find a stink cloud hovering above you during a stroll through the city. In fact, one couldn’t even spend a relaxing Sunday afternoon by the river without some sort of odd smell invading your most peaceful thoughts (offensive smells and awkward stinks were business as usual there). Nevertheless, it was best not to let that rancid Frankfurt, Germany, air ruin my day.

My fondest memory of your everyday foul smell was on the U5 train during an after-work commute home. The minute my heel came to rest on that second step, I knew I was in for a good one. The entire train compartment smelled like bad tuna. And, as luck would have it, I walked right into the middle of a real-life improvisational sketch comedy act.

The listless atmosphere and somber expressions on the many folks who were reminiscent of Javier Bardem’s character in No Country for Old Men set up the scene perfectly. I was among the walking dead—yet again. I was also in the company of a stink bomb, with no possible escape route. It was gross. But this was nothing I hadn’t experienced before.

To avoid vomiting, I sealed my mouth shut and engaged in a regimented yogic breathing session. I went through the usual psychological pep talk—in my own head—in order to stay the course. Naturally, there was the lingering silence among the stink, which always makes that type of situation even more mentally challenging.

The no sound rule persisted until the next stop, when finally a young girl hopped on board and started to stir the pot. Something about her frazzled look immediately crippled my opportunity to get off the train. This damsel had the appearance of someone special, perhaps a modern day crap smell outlaw.

Within seconds after she boarded, the silence was broken.

Da stinkts,” she said while pointing at the seat in front of her. “Da stinkts,” she then said again, squirming. I stared intently at her, taking careful notice of her frenetic state—the wheels were definitely turning up there. She gave a quick look from east to west, catching my eye for only a moment. I looked away.

Appearing completely mad now, she reached for the handle of a nearby window and pulled it forward, nearly smacking herself in the face. Then, she barreled her way over to the adjacent window, reached above the elderly man seated below, and opened that one as well. “Da stinkts!”

Without warning, the man jumped up from his seat and slammed the window shut in retaliation. “Da stinkts,” she said again. He waved his other hand at her to sit down. Next thing I know, she lunges at the train driver’s door behind her and forces it wide open. “Da stinkts!” This guy wasn’t having any of it, though. In his finest train driver vernacular, he yelled back and slammed the door shut.

What the hell is going on here? I thought to myself. Then, all of a sudden, there it was again—full-on silence. And there I stood, captivated by a horrid smell and inches away from the one who flew over the cuckoo’s nest. Man, what a headache. I just wanted to get home.

Eventually, she finished her tantrum and was evidently going to let us all enjoy the wretched smell in peace. I shuffled a little bit closer to the door and put my head down. Finally, a brief sigh of relief came over me. When I looked up moments later, however, there she was, standing with her back to me ... picking her ass—right in front of me. And a couple of fingers were doing the work, too. Double gross. As if dealing with an intolerable smell wasn’t troubling enough, now I had to deal with her picking at her ass in slow motion. The next stop couldn’t have arrived soon enough, but for some reason, I couldn’t get off. Instead, I just watched as each person stomped down the stairs, one lead foot after another. Thump. Thump. Thump. I was captivated.

My comatose state began to wane by the time the next stop came. I would need the energy to get off the corrupt train once and for all, but no such luck. An older woman with a “let’s do this, buddy” look on her face impeded my progress by springing up out of her seat and rushing toward the door from the other direction … at the exact moment I was headed for the door. She charged right at me in typical impatient woman fashion, coming within a hair of mounting me. Fortunately, my fast juke move allowed me to slip out of her way just in time.

“Over there,” I muttered to her as I halfway pointed at the door. Now, where is that smell detective chick? I wondered. I stopped to look around and ahead. There. There she was. I spotted her exiting the train at the far end door—poof. Off she went. Into the sunset. No goodbyes. When I finally regained my focus, it became apparent that my door had closed. Opportunity denied.

As I walked back to my seat, my head down low in disgust, my mind began venturing on a metaphysical journey of unrelated matters, a journey that could only be triggered by the endurance of an eventful crap ride. And so, I remained there, feeling somewhat hypnotized by the opening and closing of the train doors at each stop, and looking up to stare fixedly out the window, much like Will did on the train in Good Will Hunting. Indeed, I had toughed it out.

Sadly, that would not be the last of my smelly whiffs. More stinky episodes would come my way in Frankfurt. But none would be as colorful as the one on that seemingly ordinary Tuesday on the U5 train.


The moral of your story @Cloudyskies is this: No matter how good the writing never, ever take public transport again.

Was the smell coming from a gas factory or the like? Did you ever figure it out?
You should always carry some of that cologne first made in Cologne,, Germany....47ll, I think. Spray it occasionally, it doesn't last long. Yours, Lenora

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