Please feel free to jump in on this one. It's a delicate topic, to be sure, but I’d love to hear from you, and tap into all the wisdom or experience you have to offer. Here’s the question: Is body odor one of the few remaining social taboos, one of the last unmentionable topics? Just to be clear, I’m not talking just a brief moment of someone’s bad breath, noticeable only at close range. No, I’m talking about pernicious creeping, spreading, wafting B.O. Like many of you, no doubt, I’ve gotten pretty good over the years at dealing with service people or with strangers in public places regarding life’s big and little annoyances. I’ve learned how to use a smile and a friendly voice to cope with everything from excessively noisy people or rude people, clueless people, even angry people…just about anything except…smelly people.
I was in the supermarket this morning, and had just pulled up to the conveyor belt and had unloaded a few items when I got hit with a wave of B.O. from the fellow in front of me. I’d been aware of him already in the aisles, the stinging malodor he’d left behind in the air like the valet in that Seinfeld episode. My friends, when I say this guy smelled, I mean it was so strong he could probably have knocked out satellite dish reception. I drew back from him, stifling a spontaneous woof of disgust, hoping he hadn’t heard me, and began re-carting my items – but too late. He turned to me, put down one of those bars that keep orders separated, and gave me a nod and a big smile. A lovely smile. He was obviously a very friendly man. I managed a weak smile in return, trying not to gag. As I backed up my cart I made a hand gesture and muttered something that could have been interpreted as me having forgotten something. Then I wheeled out of his line and over to the next till, feeling a little guilty. I wasn’t able to finish checking out ahead of him, and so had to follow him out of the store with my jacket lapel pulled over my mouth and nose, hoping he wouldn’t look back and see me…as if this whole episode was MY fault!! He’s the epicenter of a huge earthquake of smell ten times worse than roadkill, a condition he presumably has control over, and yet I don’t want to make him feel bad; I don't want to be rude??!!
Regarding that 'presumably" in the previous sentence, I should mention that this fellow was probably in his 50s, well dressed, not physically infirm in any way, and did not appear to be challenged in any mental or social capacity. I could hear him carrying on a chatty conversation with the store associate at his till (who, to her credit, never flinched although she must have been dying). In the parking lot, I saw my smelly man get in a late model Subaru, so I’m thinking he probably wasn’t a street person either. My point is, if he’d had an aura of stale cigar smoke, booze, or too much Aqua Velva, I would probably have just smiled, shook my head judgmentally, and tapped my nose as I backed away. Not this time, however. I don’t know why some otherwise capable people have such poor bodily hygiene and/or a lack of laundry skills. Just as unfathomable to me is why I felt the need to protect him from seeing the discomfort he's caused. Does anyone else feel this way, or do I just need therapy?
The Cloud Messenger (Meghadūta) is a lyric poem by the respected Indian poet, Kālidāsa. The poem centers around a yaksa in exile. Longing for his beloved, waiting for him on a Himalayan mountain, he asks a cloud to take a message to her. The sights he tells the cloud it will see on its way make up most of the poem.
The idea of recording observations appeals to me. I thought The Cloud Messenger was the perfect title for a blog about the journey that we all make as we move through our days.
I'm a baby boomer who grew up dancing in the streets of Detroit during the classic Motown years, lived beside the Rocky Mountains for many years, now retired and living (and writing full time) in S. Ontario. I have one blog for rock 'n' roll oldies, and one for nature, poetry and life along the Lake.