Smelly New York

There are lots of smells in New York City. You walk by a pile of trash. Or somewhere where someone has recently urinated. You know. But rarely do you actually see New Yorkers reacting to the smell. You just sort of come to expect it. 

Today, I managed to get on two different train cars that had such offensive and strong stenches that people actually reacted. 

The first was this morning. The nature of this smell was, to my best knowledge, urine. Maybe mixed with body odor. It was fairly obvious that the unwashed, sun-darkened man at one end of the car was likely responsible for this delightful mixture. It wafted occasionally into my nose and I must admit, I felt a bit sick, which I usually don’t. It was high on the list of strongest smells I’ve experienced here. 

But this evening was no doubt the worst smell experience of my New York life. 

Imagine someone took a smelly shit in a train car, then let it sit there. That was the smell. Like I said, never before have I seen people visibly react to a smell. But in this car, I saw at least 4 people covering their noses. It was stench for sure. One stop later (luckily mine), most of the car got out and the woman in front of me warned a couple about to board the car that it would not be a pleasant experience. They smelled it and thanked her. This was out of the ordinary. 

I’m happily on a different train at the moment, one that lacks any distinct smell. I’m not entirely sure how to deal with such disgusting smells–I have stayed in uncomfortable train cars (hot, smelly, humid, crowded), and there’s something about whether you know who the person who smells is, which I find interesting. Even when someone smells, we don’t want to offend them by admitting that we notice. I think that may be part of the reason people were so open with their disgust in the shit train car–there was no obvious location or person it was coming from. 

Smells: just another thing New Yorkers are strangely often willing to put up with to live in this beautiful, crowded city. 

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