Sunday, April 20, 2008

The sights and smells of NYC

Rob and I were out to dinner with friends on Saturday night when Gabriel Byrne walked into the restaurant. He looked exactly the way he does on TV, and I, having had several glasses of wine, was inclined to go over and tell him how much I've enjoyed our time together (which means my compulsive watching of In Treatment and his being the star of In Treatment.) My friends convinced me not to do that. I mentioned passing him a note. They said no. We finished our meal and walked to the front door, milling around and pretending to ignore GB. In an effort to make faux conversation, I looked at a photo hanging on the wall. "Blueberries," I pointed, like a toddler learning to talk. "Um, those are grapes," one friend responded. "We're in an Italian restaurant."

We went on to have one more drink after dinner, and this morning neither Rob nor I were feeling amazing. But we had planned to go to a Brooklyn stationary store to look at wedding invitations, so we headed out, fueled by massive amounts of coffee. We apparently chose the most popular stationary store in the 5 boroughs, because we had to put our name on a waiting list just to sit down to flip through samples. But after a 30-minute wait and another 30 minutes with the books, we pulled the trigger on an invitation. This, the woman at the store said, was rare. She went on to explain that usually people go in for multiple meetings, amassing a thick file of possibilities before selecting anything. But it is exactly that type of scenario that makes Rob's head explode and it's really a bitch to clean up, so we picked something. And, bonus: we really like it.

I hesitate to talk about what happened next, because it's still fresh enough in my mind to make me want to gag. We were on the semi-full F train back into the city when a large, hairy bum staggered through our car, tugging at his dirty sweatpants, which were hanging down around his knees. I so very much wish he had been wearing a longer sweatshirt. But really, the view doesn't matter. Because a millisecond after he passed us and sat down, the smell kicked in. I am not going to employ my typical degree of hyperbole here, as it's simply not necessary. I have never smelled something--someone--who made me want to vomit, cry, and pass out all at the same time. This man smelled like everything in his body had rotted and then he rolled in sewage. And then he rolled in dead bodies.

Every single person in the train car stood up, tearing towards the doors on the other side. The problem was that the bum had walked through the whole car and there was nowhere to go. People were trying to breathe into their collars. They were pressing up against the doors, willing them to open. I had to sit down again because I really thought that if the train didn't stop soon, I was going to lose consciousness. There was a moment when it seemed impossible that a human being was emitting an odor so foul and I was convinced that we were breathing toxic gases.

We reached the next stop and the doors opened. People were gulping air. Subway air. Like it was pure, sweet and direct from some Swiss mountaintop. We all ran two cars down and jumped back on the same train, slightly shaky with relief.

I sincerely hope that man found a doctor, a shower, some new pants, and an AA meeting.


Jay Nicolosi said...

I've come across similarly smelling patrons on the "L". My situation has always been somewhat different though, in that I've gone to the smell, where in your situation the smell came to you. I've boarded crowded trains only to see an oasis of five or six empty seats at the end of a car. I scoot my way to them, only to find a bum, perhaps deceased and decaying, in the corner. The 5 or six open seats simply fall within the untollerable radius of stench.

Sarah said...

Ah, public transportation. Normally, I marvel at its ease and efficacy, but sometimes you just need to be able to breathe out of your nose. I kind of love that you're a bum finder, Nicolosi.