Yesterday was “chilly” for L.A. Nighttime temperatures were in the low 60’s and high 50’s. That’s cold for our Southwestern habitat. My morning bus was crowded but not packed. Because of the “frigid” temperatures, no one pulled the windows open and the bus had that warm musky air of trapped and smoldering bus-riding humanity which is never pleasant. I headed straight for the rear bench line of seats which were anchored on each end/corner by occupants, and I sat directly in the middle.
The stale entrapped bus-air smoldered humidly like bad bed breath. The driver did not turn on the cold or hot air and thus the only air movement on this rolling coffin was the result of people exiting or entering. As soon as I sat down, a very vague waft of poo-poo smell greeted by nose. Very faint. So faint that I wasn’t sure I smelled correctly. It vanished as quickly as it appeared. I checked out my neighbors from the corner of my eyes. The first lesson of public transportation survival is that one does not leer, even though you really want to sometimes. Nearly everyone in my vicinity was clean cut and presumably had showered recently. They looked “fresh.” Nearly all of them… There was one guy who sat in the sideways-facing seats nearby who looked scummy. Hmm.
I remained there for a couple of stops and for the most part, the poo-poo fleeting odor was not obvious but at times it seemed stronger and then non-existent in waves of poo-poo ebbing and flowing cycles. When it struck, it was as if it had been roused by random, transient air movements. Once I turned quickly and the poo-poo smell, ever so indistinguishable, lingered on the outskirts of my nostrils for 2 seconds before vanishing.
I think it was the odor’s fleeting nature that was so maddening.
Poo-poo is one of those smells you expect should strike with a resounding force of a hurricane strength wind. Poo-poo smell is obnoxious, there is nothing gentle about it. So when it lingers faintly, as if someone changed a baby diaper about 3 hours ago, it’s difficult to process. You expect something more. It is odious, thus it must be strong. But it’s not. Finally someone in the sideways facing seats left the bus so I moved there amid an expectation of relief which proved to be short-lived, because once again, that faint poo-poo smell made its bothersome appearance.
I looked across at where that guy sat. He was dark, Hispanic, with strong Native American phenotype. Dark skin, very dark eyes, he even had long hair bunched up in a rowdy, messy pony tail. His clothes were filthy. His hoodie sported a vast beige stain as if he had spilled food or vomited on himself. His nails were dirty and he kept fidgeting with an mp3 player which seemed as scruffy as he was. His shoes were a mess. If anybody was exuding a poo-poo smell, it was he. Once I moved, however, the odor stopped finally. He finally got off at a major intersection, but not before I realized the micro-stench was issuing from the rear bench. Either one of my corner neighbors hadn’t wiped their ass very well and the waft of remnant feces remained, but lacking the knockout punch to KO those who approached, didn’t strike me as terribly strong, or, the vivid smell of poo-poo had lived here recently, but now departed, left a legacy of its putrid affront. I don’t know what happened.
It occurred to me…this is life, isn’t it?
Many of us, most of us, are so busy, so preoccupied with making money and spending it and impressing strangers that we never know exactly the vague scents which traverse our mind’s horizon.
We are too busy to know. Self-importance clouds our senses.
Our senses are dulled and alienated. Sometimes in our life we experience the hazy unease of a bad odor, the remnant of disgruntled fortune, a departed agony, and though we know something is wrong, that things are not quite right, we don’t think about it and we don’t devote much examination because frankly, we don’t care. Still, the faint odor lingers in our mind, the faint odor of unease and unhappiness. Dissatisfaction. We know something is not right. But we allow them to flourish so we may concentrate on those which do disrupt our life. We put out the large fires but in the background, all the small flames smolder and we smell them but disregard them and change seats while we blame the wrong victim.
For the distant odor is right in front of our eyes.