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Smelly People

Before I could drive or had a car of my own, I relied on public transport. There were many things I liked about taking the bus everywhere. I could have a glass of wine with lunch and not have to worry about driving home; I could spend the journey listening to music or day-dreaming about my current crush; I could enjoy listening into the conversations of my fellow passengers and imagine where they were going to or what jobs they might have. But the one thing I disliked most about the bus, the thing that brought forth my inner Hulk like nothing else, was smelly people.
I was a magnet for the odourly challenged.
I’m not talking about an over-generous squirt of perfume or the whiff a homeward-bound armpit. No, the smell that assaults my olfactory organ with distressing regularity is that of The Great Unwashed. The GU smell of old pee, sweat and halitosis with top notes of your granny’s knickers and stale whisky. Utterly revolting.
You can bet that no matter how empty the bus was, a member of the GU would pick me to sit beside.
It’s the same in cafes, the library, shops…Wherever there are members of the public, you guarantee that a GU will seek me out and invade my personal space.
I once complained to Tesco about the odour emanating from the middle-aged man who used to work in their bread aisle. They made me fill out a Customer Complaint Form in order to ask them to have a quiet word about their store assistant’s personal hygiene. Talk about overkill! But I’ll never say that Tesco don’t listen to customer complaints: they moved him to the wine aisle.
Now I work in a shop myself, I find I am still at the mercy of the pungent public. All too often I am faced with a GU who wants me to show them where the latest Jason Statham film is or help them browse through the £3 bin for Angels and Demons. And I have to keep a smile on my face, regardless of how bad the reek is.
I can understand how some people become so noisome. If you are depressed and living alone, it can seem that there is no point to washing and caring for oneself and for these poor souls I have nothing but sympathy. I also understand how ‘care’ in the community has let so many vulnerable men and women down and I am not criticising them. But how is it that a woman, holding down a job and with money enough to rent £14 worth of DVDs, can go about her life with her kids so blissfully unaware of how rank she smells? And why is it that she picks ME to serve her instead of my colleague?
Perhaps if I cut down on my own personal hygiene routine I’d become less attractive to the funky few who make my life a misery? Hmm. I think I’ll just keep smiling at the GU and breathing through my mouth.
Chanel Number 5 anyone?


Writer, photographer, creative fantasist.

18 thoughts on “Smelly People

  1. That’s one thing I don’t miss about losing 90 percent of my sense of smell. I feel yer pain. Smelly people always seemed to find there way near me too, but my sis just said i was just smellin my upper lip. What a darlin.

  2. Just read this to my daughter…she was reading your mind as I read the post! She’s a cashier and has to withstand a number of the GU whenever they arrive at her till. She said when the GU ask the way to certain products she just wants to redirect them to the shower gel aisle!

  3. With you all the way – I help out in a charity shop and obviously some of the people who come in are disadvantaged in one way or another but the worst offender is a fellow-volunteer. I don’t think she knows the words soap, bath, shower or deodorant. The stink is unbelievable and makes me feel physically sick … I also rush home to have a shower when I’ve been working with her, just in case it’s catching

    1. Here’s a secret: I haven’t used conventional deodorant in over a year – allergic. I use a crystal called Pitt Rock and never have a problem with BO.

  4. I don’t have a car, and use buses and trains all the time – and know exactly what you mean. There’s always one … the compensation is the wonderful conversations one can overhear. Such as the lad who climbed on the bus with a large musical instrument and said, loud enough for us all to hear, ‘Have you heard, like, Verdi’s f*cking Requiem; it’s f*cking brilliant.’

  5. Was thinking about that older gentleman who was sent to the wine aisle. It would have been better to send him to the cheese aisle. Next to the Stinking Bishop.

  6. Oh god – I had a long chat with a tramp yesterday (don’t ask). He was a lovely old man, offered me a can of Skol Super from his stash, which I politely declined… he was telling jokes good enough to work on the London stand-up circuit, but his breath… jeez… then he told me about his hernia and decided it would be best to show me it… VOMIT ALERT. Public, eh? Best just stay at home I think 😉

  7. No doubt about it, odour can be a major challenge in working with the public. And naturally, one’s always the one sitting next to one of the GU in a bus, tram or train. The worse is when one’s flying, especially if the flight lasts any length of time. I agree with you that sometimes, sympathy – real sympathy – is in order. But one can’t resist the ferocious urge to take some people to Tesco or some such place, buy some washcloths, towels, soap, shampoo and deodorant and given them an unmistakeable hint.

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