Aroma therapy

Even though New York subway carriagescars are probably twice the size of their London equivalents, don’t be confused into thinking that there’s plenty more room for commuters to be carried home in comfort. Most trains are packed to the gills, and the rails are placed too far apart to avoid being thrown headlong down the length of the car whenever the train comes to a sudden halt.

A relatively empty carriage is rarer than a quiet night in with Britney Spears, and its arrival in a station can lead to a stampede worse than the opening of any department store sale. Just the dream of a seat to call your own for the rest of the journey home is enough to turn grown men into jibbering fools.

Sadly, there’s always a catch when it comes to the empty carriage. And today, that catch came in the form of urine.

Pretty much every thirteenth train you get on in New York smells of urine. Usually it’s just a passing homeless guy who has wandered into your nasal radius, allowing you to step out of harms way with relatively little effort. No such luck today though. I walked the entire length of the carriage in a bid to get away from a smell that I can only describe as two parts multi-storey car parkparking garage stairwell and one part abandoned alleyway behind a popular bar. The unique pungent aroma still lingers in my nostrils even now I’m sitting at home enjoying a glass of wine.

Even in ‘the carriage of pee’ though, there’s always a statutory minimum of six people who manage to sit through the olfactory terrorism as if nothing was wrong. Such is the strength of the odour that there’s only three possible explanations for their ability to withstand it. Maybe they’ve just got no sense of smell, like my old chemistry teacher Mr Mellor who lost his ability to detect aromas after accidentally sniffing too much ammonia during an experiment? Or perhaps they’re the cause of the urine smell in the first place, although it seems a little far-fetched to believe that six people could have conspired to produce the smell.

My favourite explanation is that all six people have got thirteen-year-old children in their lives. After all, if you can walk into a young teen’s bedroom and not drop dead instantly, anything else seems like a walk in a particularly nice smelling park.

5 thoughts on “Aroma therapy

  1. Nat

    The faults of the London Underground are numerous and documented… but at least I’ve never had to put up with a carriage scented of urine!

    The Mayor of London and Transport for London currently have a poster campaign to try and improve ‘social behaviour’ on the Tube which includes the plea for people not to eat ‘smelly’ food… which apart from body odour is probably the biggest olfactory nuisance on the Network!

  2. fishwithoutbicycle

    I was once on the Piccadilly line and noticed a turd in the corner. Hopefully not a human one. I also know of people – not friends of mine I hasten to add – who have drunkenly relieved themselves into the cushioned seats of the tubes, so beware a wet seat in London.

  3. LolaBloom

    Oh my, it’s probably been about 5 or 6 years since I had the pleasure of riding the subway in NY. I have made many a trip from Brooklyn into the city however and even though it’s been probably 15 years since my last dose of the aroma therapy you’re speaking of, I can recall it quite well. I won’t bore you with my story of the puddle in a subway seat on one occasion…

  4. Dylan

    What is everybody’s issue with peeing on the seats of public transport?! Although given that there are hardly any public toilets in America, it’s probably not that surprising…

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