Olfactory uh oh'sSometimes my overdeveloped sense of smell is a miserable affliction. I guess you could say I have a case of olfactory over sensitivity.
I’m sure this is mostly a mental problem since it isn’t just odors that "get under my skin;" certain things I HEAR can ALSO drive me to distraction, like gangster hip-hop, ceaselessly barking dogs, and badly done karaoke, which pretty much describes 95% of All karaoke.
Anyway, getting back on track, this post is about my never-ending issue with the malodorous, particularly stinky armpit people like those that have been accosting me lately at the gym. Ugh!
But before I get to that bit of smelliness, allow me to go back to another stinking time; because if I must, I know that I CAN tolerate bad smells with the best of them. Thinking back, I remember a particularly reeking incident at Chanute AFB in 1980. I was a month into avionics school learning how to work on autopilot systems before heading out to my first Air Force assignment.
Air Force schools were, and probably still are, taught in blocks. It had been a stiflingly hot summer that year on the plains of central Illinois, so hot that my AMC Pacer had just about melted into the sprawling asphalt parking lot in front of the TDY dorm where I was billeted. And now those long intolerably hot weeks interspersed with some of the most violent storms imaginable was about to negatively affect one of the teaching blocks I most looked forward to, the one covering the basics of soldering and safety wire.
It was a late August mid-morning. My fellow students and I stood around restlessly in the hallway waiting for the female SSgt instructor to show up and open the soldering room. Most of my classmates were new to the military. These folks fresh from basic training were required to march in formation to school—these people were E3s and E2s, while I was the ranking guy at E4. Being prior-enlisted with 5 years in the Marines before transferring to the Air Force, I joined my new service branch with a little more rank, and better yet, I was allowed to diddy- bop* to class on my own. There was one other prior enlisted fellow there, an A1C; he was an older salt-and-pepper haired fellow who had done some time in the army and army guard. The group of us waited eagerly about the locked door anxious to learn the magical ways of the soldering iron.
Right off the bat I found that my status as “ex marine” meant that more was expected of me, or perhaps I expected more of myself. Regardless, I liked it that way. I enjoyed “the looks” of respect I got from the others when they learned I had been a sergeant in the marines less than a year before. I wore my new AF uniform as a marine would, tucking my shirt in with a sharp military tuck and held tightly down into my trousers with four elastic garters attached at the other end to the tops of my socks. I looked stupid as hell with my pants off, but sharp as hell with ‘em on—well, take my word for it! Anyway, strangely enough, being “the marine” was about to come into play once again as we prepared to practice melting solder and twisting safety wire.
The instructor finally showed up with the keys and unlocked the door. The old brick building had no air- conditioning in the classrooms. For summer time relief the doors and windows were opened wide for the occasional cooling breeze. Upon opening the door the room felt like an unbearable dank furnace. Several of us rushed to the decades-old counter-weighted windows and began shoving them up and open. As soon as the first one creaked upward on its ancient tracks a chorus of groans and “oh my Gods!” cascaded through the room.
It was the smell of death, and yes, even worse than worst foulness that often wafts from the armpits of the nastiest of the body odor specialists that work out at my gym.
On the wide outer ledge of one of the windows a large nest of four nearly full-grown fledgling pigeons had recently drowned during the last heavy storm. Now the nest contained a sickening soup of putrefied mushy carrion and filthy feathers, all well into the liquefaction stage, and utterly squirming with hundreds of obese white well-fed maggots.
Two airmen retched and bolted from the room. The others held their noses and were not far behind. I was the only one to hold my ground. I laughed and said a marine thing, something like,
The instructor had hurried down the hall to call for help from the char force but soon returned with a worried look on her face. There was only one janitor and he was not immediately available. Now, she knew she was about to fall behind schedule—a big time no-no for the instructor corps. I felt her pain and stepped up.
“No problem Maam, I got this!” and I gave my rendition of the Marine’s battle yell, “Arruh Rah!” growled at about 25% full volume.
I grabbed a small trashcan lined with a plastic bag and with a great show of cheery bravado and with bare hands started shoveling into it nest debris soggy with wet rotten bird parts and wriggling maggots. The others stood well away at the other end of the room, most of them outside in the corridor. All of them watched me with looks of disbelieving horror. Honestly, I have never been more pleased with myself. The ex-soldier decided he better not let himself be shown up by a scrawny ex-Marine and came over to assist. He also affected nonchalance.
The two of us looked at the cringing horrified airmen and smirked while we bantered and played with the rotting birds and lively maggots. We had saved the day and showed the young troopers how veterans act when things get unpleasant. They probably learned more that day than they ever did up to it.
It’s funny, with my hypersensitive nose I never once felt sick that day, all because I was showing off. Maybe I need to figure out how to incorporate that kind of bluster into my workouts at the gym of late.
At least every other day or so a guy will come in smelling like skunky road kill on a hot summer day in Texas. I’ve been trying to figure these guys out. Why do they go out in public smelling so bad? Why would they subject the rest of the world to that kind of personal stink? It befuddles me.
I think a lot of them must not have been athletes in their younger lives, because we learn very early that you ALWAYS take a shower before hitting the gymnasium. These guys must figure, ‘Hell, why shower when all I’m gonna do is sweat anyway?’
The problem with that rationale is that the bacteria in those pits and in those day-old shirts is just waiting for a fresh dose of sweat to set off a fresh round of stink. One older American in his 60s, who ironically enough drives a brand new very expensive SUV, smelled so BAD that one of the gym workers followed him around the room continuously spraying air freshener trying futilely to beat back the old guy's fetid air. Whenever that smelly old man came near me or passed by I quickly put my towel over my nose and mouth. Even with all the spraying and covering of lower faces he never gave a hint of acknowledgment. I even made it a point to speak practically at the top of my voice how horrible it was that some people would deign to wash, change their clothes and deodorize before going to their workout. Incredible.
I approached Rob, one of the two brawny shaven-headed owners, about the ongoing BO problem. I suggested they integrate the use of the yellow and red “foul” cards like they use in soccer. I proposed that they print on the yellow cards a warning that states unless a shower and change of shirt is carried out that a red card will be forthcoming. The red one removes the offending player from the pitch, and in this case from the confines of the gym. Rob chuckled and agreed that it was more of a problem than even I know, but blew me off just the same.
It’s a common problem here that when bad manners, bad form, and bad acts occur that rarely is anything done about it. Here’s a for instance for you: I stopped playing golf here years ago partly because the course managers and especially the caddies will not correct the discourteous play of the hordes of Koreans who have taken over the courses. Perhaps they don’t know any better or they just don’t care, but when it started taking 8 hours to play 18 holes it just wasn’t worth it. The same is true in the gym; instead of telling the rancid smelling few to clean up their act or else, all that happens is some complaining and shrugging. It drives me nuts.
* military slang: diddy-bopping = walking carelessly