It was a lovely, sunny May evening. I bounded from work at 5pm like a middle aged gazelle.
I boarded the bus feeling full of promise. The sky was blue, the sun was shining. I had the ingredients for my dinner marinating in the freezer in the supermarket near my house.
I sat down, and glanced to my left and right, recognising a handful of my fellow passengers. The travellers on my morning journey are more consistent – unsurprisingly so, I suppose. People’s morning routines tend to be set in stone. Therefore each day on the bus to the wasteland it is the same tired faces.
The evening journey tends to be more variable. People work different hours and getting home is not a deadline as strict as arrival time. Hence new faces on a more regular basis.
I started reading my book – I am currently reading ‘Atonement’ by the wondrous Ian McEwan, when my nose started to twitch. Oh hell on earth. I smelled him before I saw him. It’s Sweaty Jim and his jumper of doom.
I have no idea what his real name is. He is a middle aged man with a protruding belly who seems to work in some line of construction work in my work vicinity. And he stinks. This is not the odour of an honest day of manual labour. It’s something far more sinister than that. This is the fetid stench of an individual who grew up having a weekly bath on a Saturday night, in time for Mass on a Sunday morning, and who would not bathe again until the following week. It’s a toxic blend of fresh sweat on old sweat, slightly bedazzled with the pong of excrement. And this routine – having a weekly bath (whether he needs one or not) seems to be so ingrained that it is now immutable
Modern conveniences like electric showers which enable thrice weekly (or heaven forbid DAILY) showers don’t seem to register with men like Sweaty Jim.
And his clothing never seems to change either. I suppose there’s always some tasty snack to pick off that brown woollen jumper.
It’s both a guess and a foregone conclusion) that Jim doesn’t have a wife or girlfriend (I know that stereotypes are wrong, but I think it’s a safe bet that Jim is heterosexual) as if he did I reckon he’d be forced to attend to his personal hygiene a bit more.
He sat down beside me. Within half a minute an empty space had formed around him, even though the bus was crowded to capacity. I was wedged in against the window, Jim’s sides pressing into me. I felt like retching. I held my breath.
I stood up and looked around. The bus was jam packed. The choice was simple – to either endure this smell all the way into town (he gets off at the same stop as I do) or alight from the bus and wait for the next one.
I pressed the bell. The bus stopped. I got off. And waited.
I know that the mature and adult thing to do would be to actually mention to him that his personal odour is an assault on the nose. But that seems such a strangely personal, intrusive and borderline aggressive thing to say to someone – especially a stranger – that I’d prefer to stand, needlessly waiting for a bus at the side of the road, in the purgatory of west Dublin rather than address it.
Although for goodness sake – can he not smell himself?