Most Tuesday nights, I play basketball for a few hours in a tiny, dank gymnasium on the West Side. When I hop on the uptown train to head home, I’m a sweaty mess. I try to stand as far away from the other passengers as possible, but those 30 minutes are hellishly uncomfortable.
Heaven forbid that I need a seat. Some nights, the game gets rough and I’m too sore to stand the whole way. It’s usually empty enough to find a seat, but rarely is that seat out of smelling distance from the others on the train.
It’s particularly upsetting when I’ve calculated my stench radius, chosen a “safe” location, only to watch a new rider get on the train and head for a seat right next to me.
First a hint of disturbance crosses her face. Then her nose crinkles as she sniffs more deeply for confirmation. Her eyes search for the source. As suspicion gives way to recognition, I know she knows. She gathers her stuff and finds a new seat. If she’s kind, she doesn’t look back.
Of course, worrying about it so much just intensifies the sweatiness. The only thing worse than being on a stinky train is being the stink.