Rant: Keeping My Nose in the Air

Normally, my primary concern is that the plane will leave on time. For instance, one day in June this year, I experienced TWO big bird mechanical failures in a row (!) flying out of Atlanta, barely made it in time to Singapore via a weird European detour thanks to heroic efforts by Fernando, an extraordinarily capable member of Delta’s ground crew. Thanks Fernando!

A secondary concern is wondering whether I will be able to stow my carry-on luggage. On some smaller planes this can be an issue, as well as with the buffoons that sit at the back of the plane, yet put their carry-ons at the very front as soon as they get onboard. You’ve seen the type.

Thirdly, and a far more minor issue would be, who will sit in the middle seat? As a relatively frequent (Platinum with Delta) flier I almost always get a window seat in one of the front rows right behind business class, and it is rare that I get a super-sized individual seated next to me – although it has happened – maybe road warriors stay lean?

Earlier this week, however, a fourth concern reared its ugly head – or nose – and I can't see a way to mitigate against this. Olfactory overload! And not of the perfume kind unfortunately – but I can see how those with such allergies would be on the receiving end of some serious pain at times. No, on Tuesday, I was seated next to a female who reminded me of an expression that I'd heard in old black and white movies – around which day of the week to wash your hair. This woman needed it…

Even worse, the smell made me think about the Swedish word for Saturday, which in modern Swedish is Lördag – but comes from an old Norse word "Lögardag," meaning the day when you took a communal bath (sauna really), which took place once a week – whether you needed it or not. Depressing as that sounds, from what I have read, the old Norse (aka Vikings) were far more frequent bathers than the Central Europeans of those days. Much to the chagrin of the Catholic Church as they spread northward about 1,000 years ago – the sauna was sinful. Sinful or not, my "seat mate" should have followed the old tradition – my nose would have given its blessings.

The 16th century French, presumably through the "Sun King" days, carried perfumed handkerchiefs and similar fragrant things tied to their sleeves – or maybe even doused their sleeves with perfume – to hold to their noses when confronted with the odors faced when stepping out of their gilded horse drawn carriages. This was the business class of those days. Oh, the great unwashed, best observed at a distance. Oops, this rant turned rather snooty, and admittedly this is a first world grievance. How in the world to deal with this – we can’t have a smell test now, can we? Or perhaps those TSA dogs can be put to some good use to suss out those in need of a bath?


Ah, I wish for one of the facemasks that are so popular in Japan. Maybe I should update my travel pack. I’ll try to find one without Hello Kitty. Anyway, this was mostly typed sitting as close to the window as possible during the flight. At least the plane was clean – nothing like Jason’s recent experience with Air Canada Rouge.

Sydney, our former editor who is about to depart to pursue her Peace Corps (pronounced "core" for those inside the Beltway) dreams abroad undoubtedly will have far stronger odors to content with in her new job. Good luck Sydney - stay safe!

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Voices (2)

  1. Thomas Kase:


    For the more daring, order a set of shirts with ruffle cuffs and apply perfume as needed. Don’t think I can carry it off.

    How about applying Vicks directly to the smelly person instead – let’s address the root cause, not the symptom!


  2. Barbara Ardell:

    I received a good suggestion while preparing for a trip to a third world country. Pack a very small jar of Vicks Vaporub and dab it just inside your nostrils when you encounter an offensive odor. The Vicks overrides most unpleasant smells. Now to get the Vicks through the TSA!

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