Tuesday, March 2, 2010

When Hairy Met Smelly ...

I'm pretty hairy. Not Sasquatch/Chewbacca hairy, and not Mediterranean hairy, but German-and-Irish-light-colored-hair-everywhere hairy. And now that I am in my mid-forties, I'm starting to get grey hair in odd places (my eyebrows!) and short thick whiskers have moved in on my jawline. I really should wax. A lot. Or maybe try electrolysis. Unfortunately my skin is also fairly sensitive. It and The Wax do NOT get along so I do not have high hopes for the success of electrolysis. So I use a depilatory, I shave, I wax a little bit, and I pluck. It's really not pretty. Maintaining a hair-under-control environment is time-consuming. Some things go by the way side. Lest you have your mind in the gutter, I am talking about my legs. It's cold so my legs are always covered. I sleep alone. I don't date. I let the hair on my legs get too long. So? Don't judge me.

This year I am going to lose the extra weight I've been carrying. I know, I say that all the time. But really, I'm going to do it. I'm not kidding. Notice I didn't say "try" I said "going to." Positive declarations lead to success (or so they say). So I've been tinkering with my schedule trying to make time for a regular appointment at the gym. I scoped out the gym near where I'm working right now. I put a gym bag in the car for those (very rare) times when I have some time to kill and would normally go sit at a bar. As Spongebob would say, "I'm ready."

Today I decided I would go to the gym in lieu of lunch because (1) it was lunchtime, (2) I wasn't hungry, and (3) I am not on a deadline. I was so proud of myself, praising me for having that gym bag in the car. I get to the gym, battle for one of two available parking spaces, and march proudly into the ladies locker room. As I'm opening my gym bag, I remember that I put shorts in there. And I can't remember the last time I shaved my legs. Seriously, I have no way to even guess.

I'm blessed with the realization that I am not the center of the universe and most of the time no one even notices me. I'm a middle-aged, non-descript, totally average-looking person whose carrying around extra weight. Except to the fat-o-phobes and the meanies, I am non-existent to strangers. It's cool, I don't mind. If I want to step into the light, I can. But I digress .... Normally, the fact that I haven't shaved my legs and am about to put shorts on at the gym wouldn't bother me even a little bit. Seriously ... nobody's looking at me, nobody's paying attention to me, I'm not cruisin' for a date or anything. But I've just finished reading Bitter Is The New Black - a memoir by Jen Lancaster - and have just started reading Bright Lights, Big Ass, her follow up. Jen's "shtick" - if you want to call it that - is observing and making fun of people (including herself). So suddenly I'm thinking the next Jen could be in the gym, noticing my hairy legs, and all of a sudden I'll be the topic of some stranger's blog and later a character in their New York Times Bestseller's List memoir.

Rather than pack up and leave - my first instinct after Jen's skewerings pass through my mind - I come up with a solution. I will find a treadmill in a corner, or in the back, where the fewest amount of people will see me and be near me. As I walk to the bank of treadmills I see one, against the wall, with a broken treadmill next to it, no one on the one behind it, and a vent blowing air from behind. Yes! The gods were shining on me. Or so I thought.

I'm doing my Couch to 5k workout - a story for another post - and I can feel the cool air blowing from behind me. No one is next to me. In fact, no one has even glanced in my direction. Told you. Then I noticed The Smell. It was awful. Seriously. I can't even think of a word that can describe this odor. I turned around and a very sweaty man was on the treadmill behind me. He was right in front of the vent, so his stink was blowing directly at me. Thank God I had my back to him; a direct hit from the smell might have mortally wounded me. I had flashes of Sweetie and Stinker covering their noses in the perfume section of the department store, screaming "Ow, Mommy, my nose hurts. What's that smell?" I tried to stay focused, but the smell got stronger and stronger. Just as I was thinking I have never smelled anything so rank in my entire life, I was reminded of that one time, at band camp ... er, in Germany, c. 1988.

After college, 3 girlfriends and I backpacked through Europe for 3 weeks. We're talking old school ... we paid for the trips ourselves (none of this happy-graduation-here's-some-money-to-go-travel-the-world stuff for us girls), stayed in hostels, slept on trains, used Eurail passes, etc. We spent a LOT of time on trains because it felt like it was cheap since we had already paid for the passes. One day we were traveling from Frankfurt-ish to Munich-ish and we made the bad decision to go on a Friday evening during rush hour. The train was PACKED; even the little seats that fold up into the side of the train in the aisle were down and occupied, making it difficult to pass under the best of circumstances and really difficult while schlepping a giant backpack.

Anyway, we finally saw a compartment that was empty save for a newspaper and a briefcase. What luck! The 4 of us got all excited, got up to compartment, opened the door ... and practically passed out. The absolute worst case of B.O. came emanating out of the compartment. Seriously, there was no person or animal in the compartment, but it was spewing forth by far the stinkiest smell I have ever encountered (then or since!). We were coughing and choking, our faces were turning red, and we were trying to figure out what to do, all the while laughing so hard we could hardly remain upright. We collectively decided that whoever stunk up the place must have left, and if we opened all of the windows to let in some fresh air, we'd be fine in no time and would have the compartment all to ourselves. So we scrambled in while holding our breath, heaved our backpacks onto the overhead racks, opened all of the windows and sat down. It was October, it had snowed the night before, and it was cold outside, but we didn't care. We had our turtleneck collars folded up over our nose-and-mouth areas (I have photos!) for a little bit but after a few minutes the brisk air cleared out the stench and we could relax a little.

And then HE entered. The source of the smell. Apparently Sir Stinks-A-Lot came back for his briefcase. He was a giant man, greasy hair, bad teeth and just as pleasant as can be. He walked over and immediately began closing the windows. He smiled and nodded at us as he moved his briefcase and plopped into the chair. He said something in German to the four of us in general and my girlfriend (who was fluent) responded. Then, all of a sudden, she stood up and started to get her backpack off of the travel rack. "What are you doing?," we asked. She turned to us with her eyes wide, a strained smile on her face, trying very hard to maintain control of herself and she said, "Why, I'm getting ready to get off the train, of course. This is our stop." The other 3 of us were puzzled; we just got ON the train and expected to be on it for a couple of hours. "But this isn't ..." one of us (probably me!) started to say, and she looked at us again, surreptitiously rolling her eyes to the door, and said, "You'd better hurry and grab your stuff. The train is stopping and WE HAVE TO GET OFF!" We scrambled to get our things, and as we were being herded like cattle down the aisle to the door of the train car, she turned around and said, "That man - and his awful stink - is going to Munich, too." When we inquired why we couldn't just switch cars she started to shake her head and said, "No way. I can still smell him. It's so bad that I'm sure the whole damn train smells like him. And then we'll have to smell him again anyway when we arrive in Muich and he gets off at the same train station. No way, no how. I'll take my chances with the next train."

Turns out, I have smelled something so rank. Something worse, in fact. And I survived. So I focused on breathing through my mouth and finished my workout.

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