Often, in this grand city of ours, we have a love/hate relationship with our beloved London public transport. On this day I was very much loving it. There I was, legs crossed, peering through my spectacles at the sport on my broadsheet paper. I couldn’t be more British.
I boarded the Piccadilly Line in North London and was halfway through my 40 minute journey to my crib (yes, I used the word ‘Crib’) in South-West London. I supped on my carton of Ribena, enjoying the spacious carriage and the reading of a Jamie Carragher interview – particularly joyful considering I didn’t have to suffer his silly abrasive voice. My eyes drifted from the pages only long enough to catch a glimpse of the attractive blonde seated opposite me. I could feel her eyes of envy circulate around my paper and especially around my Ribena. I supped a little more smugly before adjusting the glasses on the bridge of my nose. I was a smug twat embracing London transport. The window attachment behind me became loose, causing a brief moment of alarm for those on our carriage. All eyes were fixed on me as I swiftly thrust my elbow and amended the problem ala Fonze style. I was now even more smug. I was now a smug twat with an element of cool.
I reverted back to the Jamie Carragher article, careful not to look directly at the photo of his ugly mug, which in turn, would surely cause me to vomit.
It was a good journey, but soon as we reached Central London, I knew we would engage with more passengers and challenges to my reign of enjoyment. However, I was confident that this would be one of those good days from TFL. One of days from which I say to my friends; “You know what? I don’t know why everyone moans about the tube. It was fine yesterday.”
And then it hit me.
A larger man in his 40s sat next to me. Immediately my space was encroached. My vibrant mood was under threat. The smell this guy emitted was appalling. HE STANK LIKE SHIT! He didn’t just smell really bad, he actually stank like shit. Actual shit. Actual shit that comes from bums.
You didn’t have to discover the smell. It was broadcast in a 3 metre radius. You had no choice. In fact you couldn’t stop your body from physically reacting to it. It was so strong that the people who had sat the other side of me, had started to suspect me. Me? Mr Glasseswearing-paperreading-Ribenadrinking-Fonzelike character? Thirty seconds ago I was in my element. Now my life was being corrupted. Corrupted by someone who had made a decision that morning to bath in faeces.
I tried to go back to the happy place with which my day had started. Where I had joined my mate in perving at his wife’s personal trainer through the patio windows as she contorted her wonderfully toned arse. A place where banter was shared and the smells of bacon filled the air.
But, no. It was no good. All I could smell was shit.
I was angered by this man. Who the hell did he think he was? He had ruined my journey. But how could he not know? How did the woman with whom he was travelling not know? And if she did know, why didn’t she tell him? Surely it’s her job as a friend/wife to tell him? I suppose she also doesn’t tell her tone-deaf daughter she can’t sing, waiting instead for her to be ridiculed by the nation whilst auditioning for X-Factor. Tell them woman! It’s your duty!
Like I said, I was angered by this man. I wanted to stand up and shout; “You fuckin’ stink. Sort it out!” Chastise him for failing his fellow people. For adding to the hate argument that opposes public transport.
I also thought about getting up and moving away. Exhaling and shaking my head. Giving enough body language to make my point without drawing so much embarrassment or confrontation. After all, everyone loves a bit of passive aggressive. Plus it would be a far more convincing way of letting the carriage know who the culprit was, and more importantly letting them know it wasn’t me.
Both ideas where good, but I decided to go down another route. I cleverly deployed a finger to sit underneath my nostrils, thus filtering the air that would engulf them. Doing so would also indicate to other passengers that ‘The man next to me stinks’, warning them of such dangers should they come close. I was sacrificing myself for the benefit of others. You could call it heroism. Or you could call it ‘Doing nothing’. The ancient art of being a British Commuter – do nothing and hope that the situation goes away. Any doubts that I was truly British had surely been banished.
For the remaining ten minutes I continued with my cunning plan – the finger actually did a good job – and rode out the storm, avoiding departing the train early. I arrived at my destination and embraced the fresh new air around me. I couldn’t help but feel aggrieved by this man and the legacy he had bestowed upon this carriage of innocent people. I thought about the next person who was to sit in my seat and all those I had left behind. I had to let this man know what I thought about his ‘Legacy’. So, as the train gathered speed and started to leave the station I inhaled some more relatively fresh air and waited for the said carriage to reach me. When it did, I looked in, scanned the seats for my target, locked eyes and unleashed fury. Fury in the shape of the dirtiest look mankind has to offer.
Not very cutting you might say, but was else was I meant to do? Everything happened so quickly. I had to act fast. Giving him the finger didn’t seem appropriate, and throwing petrol bombs wasn’t an option as I didn’t have any on me. So I settled for a dirty look. Clean(?), precise and straight to the point. He knew. The look told him. Maybe now he’ll clean up his act. Maybe he’ll seek retribution for the wrongs he had made. Maybe he’ll make it his life campaign to rid the tube of bad smells. Or maybe he’ll just go home and cry himself to his smelly little sleep.
It doesn’t really matter what happens. Just make sure the next time your friend, girlfriend, boyfriend, dog or cat smells like shit, you look them deep in the eyes and tell them; “You smell like shit.” It’s gonna save a whole lotta dirty stares.