Friday, February 17, 2006

Waiting to Inhale

Okay, listen, I worked on the Orenberg Barbie shawl and got all the way to the final corner, but there's no picture yet. Sue me.

Today I have to write about a topic far more important, as it relates directly to my personal health and well-being. This is an open letter to any members of the general public who frequent the Chicago public transit system.

If you recognize the image below, you may skip this post.



If not, I need to speak to you.

On the basis of far too many harrowing train rides in the past two weeks, it seems to me that a large segment of the metropolitan population is losing its grip on the concept of personal cleanliness.

Time was when my greatest olfactory ordeal while commuting was the occasional man or woman who felt naked in public without a cloud of Brut or Windsong surrounding them like a mediaeval saint's nimbus.

Now, however, instead of being stuck in a wheeled box for two hours each day with a flower garden, I am making the same trek with a pig farm. The final straw came this morning, when I was forced to endure the proximity of a woman whose personal aroma was sharp enough to cauterize wounds.

I don't know what's going on. A poor soul who has to live on the street, without access to santiary facilities, may be forgiven for being somewhat whiffy. But the folks who have been curling my nose hairs are very obviously not only not homeless, they're employed. And yet their body odor hits one like a poke in the eye.

People, wash yourselves. Every single day. It's not impossible, I swear, or even time-consuming. You can easily do it and still get over to the Jerry Springer studio in time for taping.

You still need persuading? Okay, how's this. Britney Spears does it. You wouldn't always know it to look at her, but she does. That get you going? Yeah, I thought it would.

Now. That picture above? Let's see it again.



This is called "soap." It is readily available at many fine retail establishments, including drug stores,* convenience stores,** and grocery stores.*** It can be had for mere pennies, and a single bar can often last a week or more.

Go buy yourself some "soap," right now, and then come back. I'll wait.

Do you have your "soap"? Good. Now, read the following instructions carefully before you go any further. I will walk you through this, while trying my best not visualize you doing it.
  1. Remove all your clothing. (Clothing should also be washed with its own form of "soap," but that's another post. We must crawl before we can walk.) I would recommend you lower your shades, if any, before doing this.

  2. Go into the bathroom (you're about to learn why we call it that, isn't that exciting?). Locate the bathtub. You may have to push the stacks of old TV Guides aside in order to find it, but it's there. Look for something like this:



  3. Empty the tub of debris. The spare tires for the pickup truck and your comprehensive archives of the National Enquirer will have to go elsewhere for the time being.

  4. Find the little hole at one end of the tub and plug it by any means necessary, then turn on the water. You want hot water. That's the knob with the "H" on it. The "H." That's the letter that looks like the Olsen twins shaking hands. Yep, you got it.

  5. Get into the water. No, it won't melt you. The Wizard of Oz was all made up. They did that with special effects. No, seriously. We can talk about the flying monkeys later. This is not the time. Focus.

  6. Notice how the water just turned black. That's bad. Water should be clear. This is where the real fun begins.

  7. Pick up your "soap." Dip it in the water. Now, rub it all over yourself. Visualization may help. Pretend this is a music video and you're Christina Aguilera. Right. Sure, you can also be Lil Kim. Or Billy Idol. You pick.

  8. The "soap" will begin to bubble. Do not be alarmed. This is perfectly normal.

  9. Once you have run the "soap" over every part of your body (even, and especially, including your goodies) let the water out of the tub and rinse yourself all over with new water.

  10. Repeat steps five to nine until you can touch the water without making it change color.

  11. You are now clean. You need to dry off, but as that requires a clean towel, this may be an issue for you. I'm sorry, I guess I didn't think ahead. I can't be the one to always think of everything. No, I don't want to discuss this on Jerry Springer.
*Where you get your meth ingredients.
**Where you get your monthly copy of Juggs.
***Where you get your Funyuns and diet soda.

55 comments:

Cheryl said...

oh glory I hate those flying monkeys!!!

Andy said...

Where does soap-on-a-rope fit into the regimen?! Franklin, I do believe you need a mass transit vacation!

bluecanary said...

Sorry for your L troubles. In the words of De La Soul (and with a riff borrowed from "Stand By Me"):

"Please listen to this simple De La style I'm gonna sing.
It's strongly directed to all the misery you're bringing.

Now I'm not all about dissing someone else personnel
But there's no quota on your odor
That's right, you smell

Now you might feel a little embarassed, don't take it too hard
And don't make it worse by covering it up with some Right Guard

Before you even put on your silk shirt and fat gold rope
Please take your big a** to the bathroom
And please use
(A little bit of soap....)"

Kim said...

I'm so sorry, I think you are taking the same train as my old roommates and they don't have internet access :(

I will print and mail for you.

christine said...

Oh my goodness, you made me wet my pants............I could smell that woman just from your words. If this just happened today, that being Friday, perhaps her personal hygiene regimen took place on Sunday, and has worn off.
Poor Franklin.............but very funny.
Recommendation: I have a handknit soft scarf that I use when I have to take the CTA. If I come across some noxious odor, I wrap said scarf around my face, obstructing my nose. Then I just breathe out of my mouth. It's pretty obvious, but, then, (duh) so is the odor..........

Donna said...

Oh My Goodness! I am ROFLMA. That is just too too funny. I just started reading your blog a couple of weeks ago, and I love it.

Kathy Merrick said...

I bow, yet again, to the MASTER of the written word in its true human glory.

Toni said...

As a public transportee, I so smell your pain. Perhaps one of your future posts can discuss how to avoid hitting oneself during urination (shake and then zip, people!) or, as my most recent unfortunate bus experience, how not to sleep in your own vomit.

Christine said...

Oh.My.Gosh. I have so wanted to just say that to some people, oh wait, I have. You are tooooo funny! May I link to this post????

Kathleen said...

Olsen twins shaking hands! LOVE IT.

(Loved the rest of the post too, of course, but that line in particular was terrific.)

the fiddlin' fool said...

We haven't had that problem on the Green Line so much, though we have had the occasional person light up on the train. I just unlawfully switch cars when that happens.

Carrie said...

It's a good thing I can type by touch, or I'd have to wait until the tears of laughter stopped. The Olsen twins shaking hands.... Lawdy that was good. When I grow up, I want to be you.
(And once again I thank my lucky stars that I live amongst the urban sprawl of the southwest and can easily get around in a little wheeled box in which I control the scent.)
I suppose you could start spritzing these people with Febreze or something.

Elaine said...

Dear Franklin,

If I run hot water in my bathtub won't my wool felt?

Sincerely,
Woolyness is next to Godliness

Will Pillage For Yarn said...

*dies* Franklin, I feel your pain. I am printing this out for my teenager. She has decided recently that she is a "crusty punk" which seems to entail making an extreme social statement about disaffection with society by wearing the same clothing every day, not washing and eating out of dumpsters.

I have pointed out to her that many people live this way because they are homeless. Having a room of her own, an ipod, a full larder (complete with loving mother who cooks her wonderful organic and cruelty free vegetarian entrees), shower facilities and a laundry room two doors down, means that her options are so much wider. And also, I don't want anyone living in my home to fit the definition of "crusty". Not even around the edges. Plus, using an ipod and buying frappucinos from Starbucks loses her crusty points so she should just give it up now. I bet you had no idea how helpful this post would be, did you? Especially the soap pictures.

And in the meantime, until the L folks scrub up, I suggest you look into the vintage art of pomander making. Some remedies are timeless.

Linda said...

Reading your post I am reminded of a similar experience. I entered a car that was mysteriously sparsely populated. This was a Blue Line train traveling in the direction towards the Loop on a weekday morning. That should have clued me in before I even attempted to enter. I guess the Chicago police must have been really cracking down that AM and ejecting homeless people from loafing around O'Hare. Yowza! The stench of putrid, fermented body juices was so incredibly penetrating I literally gagged. I very quickly changed cars.

I'm gonna guess you're a Red Line rider, am I right? The Red Line showcases the great mosaic of this city in ways both profound and profane.

As you point out, there is simply no excuse for this unless you lack access to a bathroom due to incredible hardship and/or severe mental illness. It is one of the sucky things about living in a large city.

Lucia said...

By a strange coincidence I too have a soap-related post today. I trust, however, that you meet very few sheep in the Chicago mass transit system. My sympathies.

Sherri said...

LOL . . . I'll trade ya. The New York City Subway System for Chicago's . . . You are too funny. I Love it.

goblinbox said...

*giggle*

boobookittyfug said...

If you get arrested for spraying people with Fabreeze, make sure you ask for a jury of El riders.

Pamela said...

I just have one thing to say, Fabreze comes in a lovely travel size that will fit in your knitting bag or pocket.

Liz said...

Now I'm having aftershave-on-the-train flashbacks--gag! I love the pomander suggestion.

Really, really funny stuff, Franklin--thank you.

Elisabeth said...

I like the pomander idea. There's also this stuff that coroners put under their nose to keep them from smelling rotting corpses. That might be just the thing.

Anonymous said...

Boy, do I hear you. I was on the subway in Munich yesterday and a overweight guy sat next to me... not only was he beyond whiffy (and reeked of non-tobacco smoke) but he felt the need to call out the names of the stations... until he fell asleep... on me...

Sean said...

LOL...you're too much, Franklin. I love it. The only problem is, those that don't wash...don't read, I'm afraid. My thought is, what about the poor souls who work with these pigs.

Now regarding the shawl. I got my copy. are you knitting the smaller sample shawls? I'm thinking of spinning my own lace weight mohair and doing a shawl...yummy

Marj. said...

I rode the Toronto subway for years, probably not as bad as some of the others but it definitely had it's stinky moments. Oh yeah, last summer at 30%C trapped in tunnels at rush hour...very smelly! Or maybe even better, riding it in February with the heat on high and everyone hacking, snotting and breathing on me...arghhh! Now I just smell like nice clean alpaca poop - my kids make me wash and change before I go to town though.

Love your blog....be well,

Lee Ann said...

Be glad you're not pregnant. Pregnancy gave me the ability to not only smell all these characters, but identify each individual person on a full bus by smell alone.

One more reason I only have one child...

dragon knitter said...

can you please explain this to my youngest child? he seems to think that my shaving cream is to make pretty pink swirls on the tile walls, and that the apple scented shampoo is cologne to be dabbed behind the ears, as opposed to rubbing in the hair (he's 11, ok, girls have no appeal at this point)

dragon knitter said...

oh, and the stuff that coroners put under their noses? vicks. dont' ask why i know that

Aidan said...

Yonkel:

I think I've found a use for your Orenberg washcloth.

Didn't ladies in the Victorian era and before carry lace kerchiefs soaked in perfume for the purpose of masking the odiferous properties of the unwashed masses?

I was once giving a speach on Jane Addams and I mentioned that Hull House operated a facility for people in the tenemants whereing they could bathe. One of the women int he audience asked if she could send her three teen boys right over.

And, at the risk of loosing you (incredibly precious) friendship, I would much rather smell the unwashed working class than walk through the subway entrences.I am afraid that horrible stench of urine is going to give me cataracts.

Ta.

Carrie (Like the Movie) said...

What a great post. I've been lurking around reading your blog for weeks, and finally had to jump on the "Franklin Rocks!" bandwagon.

What a great entry!

Elemmaciltur said...

Hahahaha, that so cracked me up! I think I should translate this in German and print it out and start handing it out in the tubes here, too!

June said...

Be wary of public transit if you travel in France! Or bring a delicately scented handkerchief to hold over your own nose.

Rabbitch said...

I used to take the subway in Toronto and oh man ... the summer ... when I was sitting down and everyone unwashed was standing up in front of me and holding onto the bar with their arms upraised and ...

Gah. I think this is why I got a car. Or why I started drinking.

DecemberFlower said...

Now where's the post on brushing your teeth? I know a good many people who could benefit from that.

rincaro said...

Ahhh... after quite the crappy day dealing with the unwashed (and uncouth) masses, this is just the giggle I needed.

Thank you so very much!

doloreshaze said...

I feel like fourteen years in nyc has made me impervious to any and all horrible odors. I don't even cringe at the aging hot pee sauna that is the subway platform in August any more. Of course I can't smell anything else, either, but that's another story.

Maus said...

LOL, that's hysterical... how many of those people you think read your blog? :)
I had a job interview recently and they actually did say at the end that the co-workers do appreciate if one doesn't sport BO... I found that shocking and didn't know what to say to that. Can you write one up where you expain that after having recently eaten a heavy duty garlicy sandwich one should not breathe across the desk at the librarian? Thanks ;) LOL....

Theresa said...

Tee hee!

Helen said...

Where was the SPEW warning at the top of that page?
I practically peed myself (might have too, but my last trip to the ... er.. rest room was fairly recent).

thanks!

TheAmpuT said...

I've been reading and lurking for awhile, not commenting because I havent had anything of wit or interest to add.
Actually, I dont have anything today, either...but this time it's because I'm laughing so hard I cant think straight. Love your blog...
and happy knitting ;-)

Bonne Marie said...

So this yuppie dude in a very expensive suit gets on the #66 early A.M. and squeezes into a seat with me. He is really shiny. His BO is of the 3-day Bender sort. Suddenly the bus gets so crowded I cannot even get a SRO slot and am trapped in that little two-seater right behind the driver.

As my mouth-breathin' head wags desperately looking for an escape, he casually asks me, "I look normal don't I? My wife is going to kill me." I reply, "No problem, my man, just run your hand through your hair." "Thanks." Schlip-comb. Gets off in the Gold Coast.

Those in the Know in East Uke Village call the #66 the Vom** Comet just for this very reason...

marcia said...

Dragon Knitter, how do you know that?

marie in florida said...

i laughed so hard soap bubbles came out of my nose!

beadlizard said...

I think Chicago should hire you to do little placards about hygiene to put in the El cars! Heck, how about the sides of buses! Cleanliness could become trendy!

Do they still have the young guys who come through rapping loudly until you pay them to leave?

--Syl, who had a lovely time riding Caltrain and the light rail to Stitches West yesterday and everyone was clean (and typing on laptops).

Linda said...

Dear Franklin,
We Australians shower every day but I visited a NAMELESS country in 1984 which printed an article in its main, capital city newspaper on how to use a shower. I was gobsmacked, and still am, 22 years later. So horrible to be unclean and afflicting others with stinkiness.

Rachel H said...

It's enough to make you want to move to the country and raise alpacas some days, innit?

Very, Very funny post.

susanne said...

Having been involved in the "staffing" business for many years, it was often my task to "counsel" people on their body odour. This was indeed a "delicate" issue but you wouldn't know it by the assault on the olefactory tubes that some people just don't seem to get.
To soften the blow, I would often talk about how I was sure that they bathed daily but the clothes need to be washed too...yadda yadda yadda..It might have softened the blow but didn't always work.
I do however, think it is a great part of the stinky problem.
bless you for laying out the steps. Let's hope the offenders read the list.

CJ said...

Sweet jeebus ... I'm sorry for your trails, but you write about it beautifully!!

CJ said...

um yeah, trIals, trials ... blame it on the laughing.

susan said...

Oh so funny...and yet I managed to keep my drink in my mouth until I came to the Funyuns. Priceless!!

Sherry W said...

I blame a lot of this on the "Crusty Punk" trend too. It seems down here in Philly, it's the new thing to be unwashed and rumpled. It's chic to look like a squatter, even if your riding the train in from the burbs.

I saw a kid who had about 2" deep of dandruff caked on his head yesterday, I swear. (Perhaps a shampoo FAQ?)

Mother of Chaos said...

Great Heavenly Dawg, I haven't laughed that hard in a long, long time. Bless you, bless you.

I take two trains and a bus to work. Oh my. The aromas. My, my, MY.

Also, quick FYI to your target audience: sucking on a Tic-Tac does *not* replace a good scrubbing of the old enamel with a toothbrush & paste.

oldcinderella said...

It is just sad that this post will not get to those who forgot what is a bar of soap for...

David said...

On the flight home this morning, I was seated across the aisle from a hulking mass of bad odor. Every time he heaved to his feet, I was accosted by his sour scent. Ugh.

Knitaholictoo said...

You had me laughing my ass off! Though I haven't been on a subway in years (I live upstate, now), the stench of NY in the summer is not so distant a memory!