If you live in New York, you develop radar that pings when Something Isn’t Right: when the crowd on the subway platform is too big, when the guy on the bench on the playground is looking too hard at the girls on the swings, when the little group that hangs out near the statue in Union Square starts talking a little too loud.
And we all know to swerve widely around the Ranters and the Shouters: you never can tell when Ranting will spill over into Wild Arm Swinging.
But what about those subtler NYC indignities: the subway crush, the zombie-like checkout clerk at Walgreens, the glacial crawl of cabs down 5th avenue at rush hour? Or–my personal favorite, now that I am a daily bus rider–the Woman With Stinky Perfume? Not stinky like powdery Aunt Tillie with her decades-old bottle of Shalimar. No, I’m talking headache inducing, get-inside-my-nose-and-stay-there-for-days type perfume, probably sold in ten-gallon drums.
Nothing to be done about Stinky Perfume Lady (SPL), usually, other than go home and try to wash out the inside of my nose, which generally fails because I start to snort and whuffle and realize that if I were ever waterboarded, I would pony up state secrets in a heartbeat.
Today, however, on my new home away from home, the 14D Bus, there was a collision between a Stinky Perfume Lady and a Ranter, and oh, my friends, it was delicious.
I smelled SPL but never saw her; her stench wafted far forward from where she was sitting and I started to calibrate whether I could get off the bus and still get to where I needed to go without being late. Then booming through the bus, a voice:
Lady if you’re gonna wear perfume wear something good I’ve got a headache already and it’s only been two stops and I sure as hell hope you don’t have a family because you’re gonna kill them with that stuff it smells like damn gasoline! You gotta get off this damn bus and air yourself out! Shit!
No one applauded but I wasn’t the only one smiling in satisfaction. That’s the thing about New York: in other cities, the id gets sublimated, repressed. Here? The id has a metrocard, just like the rest of us.