An open letter to people on the 3 train

Dear co-rider,

In the spirit of John Lennon, a one-time New Yorker, I say: yes, yes is the answer. “Yes” is the answer to the question on everybody’s minds earlier today: “Do you smell something weird?” And “yes” is the answer to the question, “is that short fella standing in the middle of the car the source of said smell?”

So I say to all of you, yes, yes I did smell something weird, and yes, the smell seemed to be coming off that man –– and yes, I was that man.

Innocent people.

Surprised? I know. Me, too. I don’t look like a smelly guy, do I? (Rhetorical question). And yet there I was, smelling away, making people cover their faces with their shirts. Unfortunately, the car was so packed that you couldn’t move away, and neither could I, so there we were.

I’m not usually that smelly. Really, I’m not. I hadn’t even smelled this bad all day, but it had been one hot day in New York City, and I’d been walking up and down the avenues and streets wearing the (formerly) white ball cap, and the black T-shirt, and my back pack with a camera I hadn’t used at all, and I was really sweaty. What can I say? I break a sweat even when I tie my shoes.

I know they say that sweat itself doesn’t even smell, but does it really make any difference to you whether it was the sweat that’s caused the smell, or the bacteria on my skin that did it? I happen to think it wasn’t even the bacteria on my skin, because every morning, I make sure my bacteria is very clean. Instead, I think the smell was a result of my sweat coming into contact with the fabric my T-shirt. The guy who sold me the shirt said it was 100% cotton, but I’m afraid I have become the offer of a T-shirt scam. Lesson: Never buy T-shirts from Nigerian princes.

I’d especially like to apologize to the short, ponytailed woman who stood in front of me, or to be more accurate, under me, in the cosy warmth of my armpit. She stood there bravely and didn’t flinch even when she got a few drops of sweat onto her arms. I mention the ponytail, because it fanned the smell upward, and around the entire car, which she should get credit for.

I’d also like to apologize to her on behalf of my daughter who held on to her thigh all the way to Times Square, thinking it was mine. Also, I realize she wanted to get off the train already at Penn station, so sorry about that, too.

I have to say that by the time we got to the 110th Street station, I had got used to the smell, and even got to liking it a little bit. I hope all you people who rode with me all the way to Harlem did, too.


How does that make you feel?