It’s difficult to describe the smells of New York City. The sweet bread smell of a bakery often mixes with the smell of fresh (or aging?) garbage on the sidewalk, or the mysterious steam that wafts up from grates in the sidewalk. And what do you call the resulting mix of smells? Sweet sewage? Delicious decay?
And when you’re packed on the subway like sardines, and everyone around you has to lift their arm to grab a bar and prevent themselves from being slammed into the wall by the lurching train operator, and all these people have just come from the subway station that is a good 10 degrees hotter than the 90-degree-100-percent-humidty of the street level, and you’re trying to keep your hands in a place that is not touching other people and wondering what that thing is that feels like a hand rubbing against your butt and you can’t turn and look because you can’t move, and the train stops in the middle of a tunnel, and the train operator crackles over the intercom and says something completely unintelligible, and you’re hoping you won’t be stuck here for long, and you’re breathing through your mouth and thinking that if you’re here for more than 5 minutes you will claw your way to the doors, pry them open with your bare hands, and brave the unknown of the subway tunnel rather than spend one millisecond more breathing in the body odor of the guy next to you, with his arm up exposing to everyone in the car (and, you think, perhaps the cars in front and behind you, it’s so bad) the glaring fact that this dude needs a shower. Stat. Ol-factory indeed. I never thought I would regret having a sense of smell. Welcome to New York.
For fun, check out Gawker’s New York City Subway Smell Map. Readers of the Gawker blog write in with what smells they’ve experienced recently at all the major subway stops. At the stop I normally use, Borough Hall in Brooklyn, the smells recorded recently were body odor, chemicals, and urine. All in a day’s commute.
It's been awhile!
4 years ago