Cloying, artificial, floral… I could smell her before she got on the plane. She lumbered into the middle seat without saying hello, elbowing me with no apology as she dove for the seat belt clasp. Her white sweater flowed into my seat as I felt my temple start to pound and my eyes water. I twisted the overhead vent to blast air onto my face. Oh my. I’ve turned into my mother.
Growing up, I remember my mom dealing with frequent headaches, especially around “smelly” people or places. She avoided stores such as Bath & Bodyworks like the plague, and never ever used scented lotion or body spray. I always thought it was strange until I started to have an increasingly sensitive sense of smell myself.
Nowadays, I get smell-headaches instantly. Stinky cologne, overpowering aftershave, Tahitian vanilla body spritz, the laundry detergent aisle at the grocery store, the overhead projector in my classroom at school, you name it, any and all of these cause me grief. And I’m not exactly quiet about it, having written a “Stink-related public service announcement” (see here) and a rant about how perfume makes you ugly (truly, see here). But today, I just couldn’t take it.
“Excuse me, I’m sorry, may I please get by?” I said, unbuckling my belt and hoisting my laptop bag and purse onto my lap.
She looked at me in shock.
“I’m sorry, I think I’m allergic to your perfume.”
Her eyes bulged and she spat, “Well that’s funny because I don’t wear perfume.”
“Well I could smell you from a mile away, lady maybe your hairspray or body spray. I’m sorry, I can barely breathe right now.”
I shuffled off to an available window seat across the way, surprised that I couldn’t still smell the floral poison. Hateful eyes gazed upon me.
Until today, I’d never switched seats on an airplane before. Not when a drunk man invaded my personal space and talked to me inappropriately. Not when a woman reclined all the way back and smashed my knees. Not when a man in the middle took over half my seat. Moving, instead of sitting and stewing and suffering a headache for two hours, felt liberating! But I really wish it wasn’t necessary. So please friends, please leave off the perfume and cologne during travel and encourage others to do the same. And inventors, can one of you please concoct Smell-B-Gone spritz or a travel-sized bubble of fresh air that I can take with me every week? Thanks!