Wednesday, May 2, 2012


I was on a full flight the other day. I was one of the last people on and could not move my seat. The lady sitting one seat over from me smelled like she had an accident in her pants. She also had not had a shower in several weeks. NO SHOWER! The smell was so bad it made my stomach turn. There were no other seats and I had to sit there. Thank god it was a short flight. Let me also point out that this woman was wearing really old runners with no socks, green sweats and a stained t-shirt under which there was no bra. She was oozing over her seat and had a seat belt extender. There were scabs on the visible parts of her skin both arms and legs, her hair was matted and dripping with oil, and her face was dirty. When she scrached, parts of skin flaked off, which she would put on her napkin. The body odor, was putrid, it made me gag several times. What part of my Karma decided to tormented me this way. I have an amazing sense of smell and this smell was torturous. BUT here is the other side of this story. Nobody wanted to even sit near this person, mostly me, I didnt even want to acknowledge her. Then she let out a little squeal of delight when the plane started to taxi away from the gate. This sound startled me as did her child like glee she looked out the window of the plane. The seat between us was empty (obviously) so I showed her how to raise the arm to help accomadate her size. She was .... simple. There was no other word for her, she was simple. It was like talking to a young 12 year old. She did seem to have other mental defects, hence the no showering, but I found my self feeling sad for this person who was attacking everyones sence of smell on this flight. My parents raised me not to be rude, and this was a real challange. I wanted to disinfect myself just because I was sitting near her, but she apparently was oblivious of her condition. She ordered a diet coke and pulled out a nice black purse. The credit card she gave them still had the stickers on it. It looked brand new. The card made me wonder about her life. She struck me as a person who could be living on the street, but here she was taking a flight. Maybe she was being shuttled between family members who felt like they had to care for her, but did not care for her in any sense of the word. She surprised me by offering me half of her soda. I politely declined saying that I did not like sodas. But who offers to share a soda on an airline anymore??? I put the tray down on the seat between us as she was having trouble dealing with the tray in front of her. She thanked me, with that surprised look of someone who has recieved very little kindness. I felt like such a heel. Because the smell was so strong and rancid I was only capable of offering this person a modicum of decorum. The flight although short, was really looooong. When the flight landed I was quick to jump up and be off to freasher air. She went to retrieve her belongings, and I noticed that she had brought her own blanket, it was just a dirty as she was. There was a plastic bag and a plastic reusable bag. The reuseable bag was filthy and filled with VHS movies. I noticed the titles were all from the late 80's. She didnt have other clothes with her, and she carfully put the empty diet soda can into her bag. I thought to ask if she needed help or if there was going to be someone waiting for her, but I didn't. Instead I bolted as soon as the planes door opened. I got my luggage and waited at the curb for my ride who was running a little late. before he came I noticed the woman walking outside with the belongings she carried onto the flight. She didn't have a checked suitcase with clothing only what she was wearing. My heart sank, I asked her if she was ok. She said she was fine and wandered off down the street the corner of her dirty blanket dragging on the ground behind her, her putrid smell filling the air wherever she went. I confess, I gaged a little at the smell and let her walk away. I am conflicted with the feeling of horror and sadness mixed together. I know I should have been more kind to this person, but I could not find it in me to be more than passingly cordial. This world is filled with people who truly need our help, and when presented with those people recoil from them. It is one thing to send money to help people with problems or do a charity show to help raise money it is different to deal with these people when they effect our lives. I truly believed I was a better person, but I guess I am just like everyone else. I realize this woman has mental issues that I would not have been able to change by offering her a little bit more of my humanity, but ..... I still feel bad. I hope that she find the help she truly needs. I am going to try to be a little more kind to everyone, because one day it might be me who needs the kindness from others.

1 comment:

  1. Arian,
    you showed her a little kindness, and a little kindness is better than nothing I guess. She may have been homeless. As a police officer for 19 years, I have dealt with many people of this nature. I know the smell of which you speak, and it is not one that you soon forget.

    I am assuming that you were flying in to Las Vegas? If that is true, she may have been relocating for the weather. I know sometimes churches, and even police departments will help people relocate and even give them some emergency money on prepaid credit cards.

    We as Americans send money to other countries to help feed and clothe people, but we do little as a whole for our own needy people in our borders. Sometimes people are in this situation because they lost their job due to the economy and were living paycheck to paycheck. It is very easy that this happens to people. Some just lose it when that happens and become a little mental.

    I try and help everyone I meet, regardless of offensive odor or lack of bathing. Even if it is just to give them $20 to get where they need to go, or maybe eat something.

    You did the best you could, and maybe that was enough to give her a small bit of happiness, or even make her day. Have a good one sweetie.