Stop the Assault On My Nose
It’s a relatively new concern of mine. I fear my nose is becoming desensitized. I attribute this new affliction to an influx of awful aromas. I know, everyone has to deal with smells; especially now- it’s summer. And it’s true; a trash day in the height of August can be awful, especially in a big city, but I’ve lived through those and this is a brand new problem for me.
You see, I only recently started patronizing the local subway system. Up until a year ago, I would regularly make use of the vast offering of busses my town has to offer. Bus drivers were nice enough, city sidewalks were not, and a commute to work under 45 minutes was like winning the lottery. One particularly slow bus day I took a chance and moseyed over to the nearest train station. Soon after, the rail became my new norm.
The experience of riding the train has brought on many wonderful advantages. I can sleep later because it takes far less time to get from place to place and my travel time on the whole is far more predictable. Why did it take me so long time to embrace the underground transportation available to me? As a wheelchair user, I feared broken elevators and I feared getting my tire stuck between the train and the platform when boarding. Today those concerns barely cross my mind. I’m lucky enough to have contingency plans for my regularly traveled destinations and can reroute myself without a moment of dread in the event that I find a defective lift. I can also proudly say that my casters haven’t gotten stuck in the gap, not once.
The only elevator-related concern I face daily is the cleanliness of said contraptions. My daily travels mean utilizing five of these beasts each way. That’s ten occasions a day where I’m gambling with my senses.
It truly boggles my mind, particularly in larger outposts, where real bathrooms are mere feet away, that one would prefer to relieve themselves in the corner of a four foot box. It perplexes me that a condom and a bottle of alcohol found themselves on the floor. I wonder how it is that the scent of a foot infection can linger so long and cling so well to steel surfaces. I marvel at how a newly cleansed and maintenanced conveyor comes with a pungent perfume of its own, a mix of mechanical lubricant and some orange-based surface spray.
You might still dismiss this experience as one everyone has to endure, but in truth this unpleasant encounter is reserved almost exclusively for disabled commuters.
On one recent excursion, I had my mother in tow. She’s been a regular subway rider her whole life. We boarded the track elevator and, bless her heart, she immediately gagged throwing her hand and a tissue up to her nose. She asked me how I could possibly stand it in here? I merely shrugged; assuring her that this was nothing compared to other elevators I have had to suffer.
Many travel companions of mine will in fact ‘opt’ to skip the elevator and meet me up or down the stairs as the case may be when they get a preview of the impending torture a 30 second elevator ride can bring. I do appreciate the few brave souls coughing, holding their breath and keeling over when they dare to endure the ride with me.
It wasn’t so long ago that I would have had the same reaction. Has my sense of smell changed so much in so short a time or is it some sort of survival mechanism- my body adjusting because it knows? And how do we combat this misuse of public space? Is this newfangled urine repellent paint the answer we need? Maybe more janitors would suffice. I don’t know. I want to save public transit elevators and myself, but I have no answers, only questions.