Don’t bring on da’ funk!

This is not the sweetest of topics this week so if you happen to be noshing while reading please stop noshing. Or stop reading! For this story takes place not in Bar-land where the various aromas collide in a bouquet of “vintage” (just go with me on that one, okay?), but on the way to same in a smelly cab. A real smelly cab. One that threatens to attach its funk to its fare. Which last night was me!

Now the first thing that tells you that something’s not right is when a cab pulls up, it’s forty degrees, and both of the back windows are halfway down. It either means a member of the Polar Bear Club was likely the last occupant, or a normal person was just trying to fucking breathe. And last night when I was approached by a cab whose windows were thusly open (a cab which I had to take, by the way, I was late for work and cabs just weren’t that plentiful), I quick found out that the previous fare was the latter. A hapless citizen simply trying to respire. Man, did this cab smell!

But before I continue this assault on the senses let me put out this disclaimer. This is not to demean any nation or “ism” (as many are wont to do), who in honor of some certain rite or holy day can’t take a bath on that day (which is not the “rosiest” of events either but what the hell ya’ gonna do?) I’m simply referring to a cabbie from the Grand Funk real road. That’s all. A guy who should hand out plastic body suits not just to shield his B.O., but the cologne he tried to mask it with which was heinous. He smelled like a bagful of armpits sprayed with a room deodorizer. Fruit scented!

So when I warily entered his cab last night and gave this man my directions, which of course he didn’t respond to as he was listening to someone on his head set and murmuring unintelligibly, I immediately addressed the window situation at hand. Because even here in this stop position with the windows more than half down, the assault on my nostrils was fast and full freaking throttle.Ā  Holy shit! I thought, blinking through the haze, do I offend or do I defend my very being here? Which means, do I roll down the windows, all the way down, creating a Tundra cross breeze, clearly telling the guy up front, “You stink!”? For what else could it mean in forty degree weather? Or do I quietly respect his feelings and bear the onslaught?

Well if you were me amidst this miasma and on your way to work where you dealt with the public, and you feared contact contagion afoot most foul (remember that Seinfeld episode where the valet “funked” up Jerry’s car and subsequently the cast?) you’d do exactly what I did which is roll down the windows. (And maybe even open the doors if it was legal.) I mean, fuck it, this is war, right? Or like Jerry put it when the funk wouldn’t go, “It’s a presence, it’s The Beast!” and thought he’d need a priest to perform an exorcism, I thought I’d need The Breeze to defeat The Beast. With gusts up to forty!

So as I sat there watching the meter uptick, traffic was truly a bitch, trying to act as nonchalant as possible, I could see the cab driver’s eyes looking back in the mirror. What is he thinking? I thought. Is that anger, hurt or confusion staring back at me? Or just a guy who’s checking me out now that his conversation on the headset had ended. Well I decided I didn’t care what he thought because even though I’m not some callous hump, insensitive to other people’sĀ  feelings, I had to leave this cab with the funk unattached. I had customers to see, god dammit, if ever I could get there. Which brings up the next problem. Because of all the traffic, the constant stop-and-go took away my cross breeze. My weapon! And I actually did start to wonder if the Beast would be with me. If I would waltz into work not only smelling like I ran all the way in a three layer plastic jogging suit, but given this guy’s cologne or his fucking after shave, had spent the whole afternoon with a gaggle of hookers!

Then I thought about just how insane this all was. And not just my paranoia. I mean if I came to work, or anyone did, smelling like I put on a used sweat suit and dowsed myself with a gallon of eau de Hades, how long would I have a job at all to go to? Not very long. Yet these stinking guys (and far too many) ride around in these fume-o-biles totally employed. And we’re at their mercy… at least if we’re in a hurry and late for work.

Well, about five blocks shy of my destination, stopped once again and sitting without my cross breeze, I told the guy to pull over and let me out. I figured if I could jog the rest of the way in, maybe around forty miles an hour… unleash my inner cheetah, as it were… I could shake these fetid remnants of this ride from hell. I could aerate with speed and guile this collateral fume-age.

Ahh, but since no one can run that fast, to be sure (and certainly not yours truly), when I walked behind the bar to begin my shift, I subtly kept sneaking whiffs and sniffs of my person. For I still wasn’t sure. And when no one asked me to open a window or fanned their nose with a menu, or gave me a look that betrayed some some covert agenda, I finally laid the entire rotten matter to rest. Business would go on on as usual in “vintage” redolence. Which means, however slow or fast I had jogged, let’s call it two miles per, and however insane my thinking was that I’d somehow brought in the funk just like the Seinfeld crew, the Beast had been defeated and likewise my fears. Even without me having to call in a priest.

“Delightful night, isn’t it, miss, and what can I get you to drink?” I would ask, odor free! Holy shit, if you only knew, I would think.

(Who says this is easy???)

Happy Thanksgiving, you guys, I’ll see ya’ next week-end! šŸ™‚

PS: I was happy to see that a friend of mine made the papers today. If you’re interested, (read this in the New York Daily News), it’s my “Pal Joey” I once wrote about (here).

12 Responses to “Don’t bring on da’ funk!”

  1. 1 Petro November 20, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    I once was on a bus route with school kids, who were fond of deploying “stink bombs” on the public transportation.

    That sticks – not only to your clothes, but to the inside of your nostrils.

    Mayhaps you should lay in a few of those for your next cab drive. Just to see if the driver even notices…


  2. 2 jc November 21, 2010 at 1:15 am

    I wonder if the trunk would have been better? No cross breeze! Fabreze makes a “to-go” travel size bottle.

    Love the story about Joey and his dog. Glad you have each other.

    Happy Turkey Day Scrib:)

  3. 3 Anonymoustache November 21, 2010 at 7:40 am

    Great writing, man! ‘Grand Funk real road’ had me rolling…
    What an obnoxious cabbie….or should I say BO-noxious one? Reminds me of the days when I used to regularly take public transportation in a faraway hot and humid land….Vicks Vaporub and a change of clothes were standard issue essentials…felt like a forensics investigator on call all the time…

    Also, “…but the cologne he tried to mask it with which was heinous…”…doesn’t this somehow always make it worse? Reminds me of a movie line (One of the Austin Powers I think), “Great. Smells like someone took a shite in a pine tree.”

  4. 4 physiobabe November 21, 2010 at 8:17 am

    You poor sweet man. Thank you, thank you, thank you for warning me to refrain from eating my breakfast before reading this.

    Giorno felice della Turchia, mi amore!

  5. 5 scribbler50 November 21, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Petro: And stink up myself in the process? Not likely. šŸ™‚

    jc: And Happy Turkey day to you, my friend, I always appreciate your comments. And in this case your suggestion.

    Anonymoustache: As I said in the previous post, good to have you back, Bro, your comments have been missed. (Figured you’d like the “Grand Funk real road”.) Also, since you are the master punner, I can’t resist this… I’d use the Vick’s Vaporub but I don’t want rub the driver the wrong way! (Place groan here.)

    physiobabe: Your welcome and hugs and kisses, (however you say that in Italian!)

  6. 6 Donna B. November 21, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    I am thanking my lucky stars right now that I’ve never been in that situation with another human. And I’ve worked with homeless people who obviously hadn’t bathed in a while… but what you have described is beyond anything I’ve experienced.

    Though there was that time I picked up my 9 yr old son from summer camp… and discovered he’d refused to bathe the entire week. Time spent in a southern, sorta swampy, lake simply adds its own odor. That’s the closest I can come in trying to relate.

    So I ask – seriously – is it the city? Oh yes, I’m a hick and I’ve never lived in a city larger than Dallas. I’ve visited DC, San Francisco, Houston… but never anywhere like New York City. Frankly, the idea of a place that crowded, close, and huge rather frightens me.

  7. 7 scribbler50 November 22, 2010 at 1:21 am

    Donna: In answer to your question, yeah I guess you could say it’s the city because whenever you have this many people in such a concentrated area you’re going to rub shoulders with all types. But the cab driver situation, for more reasons than I described, has really gone downhill. There’s little communication, they’re often rude or non-responsive, they’re always on the phone or talking through those damn head sets (often forgetting the stop because of it), and in some cases, like here, hygiene’s an issue. A shame. There used to be a thing called the “New York cabby”, a colorful character born and bred who not only took pride in his work but was a slice of the city a tourist could learn. Now you’re lucky if they know where the Empire State Building is.
    Thanks, Donna.

  8. 8 HyeFye November 22, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Hey Scrib,

    The joys of NYC cabs are legion, but I say you got off light.

    Last winter, in the wee small hours of a Soho Saturday, I hailed a cab. I didn’t notice it at the time, but that back window was rolled all the way down. What I did notice was the sound from the floorboards when I sat down … a sound reminiscent of sneakers getting stuck in mud.

    Then I noticed the smell.

    Whoever was in that cab before me had spent a little too much time in bar-land.

    P.S. As I began reading your story all I could think about was that “Seinfeld” episode (“When the ‘B’ leaves, the ‘O’ is supposed to go with it!”), and you, of course, were already there.

  9. 9 scribbler50 November 22, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    HyeFye: A friend of mine related a similar incident only he made his discovery not from the floorboard but when he put his fingers in that slot in the inside door handle when he closed the door. On his way to a business meeting!!!

    You’re right, I got off easy.

  10. 10 Pieter B November 27, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Several decades ago, I worked in Manhattan and lived in the suburbs. I commuted by train, and I always hated working late, because the only cabbie who worked the after-dinner hours was a guy who chain-smoked little twisted Italian cigars — Parodi was the brand, Google tells me — that made the strongest French cigarette smell like roses. The kids I grew up with them called them “G_____ stinkers” using a politically incorrect term for Italian. I’d risk frostbite just to get a bit of fresh air into the back seat. Gack.

  11. 11 scribbler50 November 27, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Pieter: I’m with ya’, man, a freeze is worth it.

  12. 12 Pieter B November 27, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Oddly enough, if you like cigars, those dried-up little things are a great smoke. Just do it outdoors and away from inhabited dwellings.

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