He flung himself into the chairs across from us in the breakfast car, put his head in his hands, and mumbled to the waiter for coffee. It was silent then except for the chattering of early risers eating their overpriced eggs, over salted corn beef hash, and the sound of the train. The ever present smell of burning track rubber and body odor was nauseating, which made paying triple for dry toast and two ounces of orange juice concentrate even harder to justify.
Traveler’s small talk has its own guidelines. Instead of discussing the weather or city government, one can ask where to or from [O1] the other person is going. For instance, this coffee drinker was taking the twenty three hour trip from Louisiana back to Long Island. This information opens up a whole new facet of small talk to relieve awkward dinning car tensions. He was visiting a friend, “but I wouldn’t go all the way to Louisiana for just a friend, now would I?” They had met at a school in the Midwest that’s[O2] main focus was on meditation, “You’d be sitting in a math class and they’d try to relate meditation to it, and just made up their own form of physics. The whole town was brainwashed.”
It took at least an hour to get our food, [O3] and in the meantime Jake told us more about New York and himself. He was a musician now, and would start looking for a bartending job tomorrow. He was anosmic, which meant he had no sense of smell. This was caused by a concussion in high school. “I fell backwards. My friend tried to catch me but it was too late.” While in the hospital the doctors found out he had a heart condition. He had already been accepted into some of the top naval flight schools in the country, but now had to change plans. The joke was made that without a sense of smell he could easily be a garbage man. He said being a garbage man was a respectable job, early hours, but a really good job.
The following are quotes from James B., a New Yorker with anosmia:
“I discovered when I lost my sense of smell, a lot of scents in the world are bad, especially as a guy. Whenever I’m driving with my friends and they want me too smell something I can’t. Or my dog farts a lot, clears rooms, and I don’t bat an eye lash.”
“But I’ll never smell pizza again, never smell bacon again, never smell a woman’s hair, or anything pleasant.
“I never based a lot on sense, or maybe I did, subconsciously.”
“It’s a handicap, but it’s also kind of a super power. If my super villain was like a giant disgusting smelly thing I could kick his ass all day.”
“You’re in the city, there are a lot of homeless people, and homeless guys smell a lot.
I asked a homeless man for directions once, he gave me directions, I gave him two bucks, and he bought a hot dog. Then he came over and sang me songs and we got to hang out for a little while. I can now hang out with a wider range of smelly people.”
“The downside is when my sense of taste starts to go away. On the Brightside it’s just food, I don’t go around licking buildings or homeless people.”