Riding Metro North. Right Place. Right Time.

Tuesday morning. 5:33 a.m. Second morning train to Grand Central.

I pause in front of the empty aisle seat. The occupant, feigning sleep, awakens immediately after my “excuse me.” He looks up the train car wondering why I hadn’t found another seat. He slides over roughly signalling displeasure. Bullsh*t.

I set my bag down onto the floor, reach down to grab my iPad, and in doing so, I clip his arm which extends into my air space. Ladies, no worries. I size up opponents carefully before jostling them. He tucks his elbow in.  I settle in, with territorial boundaries established, and all parties now in their rightful places.

I catch a whiff, it lingers for a minute, it’s foul, and then it disappears. I go back to reading. 

The train makes its first stop at Stamford. Doors hiss, open, passengers pass by, and there it is again. B.O. Heavy, thick B.O. This time it hangs. It can’t be me. Has to be Him. It vaporizes.  It can’t be Him, otherwise it would persist. I go back to reading.

Passenger passes by, and there it is again. I glance around to locate the source and then look up, and there resting (rotting?) on the overhead rack is a large, canvas backpack. Directly over top of Him. Cigarette smoke penetrates my suit jacket, does B.O.?

Train arrives at Grand Central. I get up quickly, woosy, with vertigo, looking up after 30 minutes with head in the morning papers. I exit into the underground tunnels.  Head spinning, ears ringing from the roar of the train engines, the heat, the crowds spilling down the tunnels, all swallow me whole. I step to the side out of traffic, slow my pace, take a few deep breaths and inhale a trace of urine and rancid food from garbage cans marinating overnight. 

I enter Grand Central terminal, look for the Lexington Avenue exit and punch my destination into the UBER app. 

I step on Lexington and cross the street to catch my ride.  We take FDR Drive South, and the morning sunrise pours through the window.  21 minutes to the office.

“Would you mind if I opened the window?”

“No Sir, not at all.”

I roll the window down.  I can smell, and taste the East River. The water shimmers and sparkles.  The Sun warms my face. The morning breeze is refreshing, and clears the head. The world is silent but for the wheels spinning on FDR Drive.  Buechner’s passage from the day before comes to mind: “we hear a whisper from the wings…you’ve turned up in the right place at the right time.

I will remember this.

Notes: Photo via poppins-me.


  1. Ugh. BO has got to be the vilest of scents when stuck in enclosed spaces.
    I would have wanted to gulp fresh air, too.
    Glad you could and found some peace on your drive in.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Silence on the FDR drive??? Now that alone is something worth savoring. All that led you to that moment, I for one, would rather forget. A clear morning, sweet air and the world welcoming you to join the day – unforgettable.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The train ride, though an assault to your senses, was clearly the prelude to the morning’s kiss. Have to experience the sour to appreciate the sweet. Wishing you a “BO free” weekend, pal. (Unless, of course, there’s a running post germinating, in which case I say “Bring it!”)

    Liked by 3 people

  4. seems like you had to experience the deepest ‘pits of hell’ in order to remind you to enjoy the heavens

    Liked by 2 people

  5. You make commuting sound like fun. Sort of.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Makes you wonder…what was in that bag? Urine you get. Garbage you get. BO you get. But riding along with you, hidden in a backpack? Interesting premise for a book…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What is BO?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, what an awakening that was for me! I felt bile mounting in my mouth, reading your horrible encounter – and that was before Saturday breakfast, which is a feast, normally! We get all of this daily on the trains to and from Paris; it makes many ppl take their car, pollute the air some more, and I got to understand them altough I pity all those who can’t do likewise.
    And you know what: I’m SO thankful that I live in a more b.o. restrained place, where I can more or less control the ‘stink’ around me 😉
    Then, your writing is SO convincing, I just re-read this post (after a day out with HH and celebrating my mum whose 93rd birthday it is) and I’m having bile again in my mouth…. So no more of that, please! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Good grief! What a stinky city you live in! LOL. I can laugh because I had a similar thing happen to me yesterday. The girl in front of me paying for her purchases had on tight, tight, supertight leggings, and probably no underwear. The Captain is hanging back trying not to look at her beckoning cheeks. She pays for her things and I move into the space she just occupied and am almost overcome by the sulfurous smell she left behind.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. love your train stories. I’ve always felt that the sense of smell is powerful in bringing back memories. Not sure if this will be a good one!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Relax... says:

    I don’t know how you do it, David, day after day.. Do you look forward to retiring?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. With that first whiff, John Cleese shouted in my head. “I fart in your general direction!” But reading further, I realized it was more ominous—up above, the true Holy Grail.

    Liked by 1 person

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