When the call came to board the plane, I scooped up my boarding pass and fried chicken and made my way toward the last checkpoint. A girl in line next to me turned and asked whether that announcement had been for group three boarding. I sure hope so, ’cause here I am. We shared a half-hearted chuckle at an insanely lame attempt at humor and I boarded the plane.
I got to my seat — 28A — and stowed my pack in the overhead while tossing my box of chicken beneath the seat for safe keeping, proceeding to flip haphazardly through the inflight magazine I’d already read on all three of my previous flights that week. Bryan Cranston was being featured; he’s apparently very satisfied with life. So was I, if only for that brief moment then and there.
When the smell hit me, it was like a freight train. It stunk of sour mud, old eggs, decomposition, and deep fried poultry. Maybe it’ll pass, I hoped as I shifted in my seat and looked around cautiously to see if anyone else was being as assaulted as I was. I was willing to claim blame for the chicken and had an apology prepared at the tip of my tongue, but there was no way that I was prepared to admit the other contributions to the stench. It was suffocating and awful, and condemnation be to the person who chose to step onto that aircraft and emit such a foul act upon the senses of every person flying economy.
Here is my confession: it was me.
Actually, it was my shoes. I call them my jungle shoes because I bought them for the sole purpose of gallivanting through the Costa Rican jungle for eight consecutive days. Tromps through the rainforest, sliding through bat guano, salty ocean submersion, and acting sauna to my often-bare feet. To say they got the job done would be an understatement and I will forever recommend the Scarpa brand.
Unfortunately, all of that adventure had one drawback that only revealed itself once I was tucked in for the long and stagnant trip home. I dipped my head nonchalantly beneath the seat in front of me and took in a deep whiff — my suspicions were instantly confirmed by my turning stomach. My jungle shoes reeked of what I can only describe as jungle death.
When I resurfaced, I looked up to see that my seat mates for the next few hours were loading their luggage and settling themselves in. It was the girl from the group three boarding line, with her fiancé. The two, I learned, were from near my own hometown in the Ottawa area, but were returning home to Toronto after a vacation in the Caribbean. We chatted for a short time about our respective trips and what to expect for in-flight entertainment, my mind acutely aware the entire time of the eye-watering stench emanating from somewhere below us. Forget the controversy about reclining seats — the real issue surrounding that lack of personal space lies in the fragrant cocktail of weary travelers.
Or maybe that’s just me.
Consider this my personal apology to everyone on the plane that day. I’m so sorry that I smelled so bad. Because I was busy running around San Jose that morning, I had no time to shower before whisking myself off to the airport. I had no clean socks left. My secondary set of footwear were even more disgusting, and I left them behind in Costa Rica (you’re welcome). Because I had no cash left, I decided to wait to eat until arrival in Miami. Because my flight was delayed, I had to rush through MIA and pull a grab-and-go at the nearest fast food, fried chicken joint. I was tired and grungy, and I’m sorry.
Such apologies are the Canadian Way, after all, and I feel as though a weight has been lifted from my soul.
Partially in attempt to remove myself from the situation, partially because I had already seen the in-flight a few hours prior, and mostly because I was knackered, I fell dead-to-the-world asleep and didn’t rejoin the living until descent in Toronto. When I opened my eyes, it was to the husband-to-be leaning over his fiancé, staring at me. Oh God, I thought, I’m about to be forced to admit my hygienic shortcomings. I prepared my public apology as he opened his mouth and the question came pouring out. “Do you smell that?”
Wait, no, that’s not what he said at all. I couldn’t believe it. “Would you like to split a cab with us?”
Bless Canadian hospitality. Or maybe they just thought I was less-fortunate and needed a handout. Or maybe I didn’t smell as bad as I thought.
No, upon reflection, it was definitely a Canadian thing. I reeked of jungle death.