Dentist Drills and Stinky Feet

The BB and I settle into our plane seats. We open our book and newspaper. While someone takes care of transporting us to a new country, we have the luxury of reading. Life is good.

The Swiss alps peak over the clouds in the distance.

Then Life (that same “Life is good” Life) deals its first wild card.

A baby, who shall not remain nameless – let’s call her X, as in ‘X marks the spot’, ‘X factor’, Xtreme, Xaspirating – arcs up. She has impeccable breeding: out of Dentist Drill by Can’t Find the Off Button.

It must be a nightmare for the parents. They have, for whatever reason, eschewed other forms of transport. Now their child is in pain from the altitude, thereby consigning the passengers to a similar state.

They feed their offspring with baby and breast concealed inside a tent-like sweat lodge affair. This is so modest and seems so intent on removing any notion of the naturalness of nourishment and the human body that I wonder how we, as members of such a society, manage to conceive babies in the first place.

They sing themselves hoarse. The rest of us hum along to half-remembered nursery songs, our vocal chords straining in vain hope of a collective breakthrough.

The (increasingly desperate) parents rock, stroke, jiggle and pat. These actions are punctuated by a parade of their recently acquired majority share in Toys-R-Us. A cornucopia of distracting items is produced, each with a hopeful flourish.

But X steadfastly refuses to be deterred, soothed or otherwise silenced. Her master plan evidently involves a feat of endurance for us all, ending only in disembarkation when X, mission accomplished, will promptly fall asleep. Still, as with any marathon, we may all emerge at the end as better, stronger human beings.

Parents do their utmost to secure a peaceful flight for their baby and hence other passengers. But what of the man who sits behind me and removes his shoes? He places them carefully under my seat, thus ensuring maximum stenchy waft in my specific direction.

What responsibility does he have to me and the people sitting next to him? What is the correct balance of his physical comfort and our olfactory amenity?

It’s a delicate business, telling someone they smell. (It seems juvenile and cowardly to palm the task off on a hostess.) The difficulty depends on his level of knowledge. The man who doesn’t know he ponks is an entirely different beast from the one who does and happily subjects others to his odour, exploiting their reluctance to confront him about his ill manners. (I place myself in this basket.)

I am pondering how to phrase my revelation and request when The BB points to a vacant set of seats nearby. Like a conspirator, I nod my agreement and we leave the man to his own smelly fug.

So he and I have a reprieve. He from having to ask himself one of the hard questions of Life: Do I give a fig? Me from having to engage a stranger on a personal level and possibly shatter his illusions about his bodily hygiene.

A terrible photo showing how the canals of Holland are like fences – everywhere.

It’s easier to feel kindly disposed towards people whose behaviour aligns with a sense of social responsibilty than with those who might be adopting a more cavalier approach. One may even carelessly attribute attitude and motivation to each.

12 responses to “Dentist Drills and Stinky Feet

  1. Oh that is nasty (and altogether all too familiar)! Also caught a glimpse at the comment above mine (shoe-off-then-picking-skin) and I too have had that happen. Just as gross as you might think!

    • People have such different conceptions of how others function and the effects of their own behaviour on them. Clearly, feet-picking for some is the equivalent of scratching one’s elbow – no biggie. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Oh that kind of flight!! So stressy but the views from the window look fab.
    And Amsterdam, a wonderful city, a real favourite of mine, my bestie lives there so I’m looking forward to seeing and reading about your experiences. Happy and peaceful travels 🙂

  3. Love the conspirator nod …. and glad you had an option.

  4. I love the way you write. Thank you for your visit and comment on my blog.

  5. I know that baby.. and to further gross you out i was once beside a guy who took off his shoes THEN his socks and THEN proceeded to pick at the dry skin on his feet. Totally without thought i put on my teachers quiet stern voice and told him to stop that immediately he was making me sick and please put his socks back on. It was a 12 hour flight. This was not going to happen. ! great account of yours!! c

    • That is gross, Celia.
      The teacher’s authority is a useful tool. I once told some youths to stop messing with a protective fence at a railway station as the security guards ignored them. They stopped. No problems.

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