Week Forty-Four: "Lessons from Stinky McOdorstein"

Stinky McOdorstein:  Take One

I overheard her voice echoing in the galley.

“Let me see if I can find someone to trade seats with you.”

I looked behind me and saw the flight attendant trying to calm a flustered passenger.  It’s a pretty common sight nowadays, with airlines charging extra for extravagant perks such as checked bags, peanuts, and toilet paper in the lavatory.  This poor guy was the most recent victim.  He didn’t realize that his bargain fare only guaranteed middle seats on the plane for him and his three family members.  If his toddler wanted to sit next to daddy, he would have to pony up an extra $38 from his college fund.

I felt his pain, so I offered to switch seats.  The plane was packed, but the flight was short.  No big deal.  My generosity was met with gushing praise from the attendant, and a relieved thanks from the dad.

I am one hell of a guy, I thought.  If everyone were more like me, this world would be a much better place.

The plane was about to take off, so I quickly made my way from 22C to 8B.  The middle seat.  When I arrived, I motioned to 8C that I need the spot next to him.  My gesture was met with disdain.  I was crushing his dream of being the only guy on the plane with extra elbow room.

He must not realize how generous and awesome I am, I thought.  If he did, he wouldn’t be so grumpy about this.

He slowly got up and tolerated my presence.  The woman in 8D leaned around him and asked,

“Did you just trade seats with my husband?”

“If your husband is with a three-year-old, then yes I did.”

“Thank you so much!”

That’s more like it, I thought, smugly smiling at Grumpy Guy. 

She continued.  “My poor son was so sad that he might have to sit by himself!”

“No big deal,” I replied.

I’m kind of a big deal, I thought.

Meanwhile, Grumpy Guy was heavily sighing next to me, and edging me off the armrest.  I relinquished my real estate and folded my arms across my chest.

Grumpy Guy shifted in his seat, sighing even more.  The motion wafted air in my direction, and my nostrils detected a mildly unpleasant odor.  Like Grumpy Guy had been out all night and didn’t bother to change his wardrobe.

I give up my seat and this is the thanks I get? Trapped in a tin can with Stinky McOdorstein?


I reached up to adjust the air vent.  If I positioned it to blow straight on my face and down my neck, the smell dissipated.  After my little physics experiment, I only caught an occasional whiff of it, such as when I reclined my seat and the vent sent a current of air flowing from the space in front of me, up my chest, and directly into my sinuses.  Another quick adjustment fixed the problem.

The rest of the flight passed by without incident.  When we landed, the air vents were turned off, and the smell returned.  I counted the seconds until Grumpy Guy left.  It wasn’t a toe-curling smell, but enough to make you want to avoid breathing deeply.

When Grumpy guy got off, I stayed in my seat.  I had to wait for fourteen more rows of people to exit the plane so I could retrieve my bag back at 22C.  As I waited, I noticed that the smell lingered.

That’s a stubborn smell, I thought.  Opposite of awesome.

I looked around to see if Grumpy Guy was still around.  He was nowhere to be found.  I buried my face in my elbow in the hopes of masking the smell with that of my shirt.  I inhaled deeply.


Inhaled again.

What the…?

The smell got stronger.  And that’s when it hit me.

I’m Stinky McOdorstein!

The guy who forgot his deodorant.  The guy who is so inconsiderate that he positions his air vent to blow down his collar, past his shoulders, pushing air out of his shirt through the sleeves and into the atmosphere, creating a cloud of stink like Pig Pen.

As soon as I got off the plane, I dove into my overnight bag and liberally applied the Old Spice.  The smell was tamed, but the embarrassment lingered.  When I got to my hotel, I immediately chunked the undershirt to the floor and changed into my exercise gear to relax.  It was a cathartic moment for me.  Finally rid of Stinky McOdorstein’s clothing.


Stinky McOdorstein:  Take Two

I woke up before dawn the next morning and ran a few miles on the treadmill.  It was hard to drag my keester out of bed, but I was excited about the day.  I was going to deliver a really fun workshop for a new client.

After showering, my face was still red, and I was sweating a bit.  But this time, I would not forget deodorant.  I swabbed it on like three coats of paint, sure to avoid a repeat performance of my run-in with Grumpy Guy.

When I went to put on my clothes, I couldn’t find my undershirt.

I know it’s in here somewhere, I thought, as I rummaged through my suitcase.

But it wasn’t.  I forgot to pack one.  Ugh. 

For most guys, this is a minor inconvenience.  Just go without an undershirt, right?  No big deal! 

Unfortunately for me, Stinky McOdorstein has a best friend.  His name is Sweats Von PitPools, and his address is 7714 Armpit Lane.  Even if it’s twelve below outside, you can steam vegetable stir fry under my left arm while your linguine boils to a perfect al dente under the right.  It defies the laws of physics.  I was about to spend the next eight hours gesturing wildly to a group of paying customers, and I didn’t want them distracted by a giant wet spot under my arms that resembles the face of the Virgin Mary.  I desperately needed an undershirt to act as an “armpit diaper” of sorts, locking in the wetness.

I ran through my list of options.

1)      Go buy an undershirt on the way to the office. 
          Not possible.   It’s our Year Without A Purchase, remember?

2)      Deliver the entire workshop with my elbows pinned to my ribs.
         Not possible.  I gesture far too much, and my clients would surely not bring me back for a follow-up engagement if I spent the
         day with flailing T-Rex arms.

I spotted Stinky McOdorstein’s used undershirt on the floor, perched upon a bed of dirty dress socks.  I picked it up, pressed it to my face, and inhaled.

Bad idea.

The smell took me right back to 8B.  But this time, I was without an air vent.  I considered quickly washing the shirt in the sink like I had done with my socks on a business trip earlier this year, but I only had 30 minutes before I had to leave the hotel.  There wouldn’t be enough time to dry the shirt.

I went to my overnight bag, pulled out the deodorant, and applied it directly to the armpits of the shirt, turning them a shade of blue not found in nature.  It helped, but after yesterday’s conditioning, my nose couldn’t be fooled.  It was like spraying air freshener after you use the bathroom.  After a while, the scents all mix together and you’re never the same.  Your brain now associates the smell of “Ocean Enchantment” with that of poo, and you end up throwing a half-used can of Glade in the trash.

Though the underarm scent was slightly masked now, the rest of the shirt still smelled a bit stale.  So, I unwrapped a fresh bar of hotel soap, neatly folded the T-shirt around said bar, and put the whole concoction in a tightly-wadded plastic bag and let it steep for ten minutes in a steamy bathroom.  I think the Native Americans used to use a similar technique for airing out buffalo hide.

After the shirt was “done”, I unwrapped it and gave it a sniff test.  What my brain encountered is best described as a complicated blend of Windex and cheap granny perfume, followed by the earthy undertones of an Asian street market in June.  The scent had somehow crossed over from mildly offensive to confusingly intriguing.

Satisfied with the transformation, I slipped into the t-shirt.  I grabbed the dry bar soap and rubbed it all over the fabric once more for good measure, careful to avoid the sleeves themselves lest I start foaming at the underarms and look as if I had contracted a rare form of “Armpit Rabies.” 

I stood in front of the heating vent in my hotel room and let the air blow across my body.  I breathed deeply once again, letting the air enter my sinuses.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Stinky McOdorstein has left the building!  Escorted by Sweats Von Pitpool!

The rest of the day went off without a hitch.  I kept my distance from the participants, and the workshop was a success. Upon careful reflection, this episode has taught me a number of things.

1)      Be humble, lest you be humbled.

2)      Be slow to judge and quick to forgive

3)      Make a packing list

As we come to the closing weeks of our Year Without A Purchase, I am still in awe of how much of my decision making is tailored toward affecting others' perceptions of me.  Sometimes it’s for the good, like not offending someone’s sense of smell.  Other times, it’s a charade.  Creating an image that falls short of reality.

Because here’s the truth.  Perfection is boring.  It’s the stinky parts of life that give our days their ups and downs.  We spend far too much time lamenting the fact that our lives don’t measure up to those of others we envy, comparing their highlight reels to our own cutting room floor and wondering why we feel so inadequate.

So today, embrace everything the Creator has given you.  The sumptuous and stinky.  The beauty and the mess. 

It’s all yours.  And it’s all wonderful.