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Monday, 23 December 2013

Obnoxious Odours.

Last Friday morning I was in the checkout queue, in a major supermarket, when I nearly collapsed.

It wasn't because I had over exerted myself loading my purchases from the shopping-trolley to the conveyor belt. It wasn't because of an anxiety attack thinking about the total cost of the items.

The cause of my possible transition to a comatose state was – and there is no polite way of explaining my dilemma – the unbearable stench from the person, alongside me, in the queue running parallel with the one I was in.

The obnoxious smog of fumes; stale nicotine from clothing and yellowed skin; fermenting waste alcohol spilt on clothes and on exhaled breath; and bacterial body odour; was emanating from the offending obese shopper. The cloud was enveloping, smothering me. I was beginning to appreciate what it would have been like in a gas attack whilst in the trenches.

I was having difficulty breathing. My stomach was considering returning my breakfast to me. My legs were giving way, I held onto the counter. Claustrophobia began to control me. I looked to my wife, who was the other end of our trundler, for help. But, all she could offer was a skyward glance with raised eyebrows, a wrinkled forehead, and the pinching of her nostril as a physical suggestion of action I could take.

There was no possible escape route. I was trapped between the emptied cart of the customer ahead of me, and my half-emptied one waiting for me to put the final items on the slowly-moving rubber belt. It wasn't possible to reverse away from the checkout, and abandon the shopping, to fend for itself, as other shoppers, and their accompanying wire-mesh wheelbarrows, had joined the one-way exit system. The front wheels of the trolley behind Natalie were already snapping at her heals. Any escape route between the two adjacent queues was blocked by the tangled traffic jam of bodies and carts.

The monster from the cesspit didn't have too much shopping ahead of it and luckily for me started to move towards the cash register. The cashier must have detected the pungency of the danger heading towards her. Perhaps she had experienced it before. She moved her seat back as far away from the check-out scanner as possible and leant back to give added safety distance.

Although there was a degree of forward movement in my queue I didn't move. My lungs detected an increase in the level of oxygen available, as the abhorrent fog followed it's source, and allowed me to take a near-normal breath. My legs regained their stability. My breakfast remained where it was. I was able to complete the emptying of my trolley. I waited for the dark mass to move away with its packed and paid-for shopping before following my groceries to our bagging area.

I took the opportunity to glance towards the main exit aisle and I'm sure I could see shoppers moving to the left and right to offer a clear central path to allow the moving pollutant haze and owner to depart unhindered.

How can any human being be oblivious to the fact that they are dispensing a repellent smell? Or are they aware but don't care?

Have you experienced a similar incident? What did you do: did you say anything to the person? Is there a tactful way of telling someone they are giving off an obnoxious odour?



  1. I have never experienced such a thing and don't want to. I take it you were in a food store, in which case management should do something about such a person in case he or she spread disease. Anyway, that aside, allow me to wish you a happy and peaceful Christmas.

    1. Thanks for popping in.
      We were getting our week-end groceries. At least it wasn't in the aeroplane on our flight to the UK.
      Have a good festive break and a happy new year.


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