12 Very Real And Disgusting Odors You Have Smelled During Summer In New York
If someone caught me off guard and picked my brain about the smells that I associate with summer, I'd instinctively describe some perfect scents imprinted in the Hallmark-version of my memory.
The smell of a breezy beach at night, freshly cut grass, children who reek of sunscreen, salt water and chlorine – they're all carefully selected, happy and nostalgic scents that I've made into the most perfect aroma therapy candle labeled, “Summertime.” (It only actually exists in my mind, but whatever.)
Perhaps for some, the pleasant scents of this pleasant season are the only smells that come to mind. But, for those who live in New York City — or presumably any city, for that matter —, a quick walk down the street on a hot summer day will erase such utopian figments of your imagination faster than the sweat dripping down your face (and let me tell you, that sweat drips real fast).
Pretty much everything that smells unpleasant smells even worse when heat becomes a factor. Let's be honest: New York never smelled great to start.
With the summer still in full swing, I feel it is my duty to remind New Yorkers of the real smells of summer; the fragrances that we reluctantly smell against our will, all day, every day.
Here are the particularly pungent smells of a New York City summer that we have all grown to tolerate:
1. Garbage baking on the sidewalk
Garbage smells awful, but hot garbage smells worse.
Nothing attacks your nostrils more violently than a large cluster of garbage bags roasting on the sidewalk.
Actually, that's a big lie; a nice big puddle of garbage soup (you know, when the garbage juices mix with water and warm up to a nice soup-y temperature) can launch a full-on nuclear attack on your sense of smell, which will, in turn, lead you to question whether this sense was ever necessary in the first place.
2. Sweaty subway platforms
As you stare down at the rats splashing around in the puddles of the boiling garbage soup that is undoubtedly on every single inch of every single train track, you won't be able to do anything except laugh about the fact that you freely chose to live here.
When you cram a bunch of sweaty people and garbage into a small place, it somehow gets hotter and more humid than the already unpleasant weather outside.
Factor in the absolute lack of ventilation to conclude that nobody's nose is in for a treat. Subways in the summertime smell fouler than anyone could ever dream, but thankfully, your stomach has had no choice but to grow insanely strong.
3. The person sitting next to you has a total lack of personal hygiene
Summertime, and the sweat that inevitably accompanies it, does not do wonders for the scents that the human body produces. Nothing will alter your commute for the worse faster than sitting next to someone who is struggling with his or her own hygiene.
A swarm of curses aimed at the offender buzz through your head, but deep down, you know that it could have just as easily been you; the summer heat spares no mercy.
4. Your own lack of personal hygiene
I'll never forget the sweltering summer day when I embarked on a long day trip, spending most of my time outdoors, melting in the humidity and heat.
Only when I sat on the train for a decently long ride home did I realize that I smelled so f*cking horrible.
I panicked and looked around. My body odor was so overwhelmingly offensive that I had very little hope that I was the only one who could smell the stench that was floating off of my body.
I thanked the lord that I look nothing like a person who would likely emit such an aroma, played it way cool (with my arms glued down tightly to my sides) and hoped everyone assumed it was one of the larger, clearly perspiring, men on the train car.
Ever since this traumatizing day, I've been carrying deodorant with me to every single place my summer soul takes me. So while, yes, it is easy to be offended and disgusted by someone else's funky body odor, just remember, you may not smell so fresh yourself.
5. The smell of your rotting lunch
When you're about halfway to work, you realize that a tuna salad sandwich and a carton of milk may not have been the best choice of lunch to pack during a heat wave.
6. Street meat steam that melts your face off
Despite how unappealing hot, meaty steam being blown into your face can be, it's almost appreciated on a freezing winter day, when you have lost all possible feeling in your face and have just about lost all hope for ever moving your nose again.
You rejoice for a few seconds and totally don't mind that your hair will smell like greasy lamb for the remainder of the day.
However, during the summer, walking past a street-meat cart parked on the sidewalk can only be compared to taking a quick stroll through the fires of hell.
The steam blinds you and increases your already-profuse perspiration, and the smell is the exact opposite of what your body craves during a time when the temperatures make walking across town feel equivalent to running a marathon.
7. Baking urine
I like to think of New York City as one big gas station bathroom that never gets cleaned. You can hardly ever walk down three blocks without the overwhelmingly heavy stench of urine flooding your nostrils.
So, during the sweltering summer months, I consider the city to be one big “piss pie.” Hear me out on this one: Can you recall the aroma that fills your home while you are baking the most decedent of desserts?
Sure, the delicious smell of the ingredients is certainly detectable while you're mixing them, but when you put them in the oven and let them bake for a bit? It's exponentially more aromatic (but in the most mouth-watering and pleasant way possible).
However, when the ingredient is urine, the oven is the relentless summer sun and the home is all of NYC, your gag reflex gets really f*cking strong.
8. Baking dog sh*t
Ever put dog poop in the microwave?
Me either, but thanks to spending countless summers in NYC, I can imagine what it might smell like.
If you think everything smells bad when it's hot, just know that everything smells way worse when it's hot and wet.
Everything's moist from rain and humidity and the smell of wet dog is constantly being shot up your nose like the nasal spray from your nightmares.
10. Burning surfaces
Burning metal, burning wood, burning asphalt — everything's hot to the touch and is also unpleasant to the snout.
11. Your burning skin
Since your walk to the train is practically the farthest thing from a walk on the beach, you refuse to put on sunscreen. However, sun is sun and your skin won't recognize the difference situational differences.
“Who's cooking bacon in the middle of the street?” you ask yourself before you realize that it's the stench of your simmering flesh. You promptly promise yourself that you will slather on the SPF 50 tomorrow… maybe.
12. The smell of disappointment
You waited all winter for the summer to arrive… only to remember that summers in New York City are the absolute worst.
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