The Lady on the Plane Has Bad, Bad Breath

18 01 2008

I’m quickly discovering that the problem with travel as work is time. I have so many great stories but no time to write them.

Tonight, as I roll into hour four of the Lima airport and brace myself for the next five (yes, that’s a total of nine hours—which otherwise would be spent happily asleep in a warm bed—but who’s counting?), what’s fresh on my mind is the plane ride from Buenos Aires to Lima.

When I sat down, in my middle seat, my olfactory senses went into overdrive. What was that putrid smell? Then the lady in the aisle seat coughed and it became overpowering.

When the movie came on and she asked me what channel, me holding my breath must have looked like, “I don’t understand you” because she responded to my “no sè” with “do you understand Spanish?” I held my breath, nodded weakly, and used my fingers to make the universal sign for “a little”: I know I want to practice my Spanish, but I have to have my limits…

I pretended to be engrossed in the film, a Bruce Willis action movie with the worst car chase in history. Finally the movie ended (Bruce—in case you couldn’t guess—survived an entire overpass falling on him, among other things). It was a this point that I realized I had gotten used to the breath. Or was it possible it got better after she ate?

So when she spoke to me again I was fine with it. She wanted to know when we would land. When I couldn’t tell her, she decided to ask where I was from and we got into my travel story, then her visit to her daughter, and soon we had discovered that we’d both studied literature.

The next thing I knew I was writing her author recommendations in my notebook. Then my new friend Consuela was writing her email address (making sure I understood that there was a punta before the “com”), in case I ever made it to Columbia and wanted to visit her.

And all this time I never even noticed the breath.

Lesson learned: Never judge by first scent. You never know when you may need to practice your Spanish, or make a friend.

And now I go back to guidebook writing. Stay tuned for amazing alfaores, the best cheese platter ever (can anyone guess a theme in my trip?), the poet/tour guide of Lujàn, and the bizarre holy shrine in Tandil.

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2 responses

18 01 2008
rachel

i recall this heightened awareness of smells beginning a long, long time ago. anyway, it made me smile. hope you are having fun. be safe!

22 01 2008
cristalle

I love this story! You’re so much more polite than me. I’ve been known to force gum into people’s mouths.

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