The Issue of Stink

There is no greater issue dividing the American classes than the issue of smell. Race, religion, politics — these are trifling matters you wouldn’t even bother to sneeze upon, if they were tangible, Kleenex-like matters, when compared to the subject of stinkiness.

I base this on mail I have received recently. Within the past seven months, I have on three occasions decried the odor of a person or group of people. And in each case, I have subsequently received letters from people who said, “You are right, stinky people are terrible,” and other letters from other people who said, “How dare you make fun of the way someone smells?” (Some people are more smell-tolerant than others.)

First, in October, I talked about a man who barged into the Daily Herald office saying the U.S. should kill every single person in Afghanistan. As befitting someone with that political philosophy, he smelled starkly of urine. I called him Urine Man.

At, where people who can’t spell or write are encouraged to try their hand at both, we had many angry responses to this column. Some examples, reprinted exactly as they were written:

“I will NEVER read you articles again.”


Then, in January, I said that if tow truck drivers believe there’s no such thing as a wrongly towed vehicle, then I have to believe there’s no such thing as a tow truck driver who doesn’t smell bad. Someone read this column to a lot of tow truck drivers, and many of them pounded their fists on computer keyboards long enough to create responses such as these:

“Just remember if you get stuck at 2:00 in the morning who is going TOW your Car for you get you gas or unlock your car or even better rescue your wife or family member.”

“People like you disgust me as well as the rest of the industry that I can speak upon.”

“Your pretty classy. NOT!”

And just last week, I told the story of the Stinky Fat Black French Girl who followed me around in London. Many people were bothered that I would describe her as “stinky”; these people, clearly, have not smelled her, or they would think “stinky” was being charitable. “Apocalyptically foul” would be more accurate.

A few others took my including the girl’s race to mean I was suggesting the two were related. I didn’t mean to imply anything of the kind; I only wanted to help the reader visualize the girl. Nonetheless, there was an e-mail from someone who described himself as “an black Utahn,” who called me an “IGNORANT RASCIST JERK!!!” (I think if you’re going to call someone a racist — and I got the impression this was someone who calls a lot of people racist — you should learn how to spell the word. It reminds me of the people at who like to accuse other people of whining, but they spell it “whinning,” or who are always labeling one another as “hipocrits.” I’m not saying you need to know how to spell EVERY word, but you should at least learn your favorites.)

Anyway, I do want to apologize to those who misunderstood my point, such as it was, in the stinky girl column. I said “Stinky Fat Black French Girl” was a listing of her traits in the order of importance; I should have said they were in order of how noticeable they were — i.e., her smell could kill you, but you might miss her gender altogether. I definitely didn’t mean it to be a race thing. Race relations are at an all-time high right now, thanks to someone who’s occasionally sort of black winning a Best Actress Oscar, and far be it from me to louse that up.

But I stand by the observations of stinkiness. Is it juvenile to talk about such things? Perhaps. And by perhaps, I mean yes. But is it something everyone can relate to? Yes, if they have noses.

“How dair you make funn of peple who dont have noses!!!”

Ironically, as I write this, I have just come straight home from the gym without showering and I am stinky. I am not out in public, though, and since I don't work very hard at the gym, I am only mildly stinky. Still, it's ironic or something.

Will the black Utahn who wrote me be upset at being made fun of and make good on his threat to destroy "Snide Remarks"? Ooh, I hope so.