“I CAN tell different Asians apart by their smell. They all smell different,” she, a Korean, tells me in all earnest. She is an air hostess and has met lots of people. She must know.
“Oh, well do tell,” I say with an amused grin. This is going to be good, I think, I can feel it.
“Chinese people smell like feet. They don’t shower much.”
I collapse forward onto the table in hysterics. My eyes water. I can barely fill my lungs with air. I haven’t laughed so hard in weeks.
“Japanese people shower more,” she goes on in all seriousness, “but they smell like grandmothers and grandfathers.”
I can’t take it. My belly aches with great paralyzing yelps of laughter. People in the hoff (bar) are probably beginning to stare. I’m so giddy I don’t care.
“I’m serious” she says, her eyes opened wide. “I’m not being discriminating, really!” She seems worried I’ll judge her for her ‘talent.’ I don’t feel qualified to judge. I’m usually about as politically correct as a copy of “Hustler” at a Women Against Pornography conference.
“OK, OK,” I say, gasping for air and trying to regain a semblance of composure. “Then what do Koreans smell like?”
“I think. . .garlic.” (The kimchi I imagine.)
Off I go again. I need a tranquiliser - or perhaps to watch a soul-sapping misery-fest like “Requiem for a Dream”. No, even heroin addiction, needle-induced infection and amputation could raise a chuckle out of me at this moment.
“And Indians smell like ” -- surprise, surprise -- “ curry,” she adds.
Usefully, her nationality-by-smell powers of deduction don’t stop with the peoples of Asia. She is an air hostess after all. She has traveled. I learn that Westerners smell strongly of armpits. Rather boring an aroma, I think. Where’s the flair?
The unique pong that sets us apart? I half wish for the distinct geriatric odor of those from the land of the rising sun.
But not to worry. Westerners are said in Korea to have another, unique bodily fragrance. Something quiet apt when considering the tint of Caucasian skin. I’ve heard of the theory before. The air hostess doesn’t have to tell me.
Folks like me are supposed to smell of milk. That’s the stuff you put on your “Frosties”. I hope the fresh kind, but I’ve never asked. It does shed light on our inability to cope with the slightest hint of sun, what with dairy products coursing through our veins.
No wonder I spoil so easily in summer.