It took less than 48 hours for my newly-adopted attitude toward the “American-European Personal Hygiene Disparity” to be severely tested if not abandoned completely.
A little history first…last Wednesday I had a meeting with a Russian student from Lund University (let’s call her “Svetlana”, which is not her real name). She’s asked me for some help producing a new English-language program for the student radio station at the university this fall and we had arranged to meet at a cafe at Malmö Central since we both would be passing through the train station at about the same time (5 p.m.).
Dr. Darling joined us about 20 minutes into the conversation because the two of us had planned to run a couple errands together in the city afterward. The meeting wrapped up with an agreement to meet in Lund on Sunday afternoon with a couple of other folks who will be responsible for various elements of the program.
Fast-forward to Sunday around lunchtime when, following a pretty intense training ride for our upcoming cycling trip to Germany, I’m stressing about whether or not I have time to grab a shower before heading for Lund. It’s at this point that Dr. Darling says, “Why worry about that? It’s not like Svetlana is going to notice.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, honestly not sure where the conversation was going.
“Well, she was pretty stinky herself,” the Swede answered, using the precise scientific term one would expect of a Ph.D in biology.
I found this observation rather stunning because 1) I hadn’t noticed that Svetlana was all that whiffy myself, and B) at that point the very European Dr. Darling was unaware of my new theory on the role of public transportation in the American-European Personal Hygiene Disparity.
So, based on the Swede’s observation, I kept my nose peeled for signs that this sweet young Russian woman fit my hypothesis…which holds that if she was indeed a bit rank when we met the previous Wednesday, it was likely because she had to make a choice between missing a shower or missing a train. And it would follow that she probably wouldn’t face such a dilemma on a Sunday afternoon and therefore would be fresh as a daisy (or at least not “stinky”) for our meeting.
So just how wrong was my theory?
Let’s just say George Carlin‘s classic reference to a smell so bad it could “knock a buzzard off a shit wagon” has been running through my head ever since.
Oh, and in the future her anonymous blog name will be “Sweat-lana”.