There's a certain scent that hovers around New York; a fragrance, if you will, that is unique to our beloved city. It's hard to describe exactly the Big Apple's tang; looking around, I'm inclined to say that it's the collective smell of the ambition, motivation and overall success that wafts through the city. According to some friends who recently visited the city and my couch, it's also the smell of pee.
While that observation is understandable, it overlooks a key aspect of New York: people are here to dominate and succeed, and there are some unintended and misunderstood consequences of the dedication that is required. Sweat is a perfect example. Classically speaking, sweat isn't considered a good smell. Subsequently, people lathered up with the familiar smell of sweat are considered to be dirty or foreign. Nothing could be further from the truth. Consider what sweat is: the bi-product of exercise or general hard work. To restate that, "exercise or work the hard general of bi-product." A sweaty musk is indicative not of unhygienic behavior, but rather of hard labor. In a way, that same principle can almost be applied to the other assortment of smells found on the perfume rack that is Manhattan.
Aside from sweat, the body has a few other colognes it can share with the world. The presence of bodily fluids on someone's body or clothes is a telltale sign that that person was far too busy working to make time for a derailing trip to the restroom. There's an overwhelming amount of respect for men and women, of course that are just so focused that they are unable to relieve themselves in the typical, everyman "bathroom" sense. If you've ever seen a crowd of pedestrians go out of their way walk around a person whose pants are clearly soiled, then you know what I'm talking about. New Yorkers understand that men like that are mercilessly busy and would not appreciate the disruption. The only exception may be major thoroughfares such as subways, taxis and the corner of my building, which seem to be popular places for people to go when they're on the go.
That's not to say that the tell-tale aromas of achievement are limited to the body. It would seem that the neighbors of every friend I have in Manhattan are so absurdly busy that they can't afford the time to prepare a dinner that doesn't smell like a scrumptious cloud of animal death and melted plastic. That's admirable. Likewise, the smell sneaking out of a young Manhattanite's room isn't that of a year's worth of laundry and a fungus-woven carpet; rather, it's the sweet smell of a combination bedroom / office / living room / bathroom that houses a brilliant individual who is far too devoted to their groundbreaking work to notice that their towel has spores.
Similar evidence is everywhere. Trash bags piled high on the curbs aren't signs of gluttony, but rather of brute productivity. Just as the most powerful cars burn through the most fuel, the turbocharged residents of New York tear through their consumable goods at a frenzied pace, eager to refuel and return to their seminal work. Even Manhattan rats, having surpassed most cabs in size, stay busy in this waste-rich environment. Our consumed goods become their consumable goods. At my current rate of income, it's a policy I myself may adapt. I'll probably even smell better afterwards.
Not that I'll notice, of course. The funny thing is; the workaholic worms that live in the Big Apple are so relentlessly busy that they don't even notice the smell anymore. It took a recent trip back to Rochester to realize that not every city greets visitors with a welcoming whiff of sewage. As I smelled the fresh air, taking in the aroma of untainted city air and met folks who believe in hygiene, one thought came to mind: these people are lazy. They must have a lot of time on their hands to keep their city and themselves as clean as Rochesterians do, and that means that they're not doing a damn thing with their time. As foreboding as the smell may be, I'll take the symbolic fragrance of Manhattan any day. It's a constant reminder that if I keep working hard and remain singularly committed to my work; I'll find success around every corner.
Right next to some guy who smells like urine.