The world has been shrinking for quite a while. It has been, for a… No, not in terms of mass or size… Come on, don’t act like you haven’t heard that before. With the blazing pace of human advancement, continents, countries and people have been getting more and more interconnected, making the world seem smaller. You know it, if not from the media trails, then from Walt Disney, who has been trumpeting “It’s a Small World” into your eardrums since 1964.
Anyway, like I was saying, the world’s been shrinking. It has been for a while, and with the advent of social media, the shrinkage has been so drastic that humanity as a collective unit has lost the concept of personal space.
You can’t go out without somebody getting into your face, because even if you sidestep that guy, your sidestep will only get you in front of another guy who’s getting into your face. Case in point – this happened to m… to this guy. Imagine you’re this chap. You’re a slightly portly humorist who tends to walk absent mindedly, tapping on your mobile as you head back from work. You’re just strolling into the elevator when you realize you have company. You look up from your mobile to see an elderly Arab gentleman apprising you with a frown and a raised eyebrow. Naturally, you look around to see if the f. and r.e. were meant for somebody else.
No, there’s nobody else around. Now, you are pretty sure that you weren’t doing anything to deserve the f. and r.e,, but you don’t want to appear rude, so you flash a small smile. At this point, the frown giver casually reaches over across the elevator and – swoosh – rubs something on your wrist… after which he nonchalantly walks out of the elevator as the doors close.
I wa… You are completely surprised by the whole thing. You just stare at your wrist, now permeating a faint, but pleasant smell of perfume at the smeared spot. The old Arab chap had just rolled on some perfume on m.. on your wrist. Without a word. I was just… I mean, you were just left fuming – no, you are not angry as much as puzzled; the fumes in question are those invisible, odorous fumes coming from your wrist. So what do I.. you do now? Do I… I mean you… by which I mean ‘you mean you’… No, scratch that. ‘I mean’ is right. Except for the first time… or was it the seco… Ok, ok, fine. This didn’t happen to ‘this guy’. It happened to me.
So there I was, freshly smeared by unsolicited, unexplained, perfume, by some guy who just walked out after this fragrant attack. So what do I make of this? It’s not something to complain about, I mean – it’s just perfume… or was it?? What if it’s NOT perfume? What if this was the start of a biological attack and the guy was just marking ground zero? Well, maybe I was just watching too many movies – I wasn’t feeling sick, I wasn’t even giddy, and the smell was quite pleasant.
So I decided I didn’t really object to WHAT was smeared… just the WHY. If it were not for the weaponized attack theory, then… then… what? Do I… stink? Do I stink to such an extent that random strangers would distort their faces and shoot perfume at me and then run out? Do I carry a veritably nauseous cloud of stench around me that I’m just too nose-blocked to feel? But no… that’s ridiculous. I have friends who like my company… even when they’re not suffering from blocked noses. Unless… they’re adjusting by stuffing cotton up their nose at those times. If that’s the case, I’ve never seen it, which means they stuff it really really deep – maybe even surgically.
But these were all speculations, admittedly… There was no way for me to get to the real reason. Maybe he was a perfume salesman with poor marketing skills; maybe he realized that he couldn’t communicate with me, a non-Arab, only after wasting a sample fare. Maybe he was the elevator version of a Robin Hood reboot, a daredevil thief who would rob perfumes from the rich and smear them on the poor. Maybe he was just excited about a brand new perfume he had bought, but was trying to test it out on someone else before he tried it on himself. Maybe, he was a fan of the ‘Pay It Forward’ philosophy, and expected me to smear perfume on three random strangers in turn to trigger a chain reaction geared to spawn an odoriferous populace. The truth, alas, may never be known.
Another day, I was once again walking near the elevator, when I saw the old chap once again. He stood with a hunched back, his hands locked behind him, gazing at the entrance of the building. At this precise moment, a sprightly businessman, all suited up, came heading to the elevator. He quickly threw a glance at the old man and smiled. The old man walked over to him casually and – swoosh – rubbed a dollop of perfume on his wrist before walking away. The businessman just took this in stride and continued his trip to the elevator; clearly, this wasn’t his first swoosh.
So… the old guy was just being nice and neighborly, his frown and raised eyebrows notwithstanding. He was just doing a simple good deed, and I couldn’t help but try and analyze the reasons behind this. I was just being paranoid. But I’m paranoid for a reason. In today’s world, if a random stranger shows you any form of interaction, you do NOT take that in stride. You HAVE to figure out an angle. No matter how good the intention, you are geared to smell something fishy. You automatically assume there’s a sneaky, mean spirited agenda behind it. It’s how the world has become.
Even now, I have this suspicion that the whole thing was a teaser campaign, and someday, he will pop up with a ‘Perfume of the Month’ subscription catalogue.