A SCENT GATE

Contemporary society, thoroughly educated and democratic, and with the so-called coup d’etat lying so many years in the past, was extremely difficult to surprise. Nothing in the morning news, in print or online—aside from the typical blood, sweat and tears sensationalism that sometimes sparked interest—managed to surprise them. It was also rare to find news of a social or environmental protest, or to spot an open letter from intellectuals to the authorities, which they say used to be quite common.

So much greater the surprise, then, when the news came out about the scent gate to be installed in the Warsaw underground. Its purpose was to eliminate those would-be passengers in whom the highly-specialized sensors detected signs of going under-washed several days in a row, stubbornly wearing multiple-use clothes, or any other scent traits disallowing their presence on public transportation. This theoretically sound decision by the city managers was meant to benefit the well-being of the cultured and hygienic public transit users. Public reaction was mixed, and highly charged. It became even more controversial when the opposition party called it an attack on freedom, violating the rights of citizens who didn’t have regular access to showers or washing machines. Representative Janusz P. declared in Congress, “I stink, therefore I am!” This line went viral.

Ever the Solomon, the President sought compromise. He suggested that the passengers who passed the scent test ride should in wagons festooned with the image of that cuddly teddy, “the laundry bear.” Those the scent gate rejected could still ride, of course—in wagons otherwise marked. The animal used to symbolize those passengers, it was decided, would be chosen in a national televised poll…

[Przełożyła Saba Litwińska]

Gru 21, 2017 by