A Whiff of Pure Embarrassment


One Saturday afternoon, I took the 20-minute drive to Frankfurt with intentions of doing only some window shopping. Plus, I would get some much-needed exercise walking up and down the Zeil (Pronounced ZILE), which is a popular pedestrian thoroughfare and hangout area in the heart of downtown Frankfurt. The Zeil boasts a wide pedestrian walkway loaded with shoppers, curiosity seekers, street musicians, bustling coffee shops, sleek bistros, and vendors hawking their wares!  I had no plans of buying anything because I was kinda low on Euros.  After parking, I took the stairs from the underground parking lot up to the Zeil where there’s no shortage of high-end and reasonably priced clothing stores.  Rounding out the eclectic mix of shops was an array of upscale shoe and purse boutiques and ice cream parlors on both sides of the Zeil.  Some vendors selling hand-made items, such as long colorful scarves, woven hats, and beaded necklaces, had conveniently set up their tables in cramped alleyways between buildings housing popular department stores.  Naturally, the vendors provided easy access to their wares for curious shoppers eager to look over and possibly buy their items for sale.

As usual, the Zeil brimmed with a diverse mix of people from all around the world.  There was no shortage of street musicians and others who had unique talents to entertain the passersby.  Some performers were dressed in their native costumes. Musicians armed themselves with the likes of clarinets, hand-made wooden flutes, tambourines, antique accordions, cow bells, French horns, and other instruments common to their cultures.  Playing for mere pennies, the musicians welcomed the often paltry Euro change passersby threw in their collection baskets as they continued to enthusiastically play songs from their native countries.  Lines of hungry shoppers formed at each food stand, bakery, sandwich shop, and gyro bistro, all of which generated enticing aromas filling the air with bouquets of spicy meats, loaves of baked bread, and sugary treats few could resist.

After thoroughly enjoying the sunny weather and atmosphere with its colorful flair and excitement, I stepped into one of the big department stores, which werewas packed with shoppers.  To avoid some of the crowded areas, I wandered over to one of my favorite places to browse: the bath and beauty area. Hopefully, I would find some new products to sample.  Slowly scanning the shelves, I was in awe of just about everything.  Shiny, colorful containers tend to mesmerize me. But a pleasant, flowery scent grabbed me by the nose and led me over to a display shelf filled with beautiful tins of talcum powders, bottles of lotions, and containers of a new brand of bath soap.  Unfamiliar with this particular new brand, which came in a lovely bottle, I couldn’t resist testing it on my skin. Naturally, I wanted to smell the fragrance before shelling out any of my few Euros to buy it. The brazen shopper that I am and since there were no open tester samples, I took the liberty of opening one of the bottles on the shelf, held it under my nose and took a sniff. Unfortunately, I couldn’t smell anything, so I  gently squeezed the bottle to release a bit of its fragrance into the area just under my nose.  When that didn’t work, I thought that maybe if I pinched it a bit harder, the bottle would finally release its essence. No need to say that this was not a bright idea.  So, I squeezed the bottle under my nose like it was a rubber ball for arthritic sufferers like me.  Not only did I get to experience its fragrance, but a sizable portion of the creamy, smooth bubble bath went up into my nose, to my brain and oozed out my ears.  It was so thick that it felt like snot leaking from my nostrils. But it smelled damn good, though! Beyond embarrassed, I stood still to check my peripheral vision to see if anyone else was in the same aisle with me. Seeing no one, I quickly wiped the white stuff my nose with the back of my coat sleeve, just as I would do when I was a child. Curse or blessing, the kid in me never goes away.  I was glad that no one saw me make an ass of myself in the store. But I’m pretty damn sure the guys viewing the security cameras had a good laugh at my expense!

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