I've always been a huge fan of the subway. I grew up in a small town and so any experience with a subway meant that I had travelled to some exciting place. We spent some time in London when I was twelve and everything about the Underground appealed to me. The crazy-colored map, the dark cool tunnels, the impossibly long escalator descents, the ads plastered on the walls, the whoosh of hot air that announced the train's arrival, the jostled crowds, and the blackish dusty smell. That experience must have lodged itself deep into my psyche in some Proustian way, because now whenever I pass a subway grate and get that same whoosh of hot air, and sometimes when I'm in the tunnels and I catch that same smell, I'm filled with that early sense of adventure and awe. Of course now I realize that that smell that I described as dusty and black is probably a wicked combination of human excrement, rat hair, and solidified exhaust, but once lodged in the pleasure center, always lodged in the pleasure center, so it remains to me a desired smell. A recent moment that filled me with pride was when my two older children were describing favorite smells and each, separately, confided that the smell you get as you pass over a subway grate when the train's running underneath is tops for them. I've also always preferred travelling by subway to travelling by bus, since the bus seems to be always full of people on their cell phones, and with very few exceptions in New York City, is NEVER faster than walking. So it was upsetting to me to return to work, and to my beloved subway (and all the reading I get to do down there), and to realize that something about the hour-long commute was sapping my strength. It wasn't the several bits of stair-climbing, or the one lengthy underground walk. I can handle that sort of activity. Rather, it seemed to be related to the fumes. It almost felt like I went down there with about a seven on a scale of one to ten, and came upground at about a four. Of course there's nothing scientific about this. Surely sitting and reading and bits of walking weren't exhausting me. So I mentioned this to a friend who happens to be into all sorts of essential oils. Thieves, is what she told me. I looked into it, intrigued by the name, and found out that it's a blend of oils developed by grave-robbers to avoid contracting the bubonic plague (or something like that). I guess if it was good enough for grave-robbers it could be good enough for me, so I invested in some, and have been known to dab it into my scarf, or just rub it onto my temples or something, if everything down there is getting too exhaust-y. It's a mix of clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and rosemary and it's only driven one stranger to relocate to another bench. Many people ask me what I'm wearing and I don't think they're expecting me to prattle on about grave robbers and the bubonic plague. A friend swears by theives toothpaste as well, but I think I'll stick with the oil for now.