What with the recent heatwave on the East Coast (which I hear finally broke yesterday), I've been reading more than a few comments about the smell of urine in subway stations. I think this is something we take as a given. Subway stations smell like urine. A = A. But you know what? They don't. Sure, maybe a little bit, sometimes. And of course there's the empty subway car, which is its own animal entirely. But a lot of the time, even urine doesn't smell all that much like urine.
I bring this up because, having just been confronted by some of the most pungent, ammonia-rich urine that I can remember, there is really no mistaking it. Via some wrong turns and poor decisions, I found myself earlier today wandering around... what exactly? I'm not sure. It was like a parking garage that stretched the length of a few football fields, but there were no cars. It was an elevated underpass, one of three similar levels that made up a highway. The top-most part was a highway. The bottom-most part was a bus depot where down-and-out types caught dilapidated minivans to what I imagine are similar spots all over Lebanon. The middle part was abandoned. Not completely abandoned. People surely live there sometimes. I noticed a mattress. Plenty of trash. I saw excrement on the ground (no smell) and thought, for the first time in my life with complete certainty, "A human produced that." No one was around today though. The lack of life was so complete that one was able to idly think, "If I were to die right here, it would be a long time before anyone knew." I bet places like this exist all over Beirut.