The Washington Times - June 18, 2008, 06:36PM



By Jeffrey Denning

You’re sitting in a cramped airplane and you suddenly notice a horrid smell. No, it’s not a nefarious chemical attack like the sarin gas terror incident in Japan, which sickened thousands of subway travelers and caused mass panic in the mid 90s. 

Nope. It’s stinky feet your smelling.

While noxious feet cannot kill you (presumably), halitosis of the toes can make you very sick. It is especially nauseating when the fellow sitting next to you immediately removes his shoes then crosses his legs and, because the seats are too close together, he inadvertently contaminates your pant leg. Let’s face it, some people simply lack good hygiene and good manners. As your mom told you, “You weren’t raised in a barn,” but your seat mate may have been.

I often introduce myself to the person I sit next to when I fly. It’s a good way to break the ice, even if I don’t say another word the entire flight. I’ll extend my hand and say, “Hi, I’m Jeff.” Suffice it to say, sometimes I’ve pulled a Howie Mandel a time or two and simply withheld the handshake. The comedian admits he hasn’t shaken hands with anyone in a few years. He has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and is afraid of getting germs and diseases. He has a good point.

It is pretty disgusting seeing people remove their shoes and rub their feet just prior to a western introduction. An Oriental bow or nod of the head would do well in this situation. Because, hey, who knows where those feet and hands have been?

When talking aviation security, the most immediate topics on the forefront of our minds are terrorism, faulty airplanes that could break apart in midair, or air traffic control mishaps. But did you ever stop to consider the dangers of toe fungi? Probably not. In fact, most air travelers seem oblivious to it.

All of us have removed our shoes – thanks to TSA policy – and walked across the bare floor and through the security screening area. Millions have trampled on those same paths, and I guarantee not everyone wears clean socks.

I’m still shocked when I see, ladies especially, walk across the airport floor barefoot. Some goof with a nasty case of athlete’s foot and an old pair of torn socks can spread some early Christmas cheer. Your pumice stone won’t even be able to remove that present!

But there’s something far worse… (Hard to imagine, isn’t it?)

What drives a person to walk up or down the aisle way of an airplane and into the lavatory barefoot? Socks or not, that has got to be one of the most unsanitary things I’ve ever witnessed in a civilized society. And I used to be a street cop!

A Federal Air Marshal I once worked with, told me about the time someone sitting next to him removed his sock and began clipping his toe nails while in-flight. The fast-thinking air marshal, adept at tactical maneuvers, quickly put his hand over his glass of water to avoid drinking any falling debris.

Okay, call me prude, but I’m the kind of guy who likes to wash his hands regularly and avoid shaking hands with airline passengers I’ve just witnessed picking their nose (true story).

I also avoid eating toe jam and peanut butter sandwiches.