Ask LH: What Can I Do About The Apparent Alcoholic On My Train?

Ask LH: What Can I Do About The Apparent Alcoholic On My Train?

Hi Lifehacker, I take the train to work and every day near the end of my trip a well-dressed, professional-looking guy gets on as well. The problem is he stinks of old whisky. What should I do? I have two concerns: helping him, and not suffering from the overwhelming smell. Any advice? Thanks, Smelled Out

Whiskey picture from Shutterstock

Dear SO,

Let’s be realistic — if this man is a genuine alcoholic who is happy to get on the train stinking of whisky every day and his family and colleagues can’t persuade him otherwise, it seems unlikely you’ll be able to get him back on the wagon. More likely, you’ll just embarrass him and cause offense, which could potentially lead to verbal abuse or even a physical altercation.

Put simply, the man’s life choices are none of your business and it’s a pretty safe bet that he doesn’t want strangers getting involved. If you’re feeling morally conflicted, absolve your guilt by making a donation to an alcoholism prevention charity such as the Odyssey House McGrath Foundation — it might not help this man, but it could help others like him.

As for the stink issue, how difficult is it for you to swap carriages? Evidently you’re both creatures of habit, but changing your seating preferences is obviously a lot easier than giving up alcohol. If readers have any suggestions of their own, we’d love to hear them.


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  • Dear Lifehacker,

    Every day at the start of my journey there’s this relatively well dressed person staring at me, and the worst part is that he reeks of’smug’. He also sniffs a lot so I think he’s on coke. The last thing I need after a hard day’s work is some holier-than-thou upstart sneering at me like they know what’s going on in my life. What did I do to him? Thank god I have time for a drink on my way to the train. It’s the only relaxation I get because I’m too busy paying taxes to support people like him. What can I do to get this guy to mind his own business?

    Falling Down.

    • Dude!!! I’ve training with ya for over a year now. The least you could do is share some of that scotch!

      In return I’ll share some of my coke ^_^

  • There’s nothing direct to be done, as he hasn’t committed any crimes (that we know of). If he were drinking on the train, then something could be done, and that’s what I thought this question was going to be about when I clicked the article.

  • Dear SO,

    Let’s be realistic —you have no intention of, or interest in helping the guy – and you’ve only mentioned helping him in order to cover up your lack of empathy (either consciously or subconsciously). It’s a pretty transparent tactic that belies your selfishness and shallowness.

    Given that there’s nothing that you could possibly do about it, other than offending an innocent party by being a sticky-beak, perhaps you ought to accept that people are entitled to act in ways in which they choose, and that includes drinking alcohol and maintaining stinky breath.

    Lifehacker, or any other advice column is unlikely to be able to assist you in becoming a more tolerant individual, that’s something that you will need to work on yourself.

    If you have any other petty nuisances that you feel the world ought to solve for you please write in again so that we can all take time out of our day to read about your personal quandaries.

  • It’d be different if he were cracking open a bottle of JD “on the train” where it is against the law. You could probably inform the Station Manager or call the CityRail info line to report the constant behaviour.. but if all it is is some stinky guy.. move to another carriage or get over it.

  • I see people drinking on the train all the time. The real problem on the train are the piece of shit kids and that one old guy who smells so bad you know when he is 2 cars away. People actually get up and move away from him. And Australians are usually pretty good about ignoring it when people stink. But this guy has found some way of smelling worse than should be possible and still being alive.

  • I just saw a lady drinking a bottle of beer whilst pushing her pram, at 4pm. No shit.

  • Maybe it’s just bad smelling aftershave/cologne or good smelling aftershave and the OP doesn’t like that scent.

  • I was disappointed that this story didn’t involve the OP saving a young woman from said alcohol smelling/drunk passenger and getting some expensive tea ware in return.

  • Wow. The smell of whiskey would be a welcome change from some of the other smells you are usually exposed to on public transport.

    The whiskey might also act as an anti-bacterial, something else which would be welcome on public transport.

  • If you really honestly care about this person (no, I’m not deluded, most likely they don’t), then I think that you should try and talk to the person and get to know them instead of just judging them and wanting to ‘help’ without even knowing what their situation is.

  • Dear Lifehacker,
    some old dude stinks of whiskey on the train.
    Dear Idiot,
    either a) dont stand near him, b) use a different carriage or c)booze it up yourself so you dont notice the smell.

  • My advice – Public Transport is the stage for a bunch of weird. Get used to ignoring it or buy a car 😉

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