Sunday, January 25, 2015

From Farting Liberally to Liberal Arts - The Flatulence Files


NOTE:   Needless to say, this post is chock-full of vulgar humor and coarse language.  It’s somewhere between PG-13 and R.  Also:  this post used to be called “Just A Bunch of Fart Jokes” but I’ve renamed it to (I hope) better capture the lofty literary realm it occupies.

Introduction

Has your humble blogger actually hit rock bottom?  Is this post like some Hail Mary to try to get somebody’s, anybody’s, attention?  Well, it’s true that the albertnet page view count has been very low lately.  And I admit, I’m pretty disappointed that my review of the 1966 art film Andrei Rublev hasn’t been a smash hit, despite its description of a nude bacchanal and its coinage of the highly useful and suggestive phrase “Marfa-butt.”  It seems the title alone scared readers away, and I refuse to let that happen again.

I’m not just acting on a hunch here.  I did some market research:  googling “andrei  rublev review” produced a paltry 52,700 results, while googling “fart jokes” yielded 1.5 million.  Should I conclude that the Internet is replete with fart jokes, meaning I should blog about something else, now that I have your attention?  No, I would never do a bait-and-switch.  But I’m going to take a page from my own playbook and try to elevate the fart joke from its lowly oral tradition to actual Literature.

“But wait!” you might ask, “aren’t you afraid of tarnishing the albertnet brand?”  No, ever since I blogged in gory detail about getting a vasectomy, there’s really nowhere I can’t go.  “But what if your mom sees this post—won’t she be offended?”  Well, possibly—in fact, I might be doing something passive-aggressive here, because my mom still hasn’t commented on my Andrei Rublev post, for which she was supposed to be my main audience.  I’m a little hurt.

Okay, enough of this.  On to the fart jokes!

Chiropractic

You should know that I’m not going to tell one-line gags here, of the “Guy goes into a bar” sort.  I’ll start with a brief, true story.  Long ago, when my wife and I were living in a tiny apartment in San Francisco, she had one of her friends over.  This friend, whom I’ll call M—, is a striking woman—a former model, in fact—who stands about six feet tall, and may have a reputation for being a flirt.  I knew some friend was guilty of that, and this may have been that friend.  And my wife is the jealous type.

Anyway, out of nowhere M— says, “Ooh, I have a crick in my back.  Dana, can you help me out?  I’ll stand here”—she stood with her arms at her sides—“and you come up behind me, wrap your arms around me, and lift me off the floor.”  It was like a trap.  Due to our similarity in height, things would line up that really shouldn’t, what with me being married and all.

But what could I do?  It was so awkward.  I couldn’t exactly say, “I’m sorry, M—, but you might be the woman with a reputation for flirtatiousness, and the way our bodies would line up, with my wife watching … well, it’s just that she may not trust you, and may not even trust me, and I just can’t do it, but please don’t be offended ... I really am tempted because it would feel pretty awesome.”

I had to make a snap decision and concluded that my wife and I had a deep wellspring of rapport and I could explain myself better to her, later, than I could ever explain myself to our guest.  So I went around behind M—, wrapped my arms around her, and lifted her off the floor.  Sure enough, her back cracked, making a noise like one of those little wooden frogs with the bumpy back that you drag a wooden mallet over.  “Did you hear it?” M— said, delighted.  “Did you hear my back crack?”  I replied, “Oh, is that what that was … I thought you farted!”  If she had been enjoying any sexual tension, it was immediately dissipated (and replaced, of course, by something less pleasant).  I glanced over at my wife, who gave me a look that said, “You have done well.”

In the van

My pals and I were driving back from the Everest Challenge in the van.  The driver, whom I’ll call Thing 1, had extreme flatulence.  The front seat passenger, Thing 2, was suffering the worst.  These guys have known each other for well over a decade and have a totally frank, matter-of-fact rapport.  Here is my best effort to capture their dialogue about all the farting:

Thing 1:  “I’ve noticed that you’re extremely quick about rolling down your window every time I fart.”
Thing 2:  “Yes, I’ve had to develop coping mechanisms.”
Thing 1:  “You’ve got your finger hovering over the window button.  It’s been like that for the last hundred miles.”
Thing 2:  “I’ve developed a nervous tick around it.  It’s totally automatic now.  I’ll be doing this in my sleep.”
Thing 1:  “It’s the pizza.  I shouldn’t have eaten a whole pizza by myself.  I don’t do well with the white flour.”
Thing 2:  “I’m going to have a repetitive stress injury in my finger.  I’m going to have arthritis.”

Not everybody thinks farts are funny

You have to admit, farts are pretty funny.  And yet I’ve come across people who refuse to admit it.  True, many of us get jaded by cheap performance-art gags like using your hand in your armpit to make a fart sound, which cracks kids up so dependably.  And actually, there are people out there who really, truly don’t think farts are funny at all. 

(Microsoft programmers apparently fall into this group; Word has flagged “fart,” in the phrase “fart jokes,” as a misspelling, and when I right-click “fart” the spell-checker suggests “fat.”  I guess these programmers think fat jokes are funnier than fart jokes.  They are so out of touch.)

My dad is a person who simply sees nothing funny about farts.  He is very old-school in the sense that he evidently thinks farts should absolutely never be witnessed.  I have never actually heard him fart.  He’s even too discreet to produce a silent-but-deadly fart.  It’s amazing.  (Not that the polar opposite is in any way better, like the freethinking stepfather who did too much est in the ‘70s and just lets loose at will, thinking that with every burst he’s showcasing his advanced self-esteem).

As a father, I’m very different.  No, I’m not some lax, so-called progressive dad who wants his kids to see him as a pal.  I’m pretty strict; I won’t even let my kids use the word “fart.”  And no, I don’t think all farts are funny, but I won’t pretend they never are.  Here’s a little case study.  In my home office, there is only one proper desk chair, though my giant desk will accommodate three people at a time.  The most popular desk chair alternative is this giant exercise ball.  So one day my daughter and I were computing side by side, and one of us, sitting on the ball, had one of those sudden come-out-of-nowhere farts, a short and powerful one that makes the “BRROEMP!” noise.  It echoed magnificently through the ball, sounding vaguely metallic, kind of droid-like, like when you throw a rock at one of those giant municipal water tanks.  Now that is just plain funny.  We both roared with laughter.  Someday when my daughter is in treatment and her therapist asks, “Wasn’t there anything good about your father?  A single episode where his love for you came through?” she’ll reply, “Well, he once committed the most hilarious flatulence into this exercise ball….” 

(Not that I’m necessarily copping to the ball-fart.  In all honesty, I don’t remember which of us did it.  And if you suspect I’m just being evasive, well ... you may be right.)

Getting back to my own father, I think he’s too dignified even to sit on an exercise ball, unless it’s in an official yoga class.  Meanwhile, his brain occupies a higher plane than ours, devoting itself to lofty and complicated ideas, especially in the science and math realms.  Dinner table conversations usually took the form of my dad lecturing his four sons about science, computers, and futuristic stuff.  At table, there was very little joking around, and never an audible fart.  Except this one time.

Here’s what happened.  Of course I can’t remember exactly what my dad was lecturing on, but let’s suppose the topic was the interferometer he was building at work.  What, you don’t know what an interferometer is?  Here’s a photo:


I’m pretty sure interferometers measure the strength of farts.  (No they don’t.)

So, there we were at the dinner table, my dad deep into explaining the various lasers and whatnot comprising his interferometer, and suddenly—somebody farted loudly.  This had never happened because we were terribly afraid of what might transpire if it did, and there was a long, awkward silence as we boys tried to compose ourselves.  Then the awkwardness became funny (the fart had of course been funny all along), and we looked at each other, the tension thick, all our lips pursed, jaws clenched, and then somebody lost it and it was like dominoes.  The harder we laughed, the harder we laughed, and finally my dad, disgusted, got up from the table and stormed off.  He never returned to his dinner, and afterward my brother Geoff complained, “I never got to hear about the interferometer, and now I’m afraid to ask because it might remind him of the fart.  Or I might start laughing all over again.”

(“But wait,” you might ask, “aren’t you afraid of offending your dad with this post?”  Nope.  He doesn’t read my blog; like so many people, he finds my posts too long.  Besides, as I already said, he doesn’t think farts are funny!  You think his first albertnet post is gonna be “Just A Bunch of Fart Jokes” ?  But just in case he’s reading, let me say this:  Dad, I think you’re actually in the right here.  I used to think it would be funny to see a guy step in dog shit, but I realized recently that these days I wouldn’t actually find this funny, and moreover I can’t remember why I ever thought it would.  So maybe I’m maturing and growing as a person, and someday might reach your level and no longer laugh at farts.)

Spotting

My college cycling team was sponsored by Gold’s Gym and during the off-season I adopted a weight-lifting regimen with some pals.  We were purists, favoring free weights over Nautilus machines.  Being unable to add bulk to my muscles, I was following the high-weight low-rep program of a track sprinter.  My pals—two men and two women—and I would bike over there at 5:30 in the morning, four days a week.

One morning I was doing the squats, at what I considered a dangerously high weight.  We weren’t fools:  we wore weight belts and always had somebody spotting us.  If necessary, the spotter, standing a few feet behind, would step forward, grab your waist, and help you stand up.  Between sets I chatted away with my spotter, a young woman I’ll call S—.  One morning she asked, “Dana, do you like dancing?”  I was so dense I didn’t realize this might be a leading question, and answered simply (and honestly), “No.”

It was during my next set, specifically the eighth and final rep, when I was in a full squat, thighs splayed, with this giant bar across my shoulders and giant disks on either side, trying with all my might to stand, that two things dawned on me.  One, S— had actually been hinting around about going out with me (which finally answered the question of why a young woman who wasn’t that serious a cyclist and presumably wasn’t looking to bulk up would go to the gym with me at 5:30 a.m.).  My second realization was that I had to fart, and there was no real way to stop it.  Veins were bulging in my forehead, my legs trembling, and it was all I could do to safely finish my squat without needing help.  So out it went, a big ol’ ripper, with poor S— standing so close behind me.

I apologized profusely, and she responded forlornly, “It’s okay.  It doesn’t matter anyway.”  

It’s a pity; I totally would have asked her out, but I recognized the opportunity in the same moment I squashed it.

Internalized

My wife had a friend over.  The friend, P—,  had driven some way to visit; she was going through some hard times.  My wife was upstairs changing or putting on makeup or something before the two of them went out.  So I sat at the kitchen table with P— trying to make conversation.  P—’s personal troubles were making this difficult, like a dark cloud was hanging over us.  The chitchat occasionally sputtered and stalled, and to my horror I realized a big fart was gathering in my lower regions.  Isn’t it weird how you can tell in advance whether or not a fart will be silent?  This one definitely wouldn’t.  And it was growing and growing inside me and I wasn’t sure it could be contained.  I barely knew this woman and the last thing this conversation needed was that kind of explosive, smelly interruption.

I thought maybe I should just leave, but the nascent fart had grown too big.  I was practically trembling down there and I was sure that, if I stood up, it would definitely burst out.  By an act of fierce concentration I was able to keep my sphincter puckered up tight so the fart couldn’t escape.  And then the weirdest thing happened:  the fart came to fruition without ever leaving my body.  It detonated internally, making a muted but quite audible sound, like an underground nuclear test.  The worst part was that it happened during a lull in our chitchat, so I was sure P— had heard it.  I couldn’t pretend it hadn’t happened, but “excuse me” seemed like too great a capitulation.  It was just barely possible that P— wouldn’t realize the what sound was.  But I had to say something, and somehow settled on, “Wow, that  was weird.”  I immediately knew I’d only made things worse, but fortunately my wife appeared at that very moment and ended the stalemate.

How to talk about farting

Let’s not kid ourselves:  everybody farts.  Probably most couples are somewhat casual about farting in each other’s presence.  After all, in some circumstances, like a long road trip, it would be bad for your health to suppress a fart for too long.  But how couples feel about their farts surely varies, with one end of the spectrum being the abominable practice of the “Dutch oven” (making a hermetic seal with the bedclothes to trap your significant other in with your fumes), and the other extreme being acute embarrassment.

So, this next bit isn’t actually drawn from personal experience, but is more of a hypothetical situation informed by the great amount of thought I have given to flatulence.  Suppose your wife or girlfriend has a stomach bug or ate too much of the wrong thing or whatever, and is on a farting tear, and decides that the frequency of her flatulence is beginning to erode her dignity.  So she approaches you in a conciliatory mode and is trying to make a generalized apology/explanation, to try to save face.  Of course you want her to dismiss the thought and stop worrying about it (if for no other reason than your vested interest in your mate feeling sexy).

Here’s what to do.  Have in mind a very celebrated beauty, whose very name summons notions of loveliness and elegance.  (You should probably not choose a contemporary beauty, lest your wife worry that you sit around dreaming of starlets.)  Now peer into your significant other’s eyes and say, “Look, everybody farts, and worse.  No less a beauty than Grace Kelly had to wipe her own ass.  She had to spot-check between wipes to determine when she was done.  I don’t know whether she was a TP folder or a wadder, but I guarantee she was one of the two.”  This should help.

Suzy Chapstick

My family took a ski trip recently.  We stayed at a lodge where all the meals are included.  The chef’s special pork chili was really, really good.  I ate like four bowls, not counting what I inherited from my daughters.  The next day I had what I’m pretty sure was the worst chronic flatulence of my life (which, as my cycling buddies will tell you, is really saying something). 

After a day of skiing my kids abandoned their equipment and headed off toward the lodge, leaving me to trail behind schlepping three pairs of skis and poles.  So I was stumbling awkwardly along and dropped one of the poles.  I was on a hill and the snow was icy, so the pole slid a ways.  I figured hey, I’ll just take this opportunity to stop for awhile and pass some more gas.  These were all silent, but they were the really hot kind, and the smell was just absolutely putrid, as though an old man, smeared from head to toe with your dad’s stinky ointment, had died while cradling a giant wheel of foreign cheese, and then man and cheese rotted away for two weeks together before being discovered. 

So I was standing there waiting for the smell to dissipate when from out of nowhere came this very chipper young woman, reminding me a lot of Suzy Chapstick (aka Suzy Chaffee, the ‘70s version of Lindsey Vonn).  “I’ll get it!” she chirped, and helpfully retrieved my fallen pole.  I felt so bad for her … I mean, here she was, just trying to be nice, and then she enters this horrible toxic cloud.  Needless to say, her attitude changed fast when the smell hit her.  Once I had my pole back, she was off like a shot.  I’m surprised she didn’t just drop it at my feet.

Restroom

What happens in the restroom, stays in the restroom.  It seems like the most discreet place to go when you need to do a lot of farting in a public venue.  So on the way back from our ski vacation, at a Mexican restaurant in Auburn, I headed in there to do some serious offgassing after an hour in the car.  I took my time, trying to get it all out, and there was some jerk who kept knocking loudly and vigorously trying the doorknob.  I kept having to call out “Just a minute!” and “Occupied!”  This went on and on and I couldn’t believe the audacity of this guy.  So when I finally left, I was planning to give him some serious stink-eye, but then I flashed on the legacy I had left in there, and knew this wasn’t even necessary.  Who needs stink-eye when I’d given him stink?

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