Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"The Woeful Tale of the Porcelain Vessel, Publicly Savaged by A Flatulent Villain"; or, "The Cosmic Fart"

"But soft!  What wind through yonder library breaks?"

WARNING: The subject matter of note in this post is rather crass in nature.  Namely, it involves human flatulence (A.K.A. Air Biscuits).  I have weighed at length the issue of discussing flatulence in a blog that purports to be "Grown Up," but I have determined that the comedic potential of sharing such a story outpaces the danger of sounding juvenile.  Furthermore, I will essay to make this account as formally and classily worded as possible, as if Dickens himself were to write about Cutting a Melon:

Upon a merry afternoon, not so very long ago, I found myself in the position of tutoring a lovely young woman.  She was preparing to take her Scholastic Aptitude Test, and we were working quite diligently together towards that end.  On this particular afternoon, circumstances necessitated our meeting at a different location -- the public library.  O, had I but known what a fateful setting it would become, I would have surely determined another place: a school, a coffeeshop, the corner gas station... any would have been more bearable.

I arrived early, with my satchel full of books and exercises that would (hopefully) advance my young charge, whose scores were indeed quite promising.  I settled myself at a table near the entrance, as it would enable me to spot my student upon her arrival.  At that present time, knowledge of my general proximity to the restrooms did not even enter my mind, so engaged was I in my preparations.  Permit the following diagram to evince my location within the library:

My student was slightly tardy, as a consult of my pocketwatch (rather, cellular phone) informed me.  Whenever the front door was opened, I therefore raised my glance to observe the entrant; but alas, none was my pupil.  Presently, a portly man of middle age crossed the threshold.  I shall never forget the look of absent, yet intense concentration upon his visage.  He wore a flagrantly purple shirt, his head crowned by a close-cropped thicket that had begun to recede from his shiny forehead.  His stance and gait were of mild interest, only due to their unusual, stiff manner. 

Our curious visitor ambled toward the circulation desk and reluctantly inquired (I can only imagine) as to the location of the public toilets.  The young volunteer, weary from providing that very answer to so many previous patrons, pointed in my general direction.  He wandered towards my table, before spotting the restroom signage.  Pray note from the preceding and succeeding diagrams that I was not seated exorbitantly near the Water Closet.  He abruptly made haste towards the men's room, slipped through, and shut the door.  I have traced his path thusly:

For a moment, all was silence.  In retrospect, it seemed slightly akin to the calm before a strike of lightning, or a starting pistol, or an atomic bomb.  My senses were composed and relaxed.  A dozen or so patrons browsed and selected books from shelves, while staff members relaid the books that were no longer desired.  The atmosphere seemed at utter equilibrium.

Suddenly, from the men's bath chamber, there arose an unholy sound like none I have ever heard, or should hope to hear again.  It seemed to be a medley, a cosmic cacaphony, an amalgamation of all the variants of flatus production: the low volcanic rumble, to the unmuted French Horn, to the brassy trombonic slide, to the equivalent of rubbing two latex balloons against one another.  (Imagine THIS, only from the other end. That's what it was like.)

The wicked noise was sustained for some moments, to the point that I began to question, in my incredulity, whether it really could be flatulence after all that time.  It was. Oh, as my still-tender nasal passages may testify, it was.

In the silence that followed the conclusion of the unholy noise, every one of us within earshot were united in our shock.  We proceeded to eye one another, cautiously, quickly looking away if eye contact was made, for fear that our mad laughter would escape us.  I wavered more than once, desiring nothing more in that moment than to breathe clear air, to guffaw enormously, and to somehow un-sense what my ears and nose had just witnessed.  As the seconds slipped by in painful silence, the wait began.  When would the man emerge from the restroom?  And in what state?  I shielded my nose as discreetly as I could and watched out of the corner of my eye.

Seconds turned into minutes, and I began to wonder if our gaseous guest was all right.  Could he have lost consciousness?  Burst into flame?  Poisoned his own lungs?  My fears were allayed, however unpleasantly, by further confirmations that the man - or at least his digestive tract - was still alive and well.  After several minutes more, it became clear that he was now trying, at the conclusion of his expulsive episode, to remain in the bathroom long enough that we would forget that he was still in there.  But I could not forget.  I can never forget.

He emerged from the restroom some time later, skulking into the main room with all the caution and subtlety of a five-year old hide-and-seek player, his face now a melange of caution and unabashed relief.  I did not meet his eye, but I watched him walk boldly out the front door, without offering so much as a moment's attention to a single page of a single book.  My blood fairly boiled when I thought of the unwarranted suffering inflicted upon the poor men's room toilet, and upon all of our senses.  Could he have not selected a noisier/more odoriferous location, in which his bodily functions would have been better camouflaged?  An Eat'n'Park, a Dunkin' Donuts and a CVS were right across the street!  And he chose the LIBRARY, a place renowned chiefly for its SILENCE.  I would have gladly followed him out the door to dole out a piece of my mind, but his emission had temporarily left me with limited lung function. 

Anyhow, at that moment my student arrived and seated herself at the table.  Her nose involuntarily wrinkled.

"Hello!"  I brightly greeted her.  "That wasn't me.  Shall we begin with Critical Reading?"

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