Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Boston Fart Incident of 2009, and Why I May Move to Wyoming

If you're not into potty humor, you may want to skip this one. The point of this posting is not to tell adolescent fart jokes; it's just the honest to God true story of an incident that occurred last Tuesday on my way to work. And the incident happens to revolve around a fart. I didn't go out asking for this to happen to me. It just did.

Here's what happened. Tuesday, 8:05 AM. I was on the orange line on my way to work, sitting on the subway, reading a book, minding my own business like I've been doing every weekday for the past seven years. My seat was at the end of the row, right next to the door. The car was crowded. And then, out of nowhere, my whole world was shaken. I heard something that sounded like a fart. Didn't think anything of it. There are lots of noises on the train. But then the smell. Unmistakable. The guy standing next to me had farted in my face. Not just near me, in the general vicinity. In my face. My nose couldn't have been more than three inches from his ass.

My internal dialogue went something like this: "OK. Don't panic. Stay cool. Take a deep breath. No, wait. Don't breathe. You have to breathe. OK, breathe through your mouth. It's just a fart. Farts happen all the time. Can you catch something from breathing in someone else's fart? Does it matter how close you are to it? No, that's ridiculous. You only catch things from fluids and coughs. This is gross but not dangerous. Just wait for it to pass. Your stop is coming up soon. What kind of person blows a fart right directly into someone's face. I can't believe this is happening to me."

Obviously, I lived to tell the tale. Not a stellar way to start a day, but I'm mostly OK. Part of the reason I was OK is that I was about to go on vacation to a dude ranch in Wyoming. The Gros Ventre River Ranch. One of the most beautiful, peaceful, wonderful places I've ever been. When you know that you'll soon be transported to paradise, you can hang on, even in the face of disaster. Even when someone farts right in your face.

All of this got me thinking that in Wyoming, I bet it's pretty rare for someone to fart in another person's face. This is a city phenomenon. Wyoming has a population density of 5.4 people per square mile. In Boston, it's 12,561. When a fart is released in Wyoming, by the time it wafts over to the other 4.4 people in the square mile surrounding the emitter, it's been dispersed by the fresh mountain air breezing off of the Grand Teton mountains and, before another human being even detects it, its molecules have returned to the earth through whatever ecological life cycle it is that governs farts. Not so on the subway. Forget a square mile. The 100 or so people breathing the same stagnant, hermetically sealed air in the 200 square feet of a subway car are going to feel the effects of a fart.

The larger issue is that, if you're going to surround yourself with other human beings, you're going to have to live with all of the good, bad and ugly of human being-ness. Humans obviously have more to offer than just farts. Love, compassion, dialogue, intellect and art are a few things that come immediately to mind. So despite the ever-present risk that people around you might fart, there are still a number of powerful reasons why it's fun to seek them out. And to take advantage of all the good stuff humans have to offer, it's easier sometimes if you have lots of people near you to choose from. Let's say I want to go out for Indian food with someone and talk about bebop jazz. If I'm in Boston, at least a few of the 12,561 people in the square mile around me would probably be interested. If I were in Wyoming, I might have to walk 50 miles just to find one person who wanted to talk about bebop jazz and then who knows how many more miles to find an Indian restaurant. It could take all summer.

So there's the conundrum. Cities, packed with lots of people, each with lots to offer, certainly have their advantages. But, from a purely statistical standpoint, if you live your life in a city, chances are, at one point or another, someone is going to fart right in your face. I can't wait for my trip to Wyoming next week. I've always been aware of the natural beauty of the place, but when I step off the plane next Sunday and fill my lungs with the clean, wonderful Wyoming mountain air, I will be more appreciative than ever before.


Jeniene said...

Dan, that is awful and hilarious and beautifully written concomitantly. Glad you were able to work through the horrors of a fart in the face and I wish you safe travels to Wyoming.

Rich said...

This is your best post yet.

kiko said...

in the words of tommy pacelli, infamous fartaholic of upstate ny, 'the one who smelt it, dealt it.'
fess up bub.

Unknown said...

If statistically everyone in the city will share with you the experience of a fart in the face, at least yours is behind you. That is one statistical certainty I am not looking forward to.