A friend once described me as a “Premier League raconteur”, which, to this day, is the best compliment anyone’s ever bestowed on me (even if not entirely true). Anyway here’s a self-deprecating little anecdote about a terrible moment in my life that I’m not proud of, and for which you should definitely judge me. I have nothing else to write about right now, so this is just meaningless ‘content’.
A few years ago, I was sitting in a meeting at work doing my usual routine of intermittently shifting in my seat and occasionally nodding like the Churchill Insurance dog in an effort to appear interested and engaged. To my right were colleagues from my team, and on my left, were some women who were a complete mystery to me.
Not long into the meeting I became aware of a terrible smell wafting towards me, coming from the general direction of my colleagues. It soon became obvious that a freewheeling farter was sitting among us, casually expelling noxious fumes like an idling taxi. The offending guff hit me like a stifling wall of heat and humidity hits passengers disembarking a plane after landing somewhere balmy and Mediterranean. I was clearly at ground zero.
But what of the smell? Well, thanks to a thread on Twitter a few years ago, where scientists debated the worst smell in the world, someone has already perfectly described the stench, which I can repeat here as “the [anal] musk gland of a recently unfrozen long-tailed weasel on a hot day in a small museum taxidermy room.” If you can also imagine the gut-wrenching stench that would likely emanate from a partially exploded whale carcass stuffed with hundreds of blocks of Vieux Boulogne cheese, baking under a pavement-cracking sun, you’re getting somewhere close.
As the smell moved across the room like a swirling, rancid weather system, I was suddenly gripped with fear that it would travel past me and envelop the women to my left, who would instantly, with handkerchiefs raised melodramatically to their noses and their faces contorted into expressions of total disgust, identify me as the perpetrator. So I had to quickly come up with a plan that would protect my honour.
Now, it’s entirely possible that I was delirious from the smell and not thinking completely straight. But the way I saw it, as the fart was the problem, all I had to do was remove it from existence before it reached the women. How? Simple, I would inhale it.
My analogous mind raced wildly. I was a peregrine falcon about to perform a rapid stoop, picking off a malodorous pigeon in midair at 200mph. I was a human containment boom protecting unspoiled (i.e. non-farty) areas of the meeting room against a foul pollutant. I was Gandalf facing the Balrog, internally shouting (so as not to disrupt the meeting) “You shall not pass!”.
But the depressing truth was inescapable: I wasn’t a hero, and this wasn’t an heroic act. I was Noo-Noo from the Teletubbies preparing to enthusiastically hoover up another human being’s intestinal gases.
And that’s what I did. Deep, rapid, dizzying inhalations of a nauseating fart. Of course, I failed to consider the possibility that the smell may have been all-pervading and the women had just expertly masked their revulsion. If that was indeed the case, then my plan was utterly futile. It also radically changes the women’s perception of my actions, where they probably concluded that I was a man who just loves other people’s flatulence. So much so, in fact, that I was inhaling this fart like it was some kind of airborne dessert. They were probably expecting me to turn round at some point and kiss my fingers like a chef, or rub my stomach and make contented “Hmmmmmmmm!” sounds.
I later established the identity of the farter, who sickeningly revealed that his digestive system often struggled to cope with his excessively meaty diet. Still, I was absolutely incredulous that he would let rip in such a crowded room. With that kind of bold confidence he might have considered collapsing to the floor, legs akimbo, with an ocarina inserted into his anus, where he could then emulate Le Pétomane’s farty rendition of ‘O Sole mio, or perhaps toot the theme tune to Howard’s Way. Seeing as I practically tasted his fart I should have at least demanded a musical number.
Anyway, I guess the thing with being a raconteur is that you really need the anecdotes. I’m not entirely sure this was it.