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You Can't Do That in Public

You Can't Do That in Public
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

I was sitting with Karl, my friendly-neighborhood curmudgeon, in our favorite Scottish pub, when I became aware of a certain change in the atmosphere.

Karl, that's disgusting! I said. You shouldn't do that in public.

He plunked his beer on the bar. "Kid, what makes you think I need lessons from a young pup like you?"

I'm 39.

"My point exactly. You're just a kid."

Barkeep, another lager for my new best friend, please.

"My point, Kid, is that I'm an old man. The last thing I need is lessons on farting in public from a kid."

Well, I'm good, but I wouldn't say I'm an expert.

"Not those kinds of lessons!I mean etiquette lessons." He drank his beer with his pinky raised to prove his point.

Yeah, but you just don't do that kind of thing, I protested.

"Maybe not, but it was an emergency. Besides, there's nobody in here."

True, but still, there is such a thing as appropriate behavior in public.

"Yeah, yeah. You know, you remind me of this guy I met several years ago in a bar like this one. I was drinking beer and eating taquitos like there was no tomorrow, so I was pretty well in the bag. Guy walks up to the bar with his wife, who was quite pretty -- they were both pretty fancy, in fact -- but I didn't know they were there. So I raised up off my stool and let one slip, rather loudly. That's when I realized saw them.

"The guy has this disgusted look on his face, and he says 'How dare you fart in front of my wife!'

"I said, 'Sorry buddy, I didn't know it was her turn.'"

I stared at him. That's an old joke, Karl.

"Hey , Kid, I'm an old man."

So you're an advocate of breaking wind in public?

Karl stared thoughtfully at the bagpipes hanging over the bar for a minute. "Well, no, not an advocate. More of a practitioner."

So you think people should just be able to fire off their public poots at will?

"Only if Will doesn't mind, which I think he would."

Not Will, will. As in free will.

"Why not? People air their grievances, their dirty laundry, their opinions. So why not air their air?"

Because you'll be a social outcast if you keep ripping one off around a bunch of people.

"But why should people be embarrassed by it? We all do it."

Yes, but we don't all do it in public.

"Sure we do. You've heard people who make what sounds like a fart, and start grinding around in their chair trying to recreate the sound to let you know that it was the chair and not them. Truth is, most of those people did a real one, and are trying to make you think it was the chair."

Yeah, but still. . .

"But nothing, Kid. Let me tell you a story."

This isn't another joke-disguised-as-a-story, is it?

"No, no. This one is real. A long time ago, I was in this meeting. There were about 12 people, and I'm sitting down near the end of the table. A couple of women show up late, and sit down next to me.

"As I start talking, one of the women lets out this distinctive, but very ladylike poot. It was quiet, but everyone in the room heard it, and we all pretended like we never heard it. I was able to keep talking without missing a beat, trying to help this poor woman out by not laughing at her little slip.

"As you know, I've got the sense of humor of a 12-year-old, so it was extremely hard to keep a straight face. As I'm talking, I see a woman at the other end of the table trying not to smile. I keep thinking, 'Oh man, if she laughs, I'm going to lose it.' So I very carefully avoid eye contact and finish my point."

That's a very mature attitude. At least you didn't embarrass the poor woman by laughing at her.

"Yep. Instead, I waited until the meeting was over to call a friend to tell him about it."

So how is that supposed to help people get over being embarrassed about their public flatulence?

"I suppose it isn't. But it's a great story."

Not unless everyone thought you did it. Maybe that woman at the other end of the table was laughing at you.

"Oh jeez, I hope they didn't think that was me. That's embarrassing."

You're a weird guy, Karl.

"I know. Hey, pull my finger and I'll show you a trick."

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