In every workplace - or so it seems to me - there is at least one person who gets their vicarious thrills by letting a few ripe clouds loose from their trouser trumpet. Or, in layman's terms, a sneakily smelly little person who likes to drop a fart, leave and let someone else suffer from the stench and get silently blamed for it.
At the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in Melbourne, there was obviously a tribe of them because I was 'caught' many times. I mostly suspected the youngish, recent uni grads who hadn't yet integrated into the sensible slacks, grey velcro slip-ons or taken to carrying vinyl briefcases that were empty except for their newspaper and a banana. These guys were also the kind who still met up at the local grungy pub by the river for a bevvie or seven and could still physically handle staying out all night and turning up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for work the next day.
The building we were in was seven stories high and our department used nearly every floor. As a Project Officer for the largest unit, I was a regular rider in these and was often caught in the following scenario:
The green light on the wall goes 'Ping' and the doors slide open. I've got an armful of bulging manilla folders and am running several minutes late for a meeting four floors below. My mind is already focussed on my apology, what project updates I'll need to talk about and whether I've got time to SMS Love Chunks about booking the local Greek restaurant for dinner than night....
The doors close, and I realise I've got the lift all to myself and.... what the hell is that? Aww man, this stench is awful - did a horse die in here somewhere? I can't breathe...."
Ping! The lift then stops at the next floor and of course, it's our Chairman who steps in. Brian smiles at me warmly and settles in to do the usual lift-riding routine of looking straight ahead and staring at the glowing floor numbers.
My face is aflame with embarrassment and sheer mortification. What if he thinks it's me who produced this noxious odour? I can see that his normally composed face is twitching and he's now sneaking a few little glances at me, clearly wondering just what sort of creature I must be to have produced such a rectal reaction.
The above scenario happened to me on two other occasions, both with senior managers. It was awful to think that they thought that I had created - and proudly let go - of such a phenomenal fart. On the fourth event, I had to speak up. "Look Brian, I gotta say this. This --" I gestured all around me - "--was most definitely NOT of my making. It was in here before I stepped in!"
He laughed nervously, "Oh, OK then, whatever you say," and immediately pressed the button for the next floor, deciding that his original five floor journey with me was intolerable.
And to think that my employer held sole responsibility for Melbourne's air quality....!
Back to the present day and I find myself still suffering from the results - and unspoken blame for those results - produced by a university-based Phantom Pharter.
This one is female because she's limited herself (mostly) to the tiny little toilet room under the base of the stairs, the only facility in the heritage listed hellhole we work in. There are just two men in our building, and I'm 'lucky' enough to have my office right next door to their toilet, complete with rather graphic acoustics and the odd odour that accompanies their activities.
But I digress - our gassy girl is maybe a keen dhal curry eater, favours veges and is very, very regular. Yay for her, but not so for me, or indeed any of my fellow workers. Phantom Pharteress manages to drop a killer stink bomb no less than three times during the average work day. Said bomb has the staying power of a cockroach surface spray and literally contaminates the girls' room, stairwell, lobby and the photocopy room.
This time I was not going to suffer the undeserved blame at all and I spoke up right from the get-go: "Elizabeth, lovey puss, you, like me, have just walked into a wall of world-beating bum fluffs - it was here doing it's work before I came in, I'll have you know. I did NOT, I repeat NOT do it."
She paused for a moment to consider what I'd said, then smiled, and replied with, "Oh dear, I can't believe you just said that!", but then leaned in closer to me, "But I know it's not you, because it's been like this ever since I started here last year."
We then entered our respective cubicles, but kept talking over the noise of the drops and the plops. "Elizabeth?"
"Have you got any idea who it is?"
"None whatsoever. She must sneak in when the coast is clear, unleash her weapon of mass destruction and then piss off as quickly as she can."
"I guess that's fair enough. I just wish her mushroom cloud would dissipate in a few minutes and not hang around for longer than a Peter Jackson film!"
Elizabeth sighed loudly enough for me to hear. "Yeah, it never lets you escape."
The only upside is that so far Ph Ph hasn't taken to dropping them in the kitchen or office doorways as a malodorous joke. We can only hope and pray that she is one day transferred to a research unit far, far away. And preferably down wind.