There's (at least) one in all of us
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) 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 morphed 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.
They were also the kind of blokes that my brothers would admire for their:
a) ability to generate such gut-busting blasts;
b) their ingenuity in dropping them in a small enclosed area and escaping; and
c) making their sister suffer.
Beanbags have a lot to answer for. Having a brown velvet monstrosity in our living room growing up meant that it made for a comfortable after-school TV session but if Dave or Rob came in, they'd invariably fart in my face and run off gleefully guffawing, knowing that my anguished struggle to get up and out of the shifting sands of beans would enable them to escape to at least the next-door neighbours' house before I was on my feet.
And thus, many years later, when I was smack-bang in the middle of a serious career, the fart issue arose again. The EPA building 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 esteemed 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 depraved creature I must be to have produced such a repulsive 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 it in a publicly-shared space - such an eye-wateringly 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 this was occurring in the agency who held responsibility for Melbourne's air quality....
Several jobs and a couple of career changes later found myself still suffering from the results - and unspoken blame for those results – this time produced by a university-based Phantom Pharter.
This one was female because she limited herself to the tiny little ladies' room under the base of the stairs which was the only available facility in the heritage-listed hellhole we worked in. There were just two men in our building, and I had the good fortune to have my office right next door to their toilet complete with rather revealing acoustics and the odd odour that accompanied their activities. Let's just say that Steven was a bloke to avoid the morning after the Tower Hotel's Tuesday Schnitzel-and-Sauerkraut Special.....
But I digress - our gassy girl was possibly a keen dhal curry eater, obviously favoured over-cooked veges and was very, very regular. Yay for her, but not so for me, or indeed any of my girlie colleagues. Phantom Pharteress managed to drop a killer stink bomb no less than three times during the average work day and seemingly about thirty seconds before I needed to go.
Her efforts had the staying power of cockroach surface spray and literally contaminated the ladies' room, stairwell, lobby and the photocopy room and each time I departed, red-faced and gasping, Debra at reception would see me and frown disapprovingly.
Finally, I decided that I was no longer going to shoulder the undeserved blame and I broke the Toilet Room code: I made a conversation with a fellow abluter when both of our cubicle doors were locked.
(surprised tone): "Yeah?"
"You, like me, have just walked into a wall of world-beating bum fluffs - it was here doing its evil 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 and replied with, "Oh dear, I can't believe you just said that," but then whispered, "It's OK, I know it's not you, because it's been like this before you had even started here.”
There was a bit of over-acted paper rustling on both sides of the shared wall as we tried in vain to muffle the noise of our respective drops and plops.
"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 bugger off as quickly as she can."
The only upside was that Phantom Pharteress didn’t drop ‘em in the kitchen or office doorways as a malodorous joke. Luckily I was eventually transferred to a research unit far, far away. And down wind.
Three years on, my most consistent co-worker is Milly the dog, so we both know who does what and when and to whom. The agonies and ecstasies, therefore, are shared pretty equally. Equality and fairly-apportioned blame at last.