Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Dear Mr. Debonair,

I hate to travel by air. I don’t mind the long delays, the security procedures, the uncomfortable seating, and the tasteless airline snacks, but I have a terrible problem with flatulence. Being cooped up in an airplane only makes it worse, and it’s so embarrassing when I inadvertently let pass a little toot! Do you have any suggestions?

Hates Flying

Dear Hates,

Ahh, the dreaded Airborne Attack of the Vapors.

Indeed, there are many among us who have an especial problem with flatulence at 35,000 feet. Whether or not you dined on garlic sausage, five-alarm chili, Brussels sprouts, and hard-boiled eggs prior to your embarkation on that Boeing 737-300, it matters not. What does matter is that you are strapped in to that center seat next to a screaming baby, the seat belt light is on due to that “light chop” that had one of the flight attendants pinned to the ceiling five minutes ago, and the low air pressure makes the escape of Toxic Vapors almost inevitable.

For your peace of mind, recognize that we are all human, and we all suffer from the same problem.

If you find that you must pass gas while in flight, do what Mr. Debonair does. Open your air vent full blast; this will not only dilute the Vile Aroma and distribute it rapidly throughout the cabin, but the noise it generates may help cover up any noise you may generate while in flatulentia delicto.

Try to “slice the Swiss” quietly. Cough, if necessary, to cover up any noise - or rend one of your garments. Explain that you are enroute to a funeral and that tearing your shirt-tail is a traditional expression of grief.

Should you succeed in “hacking the Havarti” noiselessly, there is still the matter of aroma. Call it Murphy’s Law of Airline Flatulence, but it seems that most people save their most toxic, stench-filled emissions for the airplane. Should you detect an unmistakably fecal odor, simply wrinkle your nose in disgust - even if you are the responsible party and you are experiencing what the Germans call Fertzelstolzfreude - the strange, yet unmistakable, mingling of pride and pleasure upon smelling our own farts. People will assume someone else did it, particularly if you are a middle-aged woman.

Whatever you do, learn well the bitter lesson of Richard Milhous Nixon: Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to cover up a Farctic Blast with another aroma. Perfume is ineffective and obvious. And a woman discovered this week, to her intense dismay, that lighting matches - in effect, covering up one sulfurous exhalation with another - is not an alternative to be recommended whilst in flight.

Consider this tragic case, a 21st Century Cautionary Tale. Here is a woman enroute from Washington, D.C. to Dallas, who, in attempting to cover up her (presumably) prodigious and pungent gaseous output by lighting matches, ran afoul (heh) of the regulations that prohibit open flames aboard aircraft.

Whatever was she thinking? Rather than the momentary embarrassment of suffering other passengers’ withering stares (assuming the above Diversionary Tactics were unsuccessful or, indeed, not attempted), imagine the embarrassment attendant upon having the flight aborted and all passengers and luggage removed, causing the flight to incur at three hour delay; and being permanently banned from American Airlines!

This woman, apparently bereft of Critical Thinking Skills, would have been better off taking a five-pound shit in her knickers - never mind suffering the minor embarrassment of Being Caught Farting in Public.

The moral? Lighten up, relax (albeit not your Sphincter Muscle) - and leave those matches at home!

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