We’ve all been there.
You’re in a public place. Or semi-public. It doesn’t really matter. The point is that there are people around and you cannot do certain things. You should not be digging for Waldo in your honker. Touching your genitals, even if it’s a simple readjustment matter concerning comfort, is verboten. And by no means should you loosen the control valve when it comes to digestive gaseous buildup in the lowlands.
You just don’t do it.
Yet, despite our best plans, things can go unexpectedly awry, sometimes with an intensity that is startling. Case in point: There I am, trapped in the workplace, on the one day when everybody on the planet reported to the office for some ungodly reason. (We have a half-ass work-at-home policy, in that we are “encouraged” to make regular visits but if, for some reason, you need to stay at home and work in your jammies, that’s fine. Naturally, most of us find one of those reasons 3 or 4 times a week.) I’m already not in the best of moods because there are so many annoying people in my peripheral vision, chatting nonstop and being completely useless.
And then it happened.
I’m innocently manipulating a spreadsheet to make it look like an inventory system that I manage was being cared for in a much more stellar manner than it really was. (Oh, don’t give me that look. You know you’ve done the same thing in one form or another.) I’m cussing Microsoft Excel (if I wanted you to format the data like that, I would have told you to format the data like that, you wretched piece of crap, stop making life decisions for me) when something shifts internally. Oh? What is this, pray tell? Two seconds later I realize there is a gas bubble the size of Tucson working its way through my system.
At first, I ignore the warning signs, assuming that I can just discreetly belch here and there and life will be good. (I’m not one of those cretins who will let loose with a ceiling-cracking thunderclap whilst in public. I have mastered the art of the silent release, so skillfully done that no one knows anything has happened except for the potted fern next to me that has just died.) But then there’s a sudden climate change, with pressure points shifting and expanding, and next thing I know if feels like I have a leaf blower shoved up my ass.
Now, most folks would just quietly slip off to the restroom and set themselves free. I’m not really able to do that. I can pee on cue in front of anybody with absolute freedom, a comfort level that almost reaches the point of exhibitionism. No problem there. But when it comes to products from the other recycling portal, I slam shut. I don’t know what may have happened in my childhood that led to this issue, but I simply can’t do the more substantial recycling in a general admission arena. Even in a facility expressly designed for such relief.
Can’t do it.
So I suffer through the afternoon, alternating between bouts of severe pressure and those misleading, false-security moments where you think the gas has been routed somewhere else in your body and you just might survive. (The body is a wonderland of chutes and ladders.) Naturally, all of this discomfort is intensified by the useless co-workers who keep dropping by my desk, demonically intent on asking me inane questions that benefit mankind in no way whatsoever. If they only knew how close to death they were at that moment.
Finally, it’s the end of the day. People are heading out in droves, laughing and chatting, happy to be free for the next few hours. I curse every one of them as they clatter by me, willing them to move faster. Because I’m fully aware that, at this point, the mere act of movement could lead to a shocking personal tragedy, and I want the witness pool cut down to nothing.
When it’s down to just me and the cleaning staff left on the entire floor, I make my move. I race to one of the exit stairwells, totally-clenched and purposely avoiding the elevators so there are fewer potential workmates that want to talk about politics. This is an old and decrepit stairwell, and people don’t use this thing unless there are no other options or the building is on fire. (And even then, most folks would leap out a window rather than deal with what feels like a vertical dungeon built in 1692 where people were left to rot because they dared to question that whole witch-burning obsession.) Surely I’m safe.
I throw open the door to said stairwell, and make an assessment. Even with the voracious rumblings from my intestines, I can sense that you could hear a pin drop from the upper floors. There is no one else in the entire building using this flight of stairs.
I launch myself forward, waddling and slowly conquering flight after flight. Stupidly, I have parked on the lowest level of the underground parking garage, far off in a dark corner. (Because I don’t like people.) Still, I think I can make it across the vast plains of the Russian steppes, as long as I keep my focus and remain as clenched as Richard Nixon hoping nobody else knows how to use a tape recorder.
Two floors from my destination level, the gas bubble can no longer be denied. He wants out, and he wants out NOW, his needs severely heightened by all the jostling and exertion. I weigh my options, trying to tamp down on the one Puritan tenet that I adhere to (“Thou shalt not toot amongst the brethren”), and I decide that, surely, in a deserted stairwell, the risk is minimal. I send the signal to launch.
And right at that moment, I hear doors on every level above me slam open, and hundreds of people are pouring into the stairwell like somebody just announced a sale at Macy’s. What in gay hell? How can this be happening?
I send a secondary signal to abort the launch. But it’s tough going, as there are a lot of organs in my body complaining about the change in plans. They are not happy and want to chat with their union stewards before complying. Damn them. I’m sweating and moaning and I can’t breathe.
Cramping, I struggle onward, near delirium. I’m just one floor away from freedom. Sadly, this stairwell is a twisty one, where you have six steps, then a right turn, six more steps, another right turn. You get the picture, with lots of shifting and lunging. And it’s on one of these turns, leaping through the air, that I lose all bodily control.
In another time and place, I would have been quite proud of the enormous power unleashed out of my ass at that moment. But it was not the right time, not the right place, and there hadn’t been any consumption of alcohol to soften this situation into one of mere frat-boy indulgence.
The noise of my Zeus bolt shot upward, bouncing off the concrete walls and intensifying during the journey. I’m sure that ears were bleeding by the time my tragic and intimate cacophony worked its way to the upper levels.
There is total silence after my rolling thunder dissipates, everyone slamming to a halt as they process what they have just heard.
Then a lone country voice: “Well, gawd damn.”
I throw myself over the last stair railing and plummet to the bottom level, a desperate move that resulted in a shame-enhancing encore. I rip open the door to the parking lot and race to my car, tires squealing as I floor it to get out of this hell.
Let’s just say that I took advantage of the work-at-home policy for the next three years.
Fiber can destroy your soul, people. Write that down.
Originally published in “The Sound and the Fury” on 08/05/09. Revised and updated with extra flair for this post.
Story behind the photo: This is actually an unexplained snap from my phone, the kind you find later and wonder “Did I take this? What was I trying to prove?” I thought it fitting for this post.
Categories: My Life