By Dave Brewster
Why are we here?
What's my purpose?
Am I invisible?
Does anybody really know me?
How do I express things inside of me?
Perhaps you've asked yourself questions like these. I think there are times in every person's life when they ask themselves soul-searching questions in the quest to find meaning in their life or express their individuality. Such was the case this morning as I stood at the edge of a crowd of faceless parents overlooking the organized chaos of Saturday morning ski lessons.
For six weeks, the boys spend a little time on the slopes of a little community ski hill in the neighboring town. They seem to enjoy it and for the cost of rental equipment and a ski school "badge" they can ski for the rest of the day. It's a pretty good deal ... for them.
In the meantime, however, the parents congregate like walruses on benches in the little lodge amongst piles of snow boots and ski bags. The rest of us gather loosely, like noncommunal penguins around the ski racks outside, clutching at steaming travel mugs for warmth and smartphones as supplement for human interaction.
Insulated in gender neutralizing snowsuits of Gortex and Thinsulate, it's hard to discern the moms from the dads. Curves are flattened. Features are obscured. Everybody walks like they're wearing diapers. Don a hat and some shades and disappear into anonymity.
And then it hit me. Not suddenly, like a punch -- this realization overtook me slowly like a gently rolling fog, dull and hazy, faint and almost imperceptible at first. But the haze began to thicken to the point that it was tangible. Up until then, it wafted around vaguely, but then I could grasp it. The thin hint of I-don't-know-what which caught my attention was revealing itself.
My mind awakened as if jarred from unconsciousness. I began to formulate one clear thought as I raised my head from a dank, putrescent smog of confusion. I was onto something. It was ... what? What was it? It was right there on the tip of my tongue. I could practically taste it. Oh my god, it was in my mouth! "WHO FARTED? Ohhh man! What the ... ?"
It has been my longstanding assertion that fart jokes are always funny. Always. Farts, however, are not. I remember the day my ninth-grade biology teacher, Mr. Ellerson, enthusiastically explored to topic and gently squeaked out a discussion. He was a thin man with dark hair and beard. He could have been Abraham Lincoln's younger brother, complete with large rimmed glasses that might well have qualified as lab safety goggles and a pair of Birkenstock sandals worn with wool socks to complete the mandatory uniform for any high school science teacher worth their salt.
I won't bore you with the messy details of the discussion, but it came down to this: Unlike the senses of sight and hearing, which rely on the transmission of information over distance as energy in the from of waves, the sense of smell relies on the ability of our nose to interpret the chemical makeup of particles that come in contact with the nasal membrane. Did you get that?
Let me rephrase: Your sense of smell relies on the fact that molecules that came from somewhere float around in the air until they come in contact with the inside of your nose. Still not getting the drift? (Pun intended.) OK, if you smell that noxious aroma, it is because the particles that come in contact with your nose were very recently in your neighbor's colon. There. I can't make it any simpler. So the idea of basking in someone else's warm gastrointestinal embrace is less than endearing.
As I looked back over my shoulder at ground zero, the lingering victims of the biological attack stumbled away. As the fallout zone widened, I paused to consider the moral implications behind the decision to let one rip in the company of others and what it says about us as individuals. A perfectly common and natural biological process though that may be, everybody expresses what's on the inside a little differently.
The Gambler: Whether he's at the next table or staring you down with a blank poker face you'll never know he did it. He loves to play his hand at a crowded table, but you always know when he bluffed in a showdown.
The Terrorist: He preys on the unsuspecting public. Fear and flatulence are his weapons. This coward will walk right into a crowd to detonate one of his dirty bombs without fear of repercussions. He doesn't care who's standing in the blast zone when he walks away.
The Kamikaze: Kindred spirits with the Terrorist, but this guy takes pride in his work. Willing to sacrifice himself, he'll deliver the bomb and stick around until the bitter end.
The Joker: He thinks it's funny and can't keep a straight face. He loves to laugh at his own jokes. (This is my 9-year-old)
The Patriot: Similar to the Joker, but this one enjoys reveling in his accomplishment by announcing it to his friends with high-fives and challenges to break his record.
The Traitor: This self-absorbed turncoat does an "about-face" when the deed is done, leaving his fellow Patriots to suffer their own fate.
The Blowhard: A politician of sorts, his filibustering, though brief, can fill a room such that nobody dares open their mouth.
The Geisha: Demure on the outside, this ninja employs mind over matter and secret kegel exercises to diffuse the situation. She's silent but deadly.
The Girlfriend: Nobody actually knows when she let's loose. Distraction is her ally. If her bashful bowel isn't hiding behind the sound of running tap water or the flush of a toilet, she's softly tooting in harmony while she blows her nose. What's that smell? Is that potpourri?
Beneath the parkas and sunglasses, one man's aromatic act stood as a testament to his character. Unlike so many penguins huddled there in the snow, our individuality rumbles beneath the surface, aching to surge forth. Driving home today, my attention turned to each of the boys in the back seat: the Gambler, the Joker and his majesty, the King. I wonder what men they'll grow into.
"Hey, did you just do that?" calls the first out of the silence.
"Do what? Awwwww!" replied my Joker.
"Oh, man!" chimes in the youngest, as he rolls down the window gasping for fresh air.
"I didn't do it. You did!" The accusations begin to fly.
"No. It wasn't me"
"Well, I didn't do it! Dad?"
"Did you do that?"
"Did I do what?"
"It was you, wasn't it?!"
"What was me?" I remind myself not to protest too much and then, "I dunno what you're taking about."
Hey, don't judge me. Everybody does it. It's how you do it that says something about the kind of person you are. Remember that when you're sharing more than a beer during the big game. She may have whipped up a steaming pot of Dutch oven chili this afternoon, but don't forget to tell her the "You smelt it, you dealt it!" strategy constitutes unsportsmanlike conduct when she ambushes you with something "special" tonight after the lights go out.
Dave Brewster is a stay-home-dad being raised by three young boys in Groton. Find more at www.ADadIsBorn.com.