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* This article comes with a health warning.  If you don’t enjoy reading about intestinal gases, stop reading now*

As usual TP founder Harry Harland beat me to it.  For the record, I thought of the idea for this piece way before Harry submitted his Plane Stupid one last week.  To those of you who read his and, on reading mine, think I snitched this idea from him, I didn’t.

Right, getting on with it…

We’ve all been there.  We all know what it’s like.  And yet none of us really know how to deal with it.

This is the generic scenario:

You’re sitting in your not-comfortable-but-not-exactly-uncomfortable seat on the train.  Perhaps you’re reading, or watching a film on your i-Padlet-tablet, or maybe just daydreaming out the window, your i-Podlet tinkling quietly in your ear.  Either way, you’re minding your own business.  And then it happens.  The dusty, sweaty but not entirely unpleasant odour of the carriage, the one you had just gotten used to, is (without warning) replaced; horrifyingly, repulsively, ominously replaced by another type of odour.  One so pungent and disgusting, a tiny bit of sick comes up.

I am talking of course, of the passenger fart.

What are these people eating, you ask yourself as you stoically suffocate in silence.  There must be something seriously wrong with mankind if we allow ourselves to produce such a stench in public with seemingly no respect for our fellow passengers.

Your first thought is: Why the hell didn’t they hotfoot it to the lavatory?

Your second thought is: I blinking well hope no one thinks it’s me…[a moment’s consideration]….Cripes, what if everyone thinks it’s me?!  I must indicate with haste that it is absolutely not me.  But this is the tricky part, for how does one do this?

Fanning your hand in front of your face is a complete no-no.  This is because ‘fanning the fart’ is only going to spread it further and that’s what foolish people do.  Secondly, you don’t want to draw attention to the fart itself nor thirdly (and strangely) run the risk of offending the farter.

What, fear offending the farter?  Surely they’ve offended ME!  Yes, perhaps.  But if the farter is that big burly bloke in the corner with tattoos and piercings, I’d say embarrassing him would be a bad idea.  If you can smell the stench from where you’re sitting – with an entire carriage between you – just imagine what you’d smell if he sat on your head.

Nonetheless, the stink lingers on.  You start to sweat it’s so repellent.  You’re almost tempted to just stand up and holler: ‘POO!  Who was that?  Come on now, own up!’  As amusing a thought as it is, obviously never one for actioning.

Instead you find yourself staring up from your book (or lap) and beadily eyeing everyone suspiciously.  Who was the cultivator of this “methanic” smog?  The grandpa eating his ploughman’s sandwich?  The tourist with ketchup round his mouth?

The people whose eyes you catch…are innocent.  Why?  Because the person who actually emitted this sulphuric stink bomb, is the person too embarrassed to move, too embarrassed to look, too embarrassed to breathe. They’re the ones burying their head in the carpet, ‘not noticing’.  The one’s faffing about with the newspapers as the rest of the carriage are doubling up on the floor, grabbing their throats and passing out.

There’s some camaraderie to be found here though.  You catch the eye of the young chap in the corner, raise your eyebrows and mimic retching.  They do the same.  But perhaps…they’re double bluffing.  Making you think they are just as repulsed when in fact they are a) impressed they produced such a pong and b) a little relieved it’s out – something of that calibre must have been awfully uncomfortable to contain after all.

Whoever it was, you very much hope they ‘followed through’ a bit as pay back.  Hope they’re sitting there in their own solid waste contemplating whether to throw away their clothes and hide in the loo for the entire journey…to Edinburgh.  But you know they’ll just sit there and bear it, defiantly.

As the smell gradually subsides, you breathe a sigh of relief.  You then instantly regret it, knowing that somewhere in that massive intake of oxygen, someone else’s poo particles have found their way into your lungs.

In Ted Leech’s book of Really Gross Facts it states we inhale 1 litre of other people’s fart gases every day.  I would say more if you’re unfortunate enough to work in an enclosed space with lots of people.  No wonder ticket men are so unfriendly.  How air stewardesses manage to keep a smile on their face during long haul flights I’ve no idea.  Furthermore, why anyone would choose to work in this type of toxic environment just beggars belief.  Do you have any idea?

Perhaps Harry Harland can answer this question in his Plane Stupid follow-up.  And because I’m feeling generous, here Harry, steal my title idea for it too: Plane Baffling.

By Beenie Langley