Friday, November 28, 2008

Winter stinks

Seattle skyline as seen from the Bainbridge Island ferry.
Seattle skyline as seen from the Bainbridge Island ferry. [Photo Credit: shadowstorm]

The weather in Seattle has turned cold. I welcome this, for two reasons. The first reason I welcome this is because there is something wonderful about wintery weather—at least until New Years, anyway. I was not enthusiastic about Seattle’s especially Winter-like Spring this year, and I guess the Southern Californian in me couldn’t handle the short Summer that followed it. In spite of this, I welcome the onset of Winter. I enjoy the wool coats and woodsmoke in the evening. As wonderful as Summer days are, are Winter nights. And I sincerely believe that the downtown Seattle skyline shines more majestically once the mercury drops—and more majestic still once the holiday lights are hung.

I welcome the wintery weather for another reason. It gives me a chance to explore a mystery that I’ve pondered for at least the last 4 years.

If you fart in cold weather, does it make fog?

I feel like, if there was a definitive answer to this question, it would put a stop to things like people farting at bus stops on beautiful Winter mornings while I am waiting for the next bus.

This happened to me just two mornings ago, prompting this blog post. I was pacing, which is how I wile away the time when a bus is running late, and it’s too cold outside for me to keep my hands outside of my pockets long enough to read a book. I had been wearing quite the groove into the sidewalk when an older woman, wearing a heavy three-quarter length coat, showed up at the stop and stood, sentry-like, at the far end of my route.

She turned her back to me, as I pivoted round my other endpoint and began pacing off the distance between us. I had almost reached her when I heard them.

A few pops.

From under her coat.

I whipped around and reversed course in a desperate effort to avoid walking into what I imagined was a rapidly expanding mushroom fart-cloud.

But the universe was not about to let me escape my destiny! For, upon farting, she turned round and began chasing after me!

I was frightened that she would drag the fart towards me, and I became certain that I could see its vapor trail slithering after her caboose like the poltergeist of a meal forgot!

So, I increased my speed to stay ahead of her wake, and just like that, we were locked in a desperate struggle! Racing—to escape her gas!

And yes, I did win. She eventually hard-lefted and carried the stink into the bus shelter, making liars of the people who long ago gave it the name—“shelter.”

Of course, if Ingmar Bergman taught us anything, it’s that destiny can be postponed if you know how to play chess, and also that after you die, Death makes you hike all the way to the shore.

Now that I think about it, that's particularly unfair. If there’s any upside to dying, it’s that we can finally stop working out. Not so, apparently. It seems that Death has a whole VH1 celebrity boot camp laid out for us on a rocky beach somewhere in the Netherlands.

Sartre said that hell is other people. If he were alive today, I’m pretty sure he’d agree that it’s having to work out next to Dustin Diamond and Da Brat for eternity.

But I digress. As I was saying: you can postpone destiny, but not forever. And indeed, after mere moments, I resumed pacing and absent-mindedly traced a path back into the cooling embrace of her lingering filth-mist.

If only she had left a visible trail. I might have been able to save myself.

(Also, to answer the question I posed above, I did some research. In theory, you should be able to see farts in cold weather because they contain water vapor. Just like when you exhale in the cold, the low temperature causes the water vapor in your farts to condense into a mist. I guess clothing gets in the way, though, so sometimes you can, and sometimes you can’t. Either way, you shouldn’t fart at bus stops. That’s just cruel. Especially since you can’t count on the bus to smell any better, you should let people enjoy the fresh air while they can.)

Saturday, November 01, 2008

the pleasure principle


little. yellow. different. deadly in sufficient quantities. [photo credit: The Train!]

two days ago, a former staff member of the university where i teach-slash-study killed himself very violently and, worse, very, very publicly. i found this out from my students, who had all received text alerts from friends who had either witnessed it or saw it on the news. i received a text message from verizon telling me about all the minutes i hadn't used up, because i have no friends.

we all thought, at the time, that it had been a student who had died. later, we found out it was actually a 61 year old man, so we pretty much stopped caring after that.

it did make us wonder, though. why all the attention? dude was 61. but before we found that out, we had other questions. wasn't there anyone in this kid's life who could have stopped him? and was it an act of protest or a cry for help?

if i were to use suicide as a cry for help (and i had already ruled out actually crying for help), i would write a very long note in which i would complain bitterly about how expensive premium ice cream is and how i never learned to play "just like heaven" on the piano. then i would find a bottle of pills and empty its contents into the trash. finally, i would lay down and go to sleep, empty bottle in hand.

when one of my myspace or facebook friends found me (and i know they're my friends because i can keep track of their picture uploads and changes in status), i would tell them how i didn't want to be saved, and how if they really cared about me they would get me some ben and jerry's phish phood.

when i got to the hospital, the tox screens would come back clean, and the doctor would ask me if i had overdosed on anything, and i would answer, malaise, because i am a grad student in an english department and whoever is the malaisiest wins. in this way, graduate students in english departments are very much like the members of high school drama clubs. if i did it all wearing vampire fangs i would probably be enshrined in high school cafetoriums across the country.

now, i wouldn't actually take the pills. i mean, you'd have to be someone who felt utterly alone, someone in utter desperation, to do a thing like that. in the age of social networking and internet dating, that's just not possible.