I have recently found that the men’s “facilities” in the office building where I work have come to stink. Now, that is not such a surprise in and of itself as the bathroom has no windows. What is curious is that this overwhelming stench has increased in intensity over the past few days. I think of Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” in Leaves of Grass: “I sound my barbaric yalp over the roofs of the world.” But this barbariety does not leap over roof tops, straddling the world. Rather, it permeates within the enclosed walls, soundless in stealth.
As a matter of fact, I have often wondered what exactly makes one’s “air” more fragrant than another’s, or violently more noxious. Here at the office, we all eat the same thing everday for lunch. This makes an examination of the evidence inconclusive. Does this mean that the “air” is not traceable to a sinlge point source, yet attributable to all? Like Milton’s continental man, does the bell toot for thee? Or is there a distinguishable factor making one’s pipes behave differently from others? This is the eternal scatological “chicken and egg” debate. In any event, I will defer to Mark Twain to ponder the routes behind this matter . . .
“Of all the various kinds of sexual intercourse, [onanism] has the least to recommend it. As an amusement it is too fleeting; as an occupation it is too wearing; as a public exhibition there is no money in it. It is unsuited to the drawing room, and in the most cultured society it has long since been banished from the social board. It has at last, in our day of progress and improvement, been degraded to brotherhood with flatulence—among the best bred these two arts are now indulged only in private—though by consent of the whole company, when only males are present, it is still permissible, in good society, to remove the embargo upon the fundamental sigh.”