A lot happened this past week. There were the shocking and tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday, followed by one of the most intensive manhunts in the history of this nation, a gun battle on Thursday night that left one of the bombing suspects dead, the unprecedented lockdown of nearly a million residents in the city of Boston and surrounding towns for nearly a full day, and finally on Friday night, the apprehension of the second suspect.
David Ortiz, Boston’s “Big Papi,” summed it up on Saturday at Fenway Park before the first home Red Sox game since the Marathon bombings. Microphone in hand, he stood in front of 35,000 Sox fans and countless numbers who were watching the game on TV (me), and said, “This is our fucking city, and nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.” They didn’t even bleep out his “expletive” on the TV broadcast!
Also last week, in the small town of West, Texas, a devastating explosion at a fertilizer plant killed 14, injured around 200, and leveled around 50 homes. And a huge earthquake in central China killed at least 179 people and injured nearly 7,000.
Of course, our dysfunctional U.S. Senate failed to pass legislation that would have expanded background checks for gun purchases, despite the fact that nearly 90 percent of Americans support requiring such background checks. 54 senators voted in favor of the bill; 46 against. And yet it failed.
But wait. Isn’t 54 more than 46? Well, yes, in the real world. But due to some arcane procedural rules that apply only in the world of the U.S. Senate, this bill would have required 60 votes to have passed. A simple majority simply won’t do. So much for the will of the people.
And let’s not forget that my wife, who, along with our dog Shadow, was on her cross-country drive from San Francisco to Worcester. She ran into sub-freezing temperatures, heavy snowstorms, road closings, and detours along the way. Really? Snowstorms? Sub-freezing temperatures? It’s the third week of April, for crissake!
To fart or not to fart
But in my mind, the most significant news came out of a 3,000-word essay by five researchers from Denmark and Britain that was published in the New Zealand Medical Journal. Danish gastroenterologist Jacob Rosenberg, after experiencing the malodorous problem of flatulence firsthand on a flight from Copenhagen to Tokyo, enlisted some of the finest minds in his field to address the issue of farting at 35,000 feet. And for those of us who are frequent fliers, it was great news.
It turns out that high altitude air pressure changes in airplanes cause more gas to brew in the belly. Most people (but not all, I can assure you from personal experience) try to stifle their farts due to the stigma of potentially cutting a stinky one while in such close proximity to other passengers.
But the researchers suggested that holding back one’s gassy emissions has significant drawbacks, such as discomfort and even pain, bloating, indigestion, and heartburn. “Moreover,” wrote one, “problems resulting from the required concentration to maintain such control may even result in subsequent stress symptoms.”
So fliers, as the researchers noted, “There is actually only one reasonable solution: just let it go.”
The study recommended that airlines start using charcoal to deal with the smell of passengers’ mid-flight gas releases. The authors proposed that active charcoal be embedded into the seat cushions, since charcoal is able to neutralize odors.
But wait. There’s even more exciting news. While the average person farts around 10 times a day, the researchers found that women’s farts are smellier than men’s.
That got me wondering how the researchers made this assessment. I envisioned them interviewing people of both genders. After asking the test subjects to bend over, they stuck their noses up against the subjects’ butts and told them to shoot one off.
After inhaling a big whiff of fart, they checked the box “Stinky” or “Not so stinky” on their tally sheets. Or did they rate each fart on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being “pass-out-stinky”?
Well, however they came to this conclusion, I thought it was great news. Next time you’re on a plane guys, feel free to let ‘em rip. Ladies, please wait until you land.