"When you know a thing, to hold that you know it, and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it—this is knowledge." (from The Analects of Confucius)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Crop-Dusting: Let's Take This Farting Phenomenon Seriously


Recent events from a Sunday morning at my gym have prompted me to share a few thoughts on crop-dusting, a subject I am actually in the early stages of conducting research on.

First, crop-dusting family members and friends, well, that’s one thing. But crop-dusting in the public sphere – in the presence of strangers – is a  much more insidious behavior. Instances of public crop-dusting typically demand a degree of stealth in their execution. Furthermore, the perpetrator's depravity is often commensurate with his (or her?) ability to be clandestine in the act of crop-dusting.

Just to prevent any possible confusion, let me define my terms: I’m referring to the act of expelling flatulence in the general vicinity of others and at the same time attempting to avoid being implicated – or at the very least taking refuge in any possible ambiguity as to the odor’s source. (The ever-helpful Urban Dictionary offers several definition senses.)

Anecdotal evidence suggests that many Americans have dabbled in public crop-dusting. Some have learned the hard way that it is simply not worth the risk, feeling the daggers of public derision, perhaps in the form of a contorted face and an accusatory glare. I believe I encountered a dabbler that morning at the gym; I’m giving the guy the benefit of the doubt.

My real concern is with serial crop-dusters. Craven yet sadistic, a serial crop-duster, like the arsonist enjoying his fire from a safe distance, will seemingly retreat from the scene of the crime only to take up a safe vantage point that affords a view of the victims encountering, um, the dust.

Just knowing that these crop-dusters are out there – and believe me they are – leaves me with an uneasy feeling and an odd compulsion to check the stock of Beano. But it’s more than that.
Crop-dusting is our country’s dirty little secret. Obviously a ban on this or any related behavior is a ridiculous notion. Our bodies are fascinating and complex, simultaneously conducting myriad physiological processes. And, yes, flatulence is a natural occurrence. To an extent. But I fear a kind of anarchy of the anus. We run a grave risk as a society if we take crop-dusting too lightly. My own preliminary field work suggests that serial crop-dusting is on the rise. 

We have met the crop-duster, and he is us. If you know what it’s like to be dusted, to experience the shock, the disgust, the disorientation, the violation, then I ask you, what can be done?