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Passing gas in public. Not genteel, not acceptable.
Passing gas in public. Not genteel, not acceptable.

by Dana Gornitzki

When nature calls, bodily functions seem to supersede any form of politeness. We are human, after all.

Yet, still, there are some acts that should be reserved for private time: the misdemeanour of public flatulence is one of them. This can be a particularly unpleasant experience when one finds themselves stuck in a closed environment such as the underground rail system or jetliner (you’ll know and probably be mentally scarred for it, if you’ve found yourself in such a noxious predicament. Or perhaps caused it).

We’ve all been in situations - even when we are not the culprits of the unpleasantness - where an unsavoury odour suddenly manifests itself. The affair is - well - uncomfortable, to say the least. The colloquial term “crop dusting” has been coined, whereby one expels gas onto unsuspecting victims leaving everyone in the area stupefied - resulting in all sorts of face making and nose holding. Most grotesque and not a welcome occurrence in any part of one’s day (although strangely enough, some people get great pleasure from it, almost like leaving a secret legacy. Very odd).

However, it is not too bold to say that in most cases, one can show restraint and make a polite exit for gaseous relief- if not to show respect to others (and their nasal passages), most certainly for one’s own dignity. We do - you must remember - share much common space with fellow earthlings.

Imagine, if you will, you’re at an interview or at a dinner party; would you feel free to break wind in such a situation?  The answer - simply put - is: not likely. That’s because in this cosy environment, the miscreant can be easily identified. And, let’s face it, no one likes to be embarrassed even when nature has taken over.

So, as you can see it is possible to overcome this horrific etiquette misdemeanour.

As the victim, all one can do is grin and bear it (even if disgusted). Shielding your nose with your hand or holding a scarf over the bottom part of your face seem to be the most effective methods of protection.

Most effective technique for victims

Most effective technique for victims of "crop dusting"

For the culprit, there are various etiquette tips one can practise to avert any sort of “crop dusting”, breaking wind, farting, or whatever you’d like to call committing this repugnant act in a public space:

1) Find a comfort station - this is the most obvious place designed to take care of one’s business

2) Seek out a private outdoor area (such as a street corner or a nook in a park), making sure there is no one around you. After all, you are outside and Mother Nature will kindly shield your odour with a little sprinkling of pleasant breeze

3) Your issue may be severe and require therapeutic attention. Perhaps, it’s time to re-evaluate your diet or speak with a medical practitioner (even a pharmacist will do, in most cases) about alleviating the pressure

4) If the act occurs by mistake, politely apologise and try to remove the odour with a back-forth motion - ideally out of a window so fresh air can replace the noxious fumes

Mistakes do happen, but one must own up, in order to not cause confusion and - with good luck - create an amusing situation out of something rather disagreeable.

Do you have any tips or amusing tales to recount? Please do share your wisdom and, by all means, continue to nourish yourself with a balanced diet so that you don’t find yourself in such a foul-smelling circumstance.

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