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"Bookstore Gas"

What’s one of the quickest ways to develop hatred for a complete stranger? Unwittingly inhale one of their farts. It’s a surefire recipe for the abhorrence of your fellow man. But take that poop out of the equation. Then what do you have? Hopefully it’s an unbiased opinion of that person regardless of his or her race, religion, creed, or color (unless you’re some sort of racist or bigot).

So you’d consider a bookstore to be a seemingly friendly atmosphere or a place of peace and solitude, right? Still, many of us don’t consciously expect to be the victim of a rancid toot while browsing through a bookstore, but it nevertheless happens time and again—and we sometimes deal with it in a negative fashion.

Bookstores really are a breeding ground for flatulence. Foreign bookstores are no exception, either. But why is it that people tend to let one go in a bookstore? Aside from the structural design and layout of the book shelves being a calming factor, there’s another plausible explanation, which I believe comes down to two things: time spent and a person’s mood.

Now, I certainly don’t know the average time a person spends in a bookstore, nor can I attest to the respective mood of each individual in a bookstore at a given time. But what I can do is generalize. In my estimation people tend to spend more than a few minutes inside a bookstore. And for the most part, their mood gets better the longer they stay. It’s a bookstore, after all. If that doesn't spell calm, I don't know what does. Many sit down (or remain standing) to relax and take a gander at a book, which is generally a soothing task by nature. And what’s something that’s not entirely uncommon for a relaxed person to do? You guessed it. Fart.

“That guy just farted,” Kathleen said to me while giving him the fisheye.

“Yup, and it’s disgusting,” I said.

It happened at the local bookstore in Frankfurt. We were going about our business, making our way toward the travel book section when the culprit—beige pants, average height, reading glasses—looked like he didn’t have a care in the world. But make no mistake, we both heard it, and smelled it.

Within an instant after the explosion our half-smiles turned to frowns. I carried on about the “nerve of that guy” as she just listened, with a nauseating look on her face. The air was polluted, our moods ruined. We were both confounded and angry. But should we have been?

It’s not so much of it being a necessary urge as it is the natural embrace of a relaxed bookstore setting that can almost certainly trigger an indecent fart. Sounds like a relatively bold declaration, right? Still, it’s important to understand the underlying reason a person is inclined to let one go in a bookstore. It’s because most bookstores today create that living room feel with their cozy couches, café lounges, and warm atmosphere.

So we really can’t be upset with the man or woman who let’s one fly. We can only fault our neighborhood bookstore for cultivating an environment that’s conducive to passing gas. Which obviously doesn’t mean that everybody’s going to do it—some will hold it in or use a bathroom—it just means that you’ll have your fair share of ones that will.

So perhaps it’s best to forget about giving that retaliatory mean look or harboring those angry, negative emotions when you smell an unpleasantry from some stranger in a bookstore. It’s not worth the stress. Someone, perhaps even you, will end up passing gas there, and you’ll likely want to react negatively to it, like we did. But maybe it’s time to think differently and change the way we deal with this kind of stuff, because more than likely, bookstore gas is here to stay. Having said that, I think we might all be better off just getting used to it.


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