According to the latest in medical science, I sat next or near to an exceptionally healthy individual on my last flight. My keen olfactory senses alerted me that a fellow passenger, almost certainly my seatmate, though he was shy and tried to hide his vitality behind a magazine, was in fact hale and hearty—and probably ate a burrito for breakfast.
Hans-Christian Pommergaard, author of the seminal “Short-term sun exposure of the gluteal area is safe”1, has released a new peer-reviewed work into the aether. “Flatulence on airplanes: just let it go”2. According to the abstract:
Flatus is natural and an invariable consequence of digestion, however at times it creates problems of social character due to sound and odour. This problem may be more significant on commercial airplanes where many people are seated in limited space and where changes in volume of intestinal gases, due to altered cabin pressure, increase the amount of potential flatus. Holding back flatus on an airplane may cause significant discomfort and physical symptoms, whereas releasing flatus potentially presents social complications.
Some physical symptoms of gaseous temperance are (as quoted in the press) “discomfort and even pain, bloating, dyspepsia (indigestion), pyrosis (heartburn)…”
The paper particularly warns that pilots never dare hold it in, as doing so could cause “impaired concentration” and even “affect his abilities to control the plane”! On the other hand, there are consequences from wanton degassing. “[H]is co-pilot may be affected by its odor, which again reduces safety onboard the flight.” Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. The paper doesn’t mention the effects of the newer, probably airtight, security doors which entrap gases in a confined area, concentrating them.
Solutions? The airlines could “alter the fibre content of airline meals in order to reduce its flatulent potential.” Or the TSA could finally be of real use by scanning passengers with portable gas chromatographs or “methane breath test[s]”. Those whose emissions exceed Level Orange would be barred from flying. Since one of Pommergaard’s findings was “that a woman’s fart smells worse than a man’s”, passenger profiling by sex is inevitable.
I don’t want to cause Pommergaard any grief, nor brag about my family, but my old grandpa was years ahead of medical science. He often used to recite this poem (which unfortunately he didn’t publish, thus quashing his chances for a Nobel):
Better to fart
And bear the shame
Than not to fart
And bear the pain
Since it is healthier to let go, yet acknowledging fruitier efforts can cause deadly pilot-error, Pommergaard “humbly proposes” putting actived carbon adjacent to passenger bungholes. Not just in the seats, but “active charcoal may be used in trousers and blankets to emphasise this effect.” The TSA could improve their now-useless strip searches by administering trouser pads.
I know what you’re thinking: what about the short-term sun exposure of the gluteal area? Seems Pommergaard collected six Dutch buttocks, handed out thongs, and headed down to the tanning parlour. There, the “right and the left gluteal regions” of the buttocks “were randomised to either 20 or 40 minutes” exposure.
Then, he and his team of crack scientists peered over the pores. Why, they even calculated an “erythema score” and performed a “pixel colour analysis”, all to the sultry beat of the Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love?”
I’m only guessing about the Bee Gees. But the scientists did say that due to “social norms and the use of clothes the gluteal region of the body is only partially exposed to sun.” This is a good thing, apparently, because the radiation research revealed “[a]ll outdoor activity without clothes should be limited to 20 minutes to avoid skin damage.”
Finally, relevant science music:
Thanks to Al and Ann Perrella and the Blonde Bombshell for telling us of this wind-breaking research.
1Ugeskrift for Laeger 2012; 174 (49) 3071-4.
Updated to remove typo and calm the nervous.