Recently, a friend confided in me that during a meeting with a prospective client, she let out a little ripple of a fart. Not imperceptible in nature, nor earth shattering, but audible enough to make her turn a bright shade of red and wish that the ground would swallow her up there and then.
She recounted the story to me in a hushed tone and told me that she had never, in her life, felt so mortified. Being the stellar friend that I am, I laughed. I threw my head back and I laughed loudly.
“That’s nothing babe. I mean it’s bad, but it’s not that bad,” I reassured her, seconds before she considered dumping my unsympathetic arse and flushing our friendship of eight years down the toot.
I am no David Attenborough or life scientist, but it doesn’t take a genius to suggest that our poor little human bodies were just not designed for the modern workplace. Besides having to spend a large portion of our time with virtual strangers, we also have to endure up to eight hours a day indoors, bathed in artificial light and relying on ducted air for survival.
Add eating out of a plastic container whilst staring at 1.7 million pixels on a bright screen and the whole operation seems highly unnatural. At least from an evolutionary perspective.
The fact is, our bodies are not engineered for this. And as a result, they will fail us on occasion. It’s not a design fault. It’s a user application error. And we probably won’t get through our working years unscathed or without a few good war stories.
I mean, you just haven’t lived until you have been carted away in an ambulance mid presentation for work while forty sets of eyes witness your ugly crying face. Or until you’ve vomited haplessly in your cubicle at work while your colleagues looked on helplessly (albeit with a little disgust).
Or you know, until you’ve managed to soil yourself because you couldn’t get to the bathroom in time. It happens. Life happens. Bodies happen. We need chill out about it. No one has ever died of embarrassment (well not that I am immediately aware of.)
Trust me when I say, if it happens to you, you will be ok.
You see, I recently took a ride in my first ambulance. When I say recently, I mean last week.
When I say ‘ride’ I was lifted into a gurney and strapped in securely by a nice man in a blue uniform. I considered him to be a nice man because he offered me a painkiller spray which stopped the pain and made my arms numb. I considered him a friend immediately.
My new friend with his magic, arm numbing nose spray.
Earlier that morning, I had been delivering technical training for work in a regional conference centre and was at least two hours away from home. With a microphone in one hand, and tapping a keyboard with the other, I had 40 eager and expectant faces looking in my direction. The abdominal pain which had rather inconveniently started only minutes before I stood up to address the group was now reaching its apogee.
The acute desire to double over in agony was getting harder to ignore. My mind had flashed back to getting dressed hours earlier and having to wrangle an errant zipper which seemed intent on mocking me.
Maybe my pants really were just too tight after all. Being only half way through my presentation, my gut sent a red hot and unexpected memo to my brain. ‘You have 15 seconds to wrap this up gracefully.’
And if experience has taught me anything, it’s that when your body does you the courtesy of giving you a 15 second lead time to make a graceful exit you take it – no questions asked.
So I wrapped up my presentation. I smiled widely like an idiot, told the group that we would have to finish it up there and handed the microphone back to my puzzled colleague who looked as though I had just announced that there was a bright pink unicorn motioning to me from the back of the room.
I then hobbled to the door clutching my stomach, made my way into the hallway and crumpled into a heap behind an oversized pot plant.
It’s funny that even in times of crisis, your inner good girl knows just where to collapse so that you don’t unnecessarily inconvenience anyone – or ‘be a bother’ as my Nanna might say.
And that’s how they found me – two pointy black stilettos pointing out from behind a pot plant in the foyer. Despite the Wicked Witch of the West undertones, you had to award points for trying to minimise the fuss.
The mortifying bit? Despite all attempts to be inconspicuous, I was later wheeled past a windowed wall where forty faces peered out at me while I was being lifted into the ambulance.
Luckily, I was given the all clear at hospital, with no serious cause for the pain identified (which kind of makes it all worse in a way). But I will probably forever be known at work as ‘that girl who fainted during training.’
As for vomiting in public, I can’t even say I am limited to only one episode, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
I’ve vomited as I stepped off the netball court (just in time – granted, the stomach full of Fanta and orange slices did me no favours). Outside a nightclub in the Cross where I learnt that no, you actually can’t mix alcohol and cold and flu tablets (we were all rookies once). And last week in the hospital.
Food poisoning and wedding dress fittings also don’t mix. Watch the food poisoning scene from Bridesmaids below. Post continues after video.
But none of those times, even combined, is as bad as having to endure the looks of pity when you are sick in front of your colleagues. In the office. At your desk. Caught off guard. And not long after your office has just implemented a no personal bin policy to encourage the minimisation of waste (and to reduce their expenses).
If those tales aren’t enough to give you hope that you might one day hold your head again high, spare a thought for one poor Reddit user and a primary school teacher known as Nomah The Great, who in her haste to get to work at a local primary school accidentally threw back a fair amount of prune juice instead of her usual cranberry.
Attributing her stomach growls to her breakfast muffin and a subsequent 4 coffees, Nomah The Great thought she would let off a little silent one in the classroom. Sadly, she had more to contend with than just a jet stream of hot air.
As my husband says, sometimes you just can’t trust a fart.
Fact: our bodies will occasionally betray us at work. We are, above all, human. So let’s support a sister next time our anatomy fails us. It’s likely to happen after all.
And I bet that little fart that escaped during your last meeting doesn’t look so bad now, does it?