The Air that we breathe


About a week after I started at this job, I was moved into an individual office. Each of the 3 lawyers had our own office so the fact that I had one was nothing exceptional. What was exceptional was the size. Mine was probably the biggest amongst us 3 lawyers. It was on a side of the floor which was away from the CEO, CFO, and the other execs (including my boss the General Counsel) so it was not the power end of the floor. But I was ok with that. I had a lot of freedom.

With freedom comes responsibility I suppose, but it also came with great liberty. Including to fart. I did it at will and with no reservation, especially if I knew no one was going to pop into my room anytime soon.

Last week we all moved out of our rooms. The whole of the northern side of the office, which is where most of us had been seated, was going to be ripped out and new fitouts would be put in place. We had known this would happen, for a while now and we all knew the individual offices we had were going to be temporary arrangements and we would, when the renovations and fitouts were completed, be seated in an open plan office.

The renovations and fitouts will take place for the next 5 to 6 weeks, which means by the time the footy grand finals come around, we’d be ready to move into our new open spaces. We’d be in our current open plan temporary desks throughout the footy finals series.

The problem, as I had pointed out, was that of smells. Other than farting liberally, I didn’t care what sort of food I brought for my lunch. I’d cook stuff with dried oysters (a favourite of Klang Chinese folks) or fish sauce or loads of garlic and other socially confronting ingredients and bring them into my office during lunch and eat the smelly stuff in front of my screen as I catch up on the news and social media.

Now, sharing a nook with 8-9 other colleagues makes my choice of home cooked lunch as well as my physiological habits something that require rethinking.

What I put into my body is easier to manage than what comes out of it. What goes in can be managed in terms of the smell it emits, simply by controlling what goes into the pot. Less garlic and fish sauce and no dried oysters for starters. Only neutral stuff like carrots and tomatoes and chicken. What comes out however presents a much more challenging proposition. 

How do I control my farting habits so as to avoid what Clive James might have described as a classroom of pupils all holding their noses and leaning away to form a series of concentric circles with increasing radii with the farter as its epicentre?

Thus far whenever the urge comes on I simply walk away and head to the loo. I’m just afraid I might be, say, in the middle of a telephone discussion when the emission can no longer be held off. What would happen then? 

That, and less savoury home cooked food, are the only seemingly insurmountable challenges of my current open plan and cosy work setup.

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