We’re All Friends Here, Right?
By John Addyman
I’ve shared some of the dreary details of my humble life with you. So, perhaps you’ll lend me an ear to discuss a problem I’ve had since I was a little boy.
This is hard to admit. I’m a “tooter;” an occasional tooter, an accidental tooter most of the time, but a tooter nevertheless.
It pains me because I worry about it.
For example, in church on Sunday over Memorial Day weekend, I was the reader, standing near the altar in front of and above the congregation.
It’s always an honor to do that. I practice the text for a couple of days ahead of time so it comes out smoothly and I can say things with feeling. Then, when I’m confident I can read the text without stumbling, I start worrying about things that are a little out of my control.
Did our priest leave the book open to the right reading? Will the microphone be on? Am I zipped up everywhere I should be? Did I remember my reading glasses?
And finally, will I get half-way through the reading and suddenly suffer a little toot escapade? Remember, I’m right in front of a microphone.
Many years ago, when I was a little boy, I had a little accidental exhalation at the dinner table and my parents, surprised, asked me what I had done.
I wasn’t old enough to have a word to describe it.
Then my dad referred to a book I loved to have read to me, “Little Toot,” about big and little tugboats.
He smiled at my mom and told me, “You did a little toot!”
I guess I did.
The big toots, I soon discovered, were reserved for my dad, who was a big guy.
We called him “The Bear” and in bed on a cold winter’s night, he could deliver a toot that would blow his socks off and rattle the perfume bottles on mom’s vanity all the way across the bedroom.
For many years, I believed that only men and boys could toot. I got my mind changed when I got married.
Now that I know everyone toots at one time or another, it shouldn’t be a surprise when someone does. But there are instances where the act can create some difficult moments.
For example, when you’re in the dentist’s chair and you’ve got the doctor and an assistant working away on your mouth, occasionally exchanging information in muted tones, concentrating on fixing you, and then you toot. You can’t apologize because you can’t talk with all that stuff in your benumbed mouth. So, you gently shrug your shoulders and raise your eyebrows asking for mercy.
I once was part of a car pool of three, sometimes four, guys who were all attending Keystone College. One my chums decided to emit a landfill-class toot about six miles from school. The driver, a very calm person who was a deadeye shooter on the basketball team, immediately lurched the car to the side of the road and we all quickly got out and had a cigarette while the fall air made the inside of the car more pleasant.
When I was on a school board in Pennsylvania, three of us flew in a plane to interview a new superintendent and on our way into the Williamsport, Pennsylvania, airport, a tricky descent down the side of a mountain and up through a Susquehanna River valley, I couldn’t help but emit a little toot.
“C’mon, John!” the pilot exclaimed. “Do you have to do that while I’m trying to land this plane!?”
My son had a pre-teen sleepover one night and we had about 12 boys in the house. Although they turned out the lights when my wife and I requested, the mirth and glee continued for another hour or two. I got curious about what was happening when there would be periods of silence, then explosive laughter and cheering. After a little while, my son appeared at our bedroom door.
“Dad?” he whispered.
“Are you still awake?”
“Yes. What’s going on downstairs?”
“We’re having a kind of contest,” he said.
“Yes, a tooting contest.”
“And you had to come up and tell us about it?”
“Well, no,” my son said. “I couldn’t find the matches.”
Before my wife could ask what he needed matches for, I was out of the bed and on my way downstairs to end the contest, quiet the boys down and sit there until they were all asleep.
And the whole time I was there, I prayed I didn’t toot.