(Dedicated to Ms. Liz Newman)

New Orleans, Summer, 1971. My wanderings had led me to the Crescent City and, between situations, I was looking for work. One morning I got a tip about an employment agency across town that specialized in decent short-term jobs and temporary labor. So, in the company of two recent companions-- fellow wanderers seeking gainful employment-- I set out for the address I'd been given. About thirty minutes into our trek, we got caught in a hellacious thunderstorm. It was one of those New Orleans specials, where the rain seems to fall horizontally, relentlessly seeking out every dry spot on your body.

We arrived completely drenched and looking like drowned rats. In a men's room, we blotted ourselves with paper towels, doing  little to affect a change in our sodden appearances. We boarded the elevator for the trip to the 14th floor with our shoes squelching and puddles forming at our feet. The car stopped on every floor as more and more people got on. Nobody seemed to get off; it was jammed with office workers. Pretty soon we were wedged tightly in the corner, water dripping from our hair and clothes. The atmosphere was hot, muggy, close and steamy. One of my companions nudged me, leaned in close and whispered: "Oh, man... I really have to fart!"

"Yeah? So?" I whispered in reply. "I can tell it's gonna be a loud one", he murmured. "And...?" our other friend asked. "Well, if we cough I could sort of, uh,  sneak it out " he said. "All right? I'll count to three; we cough", he whispered. It seemed like a good plan. We braced ourselves for action. He nodded, and began the countdown in a whisper, nodding his head slightly once, twice, three times. Right on cue, we all managed to cough in unison, and then...


Well, timing is everything, isn't it? His soggy clothes and the natural resonance of the small space supplied amplification to rival the finest concert hall sound; the prolonged report reached every ear. Everyone seemed to find just a little extra room in that elevator, somehow, as they all pulled away from us. My thoroughly embarrassed and sheepish pal stood there, rainwater dripping from the end of his nose as he stammered "Uh... huh, huh; mmm...oh, man! God; sorry, folks!" We didn't get jobs that day, either.

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