The kid is pedaling slowly down the center of my lane on a busy street that bisects our vibrant downtown district. It is rush hour, in gloomy winter twilight. He is wearing dark hipster colors. He is not wearing a helmet. The bike has no lights. A dog trots beside him on a leash that’s looped around the handlebars. It is a smallish dog with short little legs. The dog wears a festive bandana. Although the dog is running just as fast as he can (he knows he’s in the road, where he doesn’t belong), the bike, to keep pace, is barely going fast enough to stay upright.
And I’m trapped behind them, late for an appointment.
This college town is spider-webbed with paved bike trails and wide bike lanes and designated bike routes. Had my arrogant young friend deigned to go one short block north or south, he’d have had all the city-sanctified space he might want for his travels with his terrier. Instead, he looks back at me with righteous superiority and meanders on with apparent unconcern to teach me a lesson about sharing the road.
The Missy O’Meter registers irritation. Its dial soon circles to hostility. I feel hot air rising. The car behind me honks; he cannot see what’s blocking my way. He sees my short gray hair and my disreputable nondescript car and assumes I’m some quavering old biddy he can intimidate.
He is wrong. I flip him off (underneath the dashboard, so he won’t see and decide to shoot me). I mouth words at him in the rear-view mirror, which may or may not be “Sorry about your penis, you ignorant dipshit.” I feel his anger, and it fuels my own.
I’ve been sucked into the hot whirling vortex of misdirected rage – the real cause of global warming. The huge trash gyre floating in the Pacific has nothing on this. All over the planet, billions and billions of human beings are huffing and puffing and spewing red-faced spit and yelling and gesturing and fuming and spluttering and throwing tantrums as if their petty personal vexations actually mattered. Is it any wonder the polar ice caps are melting?
We’re going to go up in flames one day. Psalm 21:9 says, soothingly, “Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of thine anger: the lord shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire shall devour them.”
The bible is wrong about this, as it is about so many things. Fire may consume us, but no arsonist God sneaking in with accelerant will be behind it. An errant spark from some bellicose fat man’s overpriced cigar will ignite the vast clouds of hot air we’ve all been belching, and it won’t just be a cow in Germany who suffers.
Flatulence from 90 cows in a Rasdorf barn sparked a methane gas explosion this week that damaged the building’s roof and left one cow with burns. Said local police, “Methane built up for unknown reasons.” Hmmmm. Ninety gaseous cows crammed together in a small barn with inadequate ventilation strikes me as reason enough. Continue that line of thought! Billions of human gas-bags crammed together on a small planet with inadequate ventilation — we are doomed indeed.
2 Peter 3:10-12 tells us, complacently, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”
We can prevent this! Not through good works, but through the work of Argentine agricultural researcher Guillermo Berra, who has proved that a cow weighing 1200 pounds produces 28 to 35 cubic feet of methane every day. Methane is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the earth’s atmosphere; farts really are deadly.
Berra outfitted his cows with collection-balloon backpacks that tap discreetly into the lower digestive tract via plastic tubing that enters through the exit. It’s brilliant! Think of the implications! If we collected the effluvium of every blow-hard smoke-and-mirrors congressman in Washington, we’d be well on the way to solving the problem of climate change. We’d have a limitless supply of natural energy.
And who needs Pinocchio’s nose? We could gauge the integrity of elected officials simply by the size of their straining methane balloons.
I want Ted Cruz to lead the way on this.
There is time for all these thoughts and more, stuck there in the street behind Peter Pan and Toto. Back in first grade, when flatulence was as funny as anything got, we had a classmate with an unfortunate gas problem. His mother taught him to call his emissions Bottom Burps. We all called him Fartin’ Phil (little children are not nice – it’s no wonder the Lord has to suffer them to come unto him). And then there was prim little Barbara Jane, who never ever farted (and probably still hasn’t) – she Expelled Flatus, per her mother’s careful instruction, and was quick to correct our vulgar vocabulary. Those two mothers should really have made a match of that pair; God only knows what they in turn would have done to their own malodorous children.
I guffaw and snort there behind the wheel. These are exhalations of a happier sort – I’ve escaped the hot dark cloud of anger, and am suddenly even at peace with the boy on the bike, whose mother doubtless raised him better. I wave at him the next time he looks back, and go into my yoga class with a happy heart.