update: someone keeps farting in important client meetings

Remember the letter-writer who was concerned that someone kept farting in important, high-level client meetings? Here’s the update.

Thought I would give an update on the farting in the boardroom story of a little while back as the issue did not go away and things turned out a lot differently than how I expected.

So there were another 4-5 meetings. The farting continued, in some meetings it was worse than others. It did seem that those scheduled in the morning were less gassy affairs, although by no means did attendees enjoy fresh air for the entire duration of those. Despite the regular bouts of nostril-burning flatulence wafting throughout the room, it became clear we were going to be working with this client on a long term basis and the atmosphere grew a little more relaxed accordingly. On one occasion near the end of a meeting someone cracked a very funny joke, which provoked an outburst of communal laughter, during which someone, presumably involuntarily, let out an audible fart. It was short, not very loud, and if anyone noticed it they didn’t let on. However, whilst I couldn’t be sure if everyone heard it, it was certainly smelt by everyone. The eye-wateringly foul stench wiped the smiles off some faces and replaced the amused expressions of a few others with frowns. This seemingly brought this particular meeting to a slightly premature end as the most senior member of the client team rose to his feet and said without a hint of irony, “Well that’s probably as good a note as any to end on for today.” It was unclear if he was referring to the funny joke cracked moments earlier or the fart, indeed he seemed a very sharp individual who probably realized it was a perfect moment for ambiguity. But I have to admit the sight of everyone’s eyes darting around the room as people tried to gauge each other’s reactions to try and figure out exactly what he meant was an amusing one. But not as amusing as moments later watching senior management leaning over the table exchanging farewell platitudes and shaking hands whilst yet another stinking fart assaulted everyone’s noses.

It got to the point where people let their guard down a bit and became a little less restrained in hiding their reactions. An electric fan mysteriously appeared in the corner of meeting room one day, but it wasn’t used for the first meeting it appeared in, probably as it was an early morning affair with limited silent and deadly emissions. But during one particularly gassy afternoon episode a week later, one of the clients, a younger female, was sat with the corners of her mouth pointing downwards and using a piece of A4 to fan the air, trying to make it look like she was just trying to cool her face. Our director saw this, and asked the junior member sitting nearest the new fan to “switch it on please, seems its getting a little hot in here” with a completely straight face. On the fan went – but the speed was set on a higher speed than anticipated and all that happened was pieces of paper, meeting notes, and a newspaper were blown off the table and flew around the room along with the familiar pungent stench. Thankfully this was laughed off, and I took advantage of the interruption to suggest a break, as we left the office juniors to clear up the chaos. During the unplanned interval, I noticed our most senior executive had hung back to help reorganize the room. This was most out of character, but it turned out he just wanted to get the newspaper, which had been blown inside out.

Seconds later he emerged from the room and walked towards the gaggle of us who were drinking coffee and chatting in the open plan area outside the meeting room. He radiated a beaming smile as he strode right past everyone in the direction of the men’s restroom with the newspaper tucked under his arm. Seeing that he didn’t return to the meeting room for a good ten minutes after everyone else had, it didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce why he had been so eager to get his hands on some reading material. This brazen and unashamed approach to bathroom business quickly led me to place him in the number one position on the silent boardroom farter suspect list. I also especially noted there were no more silent-but-deadly interruptions for the remainder of that meeting, which went on for a further three hours or so.

During our very last meeting, which was to seal the deal, there was an awkward culture clash. We work in a multi-national office in a major Asian city. English is the working language, and between us and the client team everyone speaks English fluently, but there is a varying mix of comprehension of our host countries language. All of our senior executives are westerners and unable to converse in the local language. I’m not a local but I’m fluent in the local lingo. During the meeting, two maintenance men wearing overalls entered the room and announced they were responding to a report of a fault in the ventilation system. But both the workers were not fluent in English, so I did some on the spot interpretation, to which our most senior executive replied, “Please tell the janitors the air con and ventilation system are working fine, we have important business to conclude today.”

I duly interpreted. But the workman, not at all concerned with the subtleties of boardroom etiquette, bluntly replied in the local vernacular “There’s no ventilation problem? It smells like shit in here!” which basically caused the half of the room who could understand to laugh and the other half to respond with smiles and looks of curiosity as to what exactly was said. Thinking on my feet I didn’t translate anything back to my side, but urged the maintenance guys to come back in a few hours because it was a really important meeting and we really had to get on with it. It was a ruse which seemed to impress the client executive who is also fluent in that language, and offered my side a way to continue without drawing more attention to the constant bad smells than was necessary.

The deal ended up being signed off and it was decided both teams would go out for dinner and drinks to celebrate. Sure enough the drinks flowed and both sides let their hair down as the night drew on. Whilst chatting with one of the clients, someone of similar level to myself, and with a few drinks in me, I couldn’t help but bring up the farting issue. The client replied, “Oh, that was our boss, we’re soooooo sorry about that! He’s a great guy but sits there in our office telling dick and fart jokes all day, he says it’s an example of “thinking out of the box” to make our team more relaxed comfortable with each other. So after each meeting we were telling him to quit passing gas. He would deny it each time but the whole thing had just became a running joke for our team so we just rolled with it, sorry!”

Very surprised by this revelation, and at the level of humor coming from such an otherwise professional and serious team, I felt it best to just laugh it off and not reveal real source of the reek. But emboldened by this, days later I ran into our senior executive’s PA (who was usually in the meetings) and asked her straight up if the guy had a wind problem. “Oh yeah,” she replied, “I’m glad my desk is outside, he just sits and farts in his office room all day and just doesn’t care.”

I ended up feeling like I was the one who had the problems all along — a keener sense of smell than most, not especially amused by fart jokes, and a little naive — seniority level and attitude to public farting are not necessarily linked!

{ 288 comments… read them below }

    1. Momma Bear*

      Thank you for the update. Well-written. Hopefully OP gets some fresh air for a while!!

    2. Heidi*

      Wait, I thought that the OP’s senior executive was the farter, but the client’s team assumed that their boss was the farter because he tells fart jokes all day as some sort of management technique (which is a whole other world of hurt). So the client’s team’s boss is being falsly accused of being the farter.

      1. Myrin*

        Hmm, re-reading it, you could be totally right!
        OP says “I felt it best to just laugh it off and not reveal real source of the reek” so she probably shares your interpretation.
        On the other hand, the client seemed very sure of themselves and the fact that boss denied it doesn’t really mean anything (or does it? Would someone like that simply be delighted in speaking of his farting endeavours after the fact?).
        I see this whole thing remains mysterious.

        1. Heidi*

          The client team probably assumed he didn’t want to admit to farting in an important meeting. And they just didn’t believe him because he’d cried fart too many times before. So the OP was mortified about her boss farting, but it turns out the client thought it was coming from their side. This is insane.

          1. chewingle*

            What are the chances both bosses were in on it and having a fart battle to the death?

            1. Sparrow*

              Honestly, I think it had to be both of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if they emboldened each other even if they weren’t feeling competitive about it! But I am sympathetic to the OP – I would be completely unamused and grossed out by this entire situation.

            2. anonymouse*

              Oh, 100%. The second guy figured the gates to the bowels of hell are open, I’m gonna run right through.

            3. JustaTech*

              Please, please, see the first chapter of John Scalzi’s sci-fi book “The Android’s Dream”, where there is an actual fart battle to the death, and it is hilarious.

          2. Gammagirl1908*

            I also don’t really find fart jokes funny, but I am here giggling about “cried fart too many times” and about these two high-level executives having a fart-off >D

      2. Yvette*

        That’s the impression I got. OP knew it was their exec, but the client assumed it was theirs.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I mean, the client team probably know what brand their boss smokes, so if they thought at least some of them were his, they were probably right.

      3. Eat My Squirrel*

        This. OP’s exec has a “wind problem” but the client’s team isn’t upset by it because they think it’s their boss doing it, and fart jokes are a thing for them, so his denial just makes him seem more culpable. Which is all a hilarious coincidence.

    3. tamarack and fireweed*

      It was a bloody short story, in installments!

      (I do get the feeling that the senior executive on both sides is, let’s say, not exactly practicing gender parity…)

    4. Dave White*

      If you review the footage carefully you can see the second farter on the Gassy Knoll.

    1. PolarVortex*

      It’s like reading a murder mystery. The investigative work. The people all trying to cover it up. The outsiders wandering in and calling it like they see it. The Twist Ending.

      Loved it.

      9.5/10, would read again. Only reason I downrated was no comeuppance for the offenders which I had desperately hoped for.

      1. Caliente*

        OMG just before I read your comment I thought – I feel like I read an Agatha Christie round table at the end reveal!

    2. mreasy*

      I literally gasped at times. LW, I hope you are writing professionally or at least for fun! You are good at it. Also THIS STORY OH MY WORD THIS STORY

      1. allathian*

        Absolutely, I was giggling my way through it because it was so well written. I have a fairly immature sense of humor and fart jokes usually make me laugh, but I really do feel sorry for everyone who had to attend those meetings with the farter(s)…

    1. PolarVortex*

      Is that a thing? I had mine removed for being non-functioning years ago but it doesn’t seem to prevent me from farting so I’m legit curious if I’m just broken.

      1. Spotted Kitty*

        Can confirm. Got mine removed about four years ago because it was infected, still same level of gassy as I was when I still had it.

      2. Firecat*

        For me flatulence is way down. I never understood how anyone could go an hour and half without farting. Then I had my gallbladder removed for stones and was like – oh this is what the normal pint of farting feels like!

        1. PolarVortex*

          Aha, maybe it’s different symptoms we had that were reduced. I never farted excessively, but I did throw up daily. (A bit TMI there.) And the removal did reduce that by a heck of a lot.

    2. TooTiredToThink*

      I’ve known people who’ve gotten theirs removed and it made gas worse; not better.

    3. Boo Radley*

      Yeah… that’s not a thing. He probably just needs to lay off the Slim Jims and Mountain Dew.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Maybe there are different causes for excessive farting, and one potential cause is gallbladder issues?

    1. MsFitz*

      Look who brought farts to… a game of chicken? Seems more appropriate than ‘a pissing contest.’

  1. Jyn’Leeviyah the Red*

    This was AMAZING. It was like reading the script of an episode of “Seinfeld” or “The Office”! Bravo, OP, and thank you!!

      1. I’m screaming inside too*

        Hah! I was thinking it would be a great Curb Your Enthusiasm episode!

  2. NYC Taxi*

    So they were trying to out-fart each other all those months? Hilarious. Still gross but hilarious.

    1. A Little Bit Alexis*

      This comment brought me to tears from laughing. That’s just….so exactly how I felt while reading this update.

  3. wine dude*

    I am now imagining the theme to Deliverance being performed a la Le Pétomane by two suited executives… great update!

  4. Wisteria*

    “Well that’s probably as good a note as any to end on for today.”

    I want to work for this person.

    “Well that’s probably as good a note as any to end on for today.”

    OK, “brazen and unashamed” would be announcing, “Don’t wait folks, gotta drop a deuce!” Silently grabbing a paper is neither brazen nor unashamed. Plus, what level of shame do you want people to exhibit? Frankly, not only does everybody poop, but everybody farts.

    1. Wisteria*

      Oops, wrong quote for the second quote, but I believe it’s obvious what I intended to quote.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      I thought that was a little odd too. It’s not like he announced that he was going to the restroom. He just grabbed a newspaper and walked. The OP was probably the only one who noticed because they seem to have an issue with this.

      1. anonaccountant*

        I think the tongue-in-cheek “brazen and unashamed” is referring to how stereotypical it is for someone to walk into a restroom with a newspaper (particularly in the age of smartphones, and at work). In my mind, I imagined him whistling as he did so. It’s such a cartoon trope to have the newspaper involved, that this really makes it perfectly on-the-nose. I don’t think it’s near as serious as it’s being read here.

    3. JB*

      Agreed re: your second quote. It also seems strange to assume that someone not being suitably ashamed/secretive about their bathroom habits would correlate to the degree of gas described here (which honestly sounds like a medical issue?!)

    4. Gammagirl1908*

      Agree. LW seems EXTREMELY sensitive to and embarrassed by any faint hint that someone, somewhere, might have a bodily function.

      This situation in the meetings is extreme. None of this is at all ideal, and I do think some people maybe could try to hold it for a minute if necessary … but just walking away with a newspaper is not tantamount to describing your colonoscopy in great detail.

      1. H. Regalis*

        That was my take as well. People fart. People poop. Those are parts of life. Obviously getting stink-bombed like that is not a fun time, but I don’t think having a human body = rude; although the LW sure seems to.

    5. CouldntPickAUsername*

      yeah, not that I want to smell shit all day but I think people react way too much to farting.

    6. Myrin*

      I feel like some commenters are putting too much weight on that single sentence – the whole update (and even the initial letter, to a degree), while certainly exasperated and maybe even a bit horrified at that this was happening, seemed casually tongue-in-cheek to me.

      I certainly could’ve written a sentence like the newspaper one to express hyperbole in a situation where I’m both Not A Fan but also, despite everything, weirdly amused.

    7. Ellie*

      Oh its suggestive though, particularly as the air was a lot cleaner after the meeting. OP was ultimately right after all.

      This update is hilarious, but I would have quit my job 3 meetings in.

  5. Salsa Verde*

    “seniority level and attitude to public farting are not necessarily linked!”
    I would argue that they are absolutely linked – the more senior you are, the less you have to care about offending others with your behaviors and smells. You don’t have to worry that your behaviors are going to impact your upward mobility in the company – you’re already at the top!!

    1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      There are also digestive medical issues that occur as a person ages that are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to control.

      1. Salsa Verde*

        Also true.

        I think the first time I read this letter, I didn’t realize that the LW was in a different country. I think that does change some things. My understanding is that some other countries are less uptight about bodily functions than Americans are.

    2. Ellie*

      Agreed, and also, senior people are harder to get hold of, and their time is more valuable, so you’re not likely to continue a meeting without them. A lower level employee could excuse themselves.

  6. El l*

    The “Murder On the Orient Express” twist!

    If you were surprised by “The Most Senior Is Flatulent,” just remember – LBJ would have meetings as President where he’d “chair” the meeting on his toilet.

    1. Anonny*

      Churchill used to have meetings in which he would strip nude and sit in his bath-tub. His aides’ diaries include descriptions (and in one case, a doodle) of his genitals.

      It’s one of the reasons I have great disdain for the man.

      1. JustaTech*

        One of the reasons the Churchills were able to keep their cook for so long (30 years at least) was that she was utterly unbothered by his random nudity, which is pretty impressive for someone born in the Victorian era. (I read a great book about the cook called Victory in the Kitchen by Annie Gray. Highly recommend.)

  7. Damn it, Hardison!*

    This is the edge-of-my-seat update I didn’t know I needed, but now can’t imagine life without it.

  8. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    Farting, papers flying everywhere with the fan, the workman…I am so glad I tuned in for this movie today! Thanks OP for the update.

  9. Mike R*

    Suddenly I’m not in any hurry to return to the office. Happy to keep working remotely for a bit longer.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Unfortunately for me, the farts are coming from inside the house (gassy cat and baby).

      1. Janet*

        Oh no! My cat farted a lot until I changed her food. My oldest child, though, when she first tried solid food, could have cleared out a whole shopping mall.

  10. BlueberryFields*

    This is ridiculous workplace behavior, I hate it, and feel bad for anyone who has to deal with these farters…but also this is a fabulous update. Letter Writer knows how to tell a good story. I was on the edge of my seat!

    1. Archie Goodwin*

      I suspect that I, too, would have been on the edge of my seat under the circumstances. But for different reasons, surely?

  11. Ozzie*

    I have never been happier but simultaneously unhappy for the end of a story. So glad for an update/conclusion, so… bleck! about what the final result was! Thank you for the follow up though OP. I saw what the update was about and set aside a little work – I just had to know.

  12. quill*

    “Brazen” would be someone announcing “Covid check!” when the smells were dealt…

    1. Ann Onny Mous*

      I literally cackled at this. Thank you, internet stranger for the laugh on an otherwise lackluster Monday.

    2. The Rural Juror*

      One of my friends, who had Covid pretty rough but recovered, said the ONLY good thing about having had it was that she no longer smelled her dog’s farts. Apparently they were pretty lethal.

  13. Just Another HR Pro*

    OMG warn me next time that the letter is going to be side aching, need to pee, laughing inducing!! I laughed so hard people down the hall came over to see what was going on. This was a GREAT break from my day.

    thanks LW!

  14. pjm*

    I’m shocked that anyone would laugh during any point of this. This is absolutely disgusting and I would refuse to sit in that meeting and put up with that horrific lack of manners. Why everyone in this office is dancing around the issue, and pretending to fan their face, or act like the electric fan was for the temperature is beyond ridiculous. It is as though everyone is participating in the Emperor’s new clothes and afraid to speak out against the vile offender. And if any medical issues are unfortunately involved, that does not mean that these people need to pay the consequences. Let the offender participate via Zoom call and have some respect for his or her coworkers. I would have flat out said, “WHOMEVER IS EXPERIENCING AN UNCONTROLLABLE GAS PROBLEM, NEEDS TO PARTICIPATE IN THESE MEETING VIA ZOOM FOR FUTURE MEETINGS.” I am really just mystified how everyone was so polite and put up with it. It’s making me wonder if I’m more sensitive to odors than other people. I would have told the offender off, whether they are the boss or not, and I’m not even a confrontational person!

    1. Justin*

      Well, do know they’re in a different country. “Manners” are not uniform nor should they be.

    2. RosyGlasses*

      It might also have to do with being in a different country ( the OP mentions Asia) and sensitive client business meetings where you are trying to close a deal. Most people will act diplomatically and politely especially when navigating unknown cultural norms and business deals.

    3. Dr. Rebecca*

      People who expressed such opinions, even when worded more mildly, in the original comment section were immediately whapped with a barrage of “but sometimes people can’t help it!” just so you know what you’re walking into here.

      I’m with you–hold it, or excuse yourself to the restroom/have the meeting on zoom.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        I mean, those folks weren’t wrong? Sometimes you cannot hold it in, and it comes out before you have a chance to excuse yourself. It sounds like in this case there was some immaturity going on (though without knowing more I don’t want to assume) but in the original post there was no information about what could be going on.

        1. Dr. Rebecca*

          No, those folks weren’t wrong. What’s wrong is the *instant* and insistent dismissal of the “sometimes people are just rude” and “if you *can* hold it and you don’t, and you don’t apologize for emptying your butt at someone, you’re being rude and should stop” sides of things.

          So, to be clear: medical issues happen–you should still apologize, because something being medical doesn’t stop it from being gross. But also, sometimes people are rude and fart without caring how they’re effecting other people, and they should cut that out and apologize.

          1. Wei*

            YES. Thank you. I’m not sure what happens sometimes in this comment section but it is insane the lengths people here will go to the excuse truly revolting behavior.

          2. Jennifer Strange*

            I didn’t see it as an instant dismal so much as a knee-jerk reaction to the LW assuming the culprit was simply impolite and unprofessional, rather than considering that there could be underlying factors.

    4. Colette*

      So people who can’t control it should never attend a meeting? That’s definitely approaching illegal discrimination based on medical issues, if it’s not already there.

      1. Wisteria*

        Is having a body that digests things a medical issues? I mean, Christ, I don’t even know how one avoids farting unless it’s never eating. I mean, I regret that they smell bad, but I’m not going to starve for your nasal passages.

        1. See You Never, Cauliflower*

          True, but for non-medical-issue people, it’s pretty easy to figure out what makes you farty and what doesn’t. I avoid certain foods that cause gas sheerly for discomfort reasons and it only makes my life better. (And by extension everyone else’s too.)

          1. Wisteria*

            What makes me farty? Food. Food makes me farty. Gas is the inevitable consequence of eating food. Some people produce less, some people produce more, but we all produce it.

        2. GI*

          I get gassy pretty easily and have digestive system issues and yet, I don’t think I’ve ever been unable to hold in my farts when I’ve been in public, working, or hanging out with others. Are people really unable to hold in their farts or do they just feel entitled to let everyone smell their butt dust because they can’t be bothered to clench their cheeks until they’re not surrounded by others?

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            I have definitely had farts that I couldn’t hold in (especially if someone said something that made everyone laugh). People’s bodies are different.

          2. Mannequin*

            Once I got past 40 holding in a fart became very difficult. Best I can hope for these days is “not audible”.

          3. Stitching Away*

            I have never, in my entire life, been able to hold in a fart. Nor fart on command. I am mystified by people who claim to have control over this.

          4. ceiswyn*

            How fortunate for you that you are able to control your farts.

            That doesn’t entitle you to be so insulting to people who can’t.

            1. Lanette*

              The issue is that the farts are rotten smelling and leaving a long and lingering smell. Yes, we all fart, and yes, we can’t control it at all times, but most of our farts, although stinky, are not to this level. Not sure what this person is eating or what, but they should be trying to figure out what is going on just out of respect and kindness for their coworkers. Come on.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                Even less than the ability to control the need to fart is the ability to control how much they smell. Some people have some control over the former; literally no one has control over the latter.

                Good lord this whole thread is ridiculous.

                The fact that the issue went away when the boss actually had some time to use the bathroom makes it even more clear this is just genuine digestive issues and not something he’s doing for kicks and giggles. Add more bathroom breaks to your meeting schedule and call it a day, jeez.

          5. Wisteria*

            I don’t even understand how that works. They just come out, like a sneeze, but with no warning. I can hold a sneeze in bc I get some warning and my nose sticks out, enabling pinching my nostrils together. Am I some kind of mutant? Do other people get warning have hind quarters that can be pinched like nostrils? Don’t your trousers get in the way?

            1. RabbitRabbit*

              In my (sole, personal) experience, the anus works fine for the job; no additional manual pinching is required. Occasionally one is at the point where it can’t be held and that’s when you excuse yourself from the room.

          6. Despachito*

            “I don’t think I’ve ever been unable to hold in my farts when I’ve been in public, working, or hanging out with others. Are people really unable to hold in their farts or do they just feel entitled to let everyone smell their butt dust because they can’t be bothered to clench their cheeks until they’re not surrounded by others?”

            This is exactly what I was thinking.

          7. ecnaseener*

            Wow, this subthread is fascinating! TIL people have different levels of control over their farts. I’m usually able to hold them in so I never knew some people weren’t.

      2. Despachito*

        I think truly medical reasons when you really can’t control farting would be rather rare, and if it is indeed the case, it would be on the person suffering from such a condition to make at least some attempt not to bother their coworkers in excess (as well as you probably would not walk around with open venous ulcers or a purulent wound for everyone to see).

        I do not think that freely farting and doing absolutely nothing to mitigate the consequences for my surroundings is OK, and I am amazed how many people think it is acceptable.

          1. Despachito*

            For example:
            1) to hold it for some time (until now I’ve thought it is the correct thing to do)
            2) to excuse yourself and go to the bathroom
            3) if you are the boss, you have a good standing to suggest more breaks.

            I have experienced people letting an occasional fart (and in such a case, I’d be with Miss Manners and pretend it did not happen) but never have I met someone farting as LW described, and therefore I infer there are probably not so many people with a medical condition who really cannot help doing it all the time.

            1. ceiswyn*

              So your number one solution for people who can’t hold in their farts is that they should… hold in their farts?

              And your other solutions are also that they should hold in their farts – a thing they CAN’T DO – just for a shorter period of time?

              Does the word ‘can’t’ mean something completely different in your dialect, or something?

              1. Despachito*

                It is that I think that people who really CAN’t do that (due to a medical condition) are quite rare and far between (according to the number of constant farters I’ve met throughout my life is close to zero).

                And I’d assume even those would be aware of the fact that the stench is not pleasant, and do not have the attitude “so what, this is the way I am, and if you don’t like it it’s YOUR problem”

                1. ceiswyn*

                  Yes, it’s very clear that you basically think that anyone who can’t control their farts is just not trying.

                  But that’s not true, so you’re insulting a lot of people out of willful disbelief.

                  And what do you expect those people who can’t control their farts to actually DO about the result? Would it make everything better if someone apologised every time there was a stench?

                2. JustEm*

                  Not being able to control farts doesn’t always mean constant farting. I can’t control mine the vast majority of the time, but thankfully don’t fart often enough that casual acquaintances would realize this. When they’ve been stinky, I’ve felt mortified … But still have not had any control. Impossible to do any of your recommended steps when this occurs because I do not get enough warning to excuse myself and CAN’T hold it. It’s like trying to hold in a sneeze. I’m clearly not alone based on other comments here

        1. Ian*

          Actually, they are quite common. Metformin is probably the most commonly used drug to treat diabetes. It is also used to treat polycystic ovarian syndrome. Among those who take it, it is often referred to Metfartmin.

        2. MHA*

          Conditions or medications that affect the GI system are not at ALL rare, and many of those conditions go hand-in-hand with being unable to hold in gas/being unable to stand up to leave the room when gassy without releasing it.

          1. Ali*

            Metformin is indeed a very commonly prescribed drug, and I can confirm its fart production.

            Also, I grew up in a home with my father and sister having Crohn’s disease, and my mom having MS. Not only could they not control their farts, but they could also accidentally poop themselves without warning. It’s a real thing. My dad was a mechanical engineer, and was famous for making the men’s room at his office extremely unpleasant. My sister shared an office with her assistant for several years, and the poor guy kept getting gassed. They joked about it often, and he kept a can of air spray on his desk because the windows didn’t open! My sister did her best to run to the bathroom when it hit really smelly, but ultimately she had to get work done sometime.

    5. nonbinary writer*

      You think people need to “pay consequences” for bodily functions, even if they have a medical condition? That’s… a very combative way to approach the fact that other people have bodies that create gas during digestion. I’m a fan of stepping outside the room to pass gas, but I just cannot wrap my head around viewing someone’s farting as some sort of personal insult.

      1. EmKay*

        I believe pjm means the attendees shouldn’t have to pay the consequences of being in the same room as the serial farter.

    6. Wisteria*

      I guess I’m just a big fan of Miss Manners, who would advocate for politely pretending things that cannot be helped did not actually happen.

    7. BRR*

      “I am really just mystified how everyone was so polite and put up with it.” Because people fart. Bodies fart. Farts happen. You should try do whatever you can to muffle it etc, but it’s not really something people can control. I agree some smell awful and I’ve had to leave the room but calling someone out on it in a meeting is incredibly rude and unprofessional. Especially in a meeting with a client. Would you tell a client that if they have uncontrollable gas they need to attend via zoom?

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, “I yelled at a client because they had a colonostomy” is as good of an idea as yelling at your boss for the same reason. (Or anyone, of course.)

        1. Pjm*

          Well that is one giant leap you took there. This isn’t about someone with a colostomy bag. In no way shape or form is it even suggested it has anything to do with a colostomy bag. According to the story, this is is about a person who thinks there is nothing wrong with farting all day long. I have family members with colostomy bags and they do not fart all day long. In fact they take great care to make sure they empty the bag frequently and are almost overly concerned about smells and the affect on others.

          1. Colette*

            It’s an example of a condition that make it difficult to control fart smells and sounds – not for everyone, but for some people.

      2. GI*

        But it is something you can control (is no one else unable to clench, or is this some special talent I didn’t know I had?) unless you have explosive farts (in which case, and for as long as this has been going on at OP’s work), you really need to talk to your doctor about your diet or medications to try to make things less uncontrollable.

      3. Despachito*

        ” but it’s not really something people can control”

        I respectfully disagree – I think most people definitely ARE able to control whether they fart all the time in public.

        We are not talking about an occasional slip, which can indeed happen to anyone, and in such a case I’d be all Miss Manners, we are talking about a person who just does not care.

        I get it that with a client it is a sensitive thing and I’d probably not mention it not to jeopardize the transaction, but what an awfully rude and inconsiderate thing to do.

        1. Wisteria*

          Maybe most people can, but I cannot. I don’t even understand the mechanism. I doubt that I am the only person on the planet so configured, either.

          1. Maggie*

            Idk if you’ll see this, but you clench your butthole so air doesn’t come out. The same way you clench your butthole so poop doesn’t come out while you walk to the bathroom.

        2. metadata minion*

          In a situation like is being described here, I could definitely not hold it in. For a short time, yes, but if I’m *that* gassy, either I’m going to stink up the room or I’m going to leave.

        3. Birdlady*

          OP’s observation that after one 10-minute-long bathroom visit the next 3 hours became less gassy/stinky, makes me think the farter perhaps needs to find a way to empty their bowels more frequently. It may not cut down on the flatulence but might make it easier on the nostrils.

          1. ceiswyn*

            Most of the things that make a person more regular (fibre, laxatives etc) also make them more gassy. This is unlikely to solve the problem.

            1. JustaTech*

              Agree on the impact of fiber (I had a friend respond to his doctor’s suggestion the he eat more fiber by switching to a high-fiber cereal *and* start drinking a fiber drink and he was a one-man brass band).

              But if it’s just “these meetings need more bathroom breaks” so that the person with intestinal issues can take care of them in a better ventilated place, that would be genuinely helpful.

        4. MCMonkeyBean*

          We are talking about a person who is in this meeting all day. Maybe he could hold it in for a few minutes but he can’t just decide “oh you know what body, let’s not make any gas today thanks!”

          The fact that the problem went away when he was allowed to actually spend some time in the bathroom makes this pretty clear.

    8. RagingADHD*

      Well, since it turned out it was the Big Boss, you wouldn’t have had to ever endure the farts again, I expect. Most people prefer to stay employed. But if that’s the hill you want to die on, I guess that’s your business.

    9. Venus*

      Another medical angle is that they may have anosmia and have no idea that they have a problem. An even likelier option during covid times!

    10. Pool Lounger*

      Yeah, this isn’t an occasional fart. This is constant very smelly gas. No way I could attend these meetings. I’d legit start gagging.

    11. ecnaseener*

      Are you really, truly shocked that anyone would laugh at any point? Not even talking about the rest of it – the staying polite, the not calling out the problem – but like, have you never experienced nervous laughter?

  15. Annie*

    Appropriately, my dog let out a series of silent-but-deadly farts while I was reading this update.

    1. Lizabeth*

      Did they then look around the room to see where it was coming from? My old pup acted like they came from “somewhere else”.

      1. Ann Onny Mous*

        I have a cat who lets lose paint-peeling farts and always looks mystified at the odor emanating from her own butt.

      2. Annie*

        He was farting in his sleep! But he has on occasion farted loud enough to wake himself up, and often (as Ann Onny Mous says below) looks around in confusion as to where the noise/smell came from.

  16. LifeBeforeCorona*

    This is why I love this site. An interesting and well-written update to a unique situation.

  17. Foreign Octopus*

    I haven’t even read the update yet but I know I’m in for a good one when the letter writer says “[…] the issue did not go away and things turned out a lot differently than how I expected.”.

    I’m excited.

  18. Polly Math*

    I worked, very briefly, at a law firm where one of the junior partners and I were meeting to go over a filing due that day. We were both sitting on the floor with paperwork spread out and he let out a silent but deadly that peeled the wallpaper off the walls. I thought I might be sick. He didn’t acknowledge it at all, just kept on with the task. In hindsight (har) I’d have thought he might have invented a reason to go back to a meeting room or ANYTHING to be able to evacuate that hazmat site. Just one of the reasons I’m glad my stint there was a brief one.

  19. Jay*

    Stories like this remind me of the silver lining to my disability… congenital anosmia = not being bothered by serial farters. However, I also feel like it would get me eyed as the offender when I didn’t react at all, ever.

    1. Blarg*

      Question if you’re open to sharing: do your eyes water when there’s a strong odor? Like cutting onions? Is the eye watering a direct relation to the nose-assault, or are they separate features?

      1. Jay*

        Oh, I 100% cry when cutting onions, but I still can’t smell said onions. Onions release a chemical irritant when cut, which is what makes your eyes water; I’m not sure how it works with farts, but I can say from experience that I can’t smell them, so it must be at least a little different!

        1. Jay*

          (I submitted before I typed the whole reply. *facepalm*)

          But, anyway, basic answer is nope. Haha Strong smells don’t make my eyes water unless there’s some sort of additional reason. Onions? Yes. Dirty diapers or farts? Nope.

      2. Quinalla*

        Yeah, onions actually cause a small amount of hydrochloric acid to form in your eyes, so while they can smell very strongly, it’s what is in those particles that actually makes your eyes burn!

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Sulfuric acid as well, I think. All those sulfur compounds! I’m especially sensitive to cutting onions so I bought a pair of enclosed lab goggles for the job. (I also find that putting them in the freezer for maybe 5 minutes first helps keep the off-gassing to a minimum, as long as you work relatively briskly after that.)

  20. LKW*

    This was beautiful.
    I’m only sad that this wasn’t titled “Breaking Wind Part 2: Electric Boogaloo”

  21. Sleeping Late Every Day*

    I’m glad so many commenters found the update hilarious. It made me cringe, not because of the farter, but for the casual cruelty on the part of the LW, and how the LW deliberately (and verbosely) milked the situation for laughs. Yeah, farts smell disgusting. So what? How do you know it’s not someone with an uncontrollable medical condition? Maybe they have a colostomy bag. Would someone with uncontrollable nosebleeds be considered disgusting because nobody wants to see that gross mess, amiright?

    1. PT*

      Casual cruelty? You do realize that many of the people in that room may have been trying desperately not to vomit in a work meeting?

      1. BRR*

        I mean this seriously, not snakily (I apologize if the tone is lost in text), what should people have done? I 100% agree it’s unpleasant for people in the room. But treating it like someone did something wrong doesn’t seem very practical or helpful.

      2. CatWoman*

        Certainly someone who uses a colostomy bag would know if there were an odor problem, and would have excused themself to attend to it. Not everything is caused by a “medical problem”.

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      If someone had uncontrollable nosebleeds, and their answer was to free-bleed all over the table, instead of excusing themselves to contain the blood flow, yeah, I’d be a bit upset.

      Gas happens, gas happens a lot more than I think a lot of people realize… but I think it’s still okay to be a bit upset when it’s a horrendous stench enough to clear out a meeting room *more than once or twice*, and often enough where people are placing fans etc. to combat the inevitable odor. Not all farts are indeed created equal. Basic gas is no big deal. Me after eating far too much ice cream as a lactose intolerant ‘Sconnie? Yeah, you won’t want me in the same room as you.

      Plus, as far as I am aware, if your colostomy bag is *that* smelly all the time, you need to talk to your doctor about a better fitting bag/fitting/etc.

    3. Despachito*

      “So what? How do you know it’s not someone with an uncontrollable medical condition? Maybe they have a colostomy bag. ”

      From the description LW gave, it does not seem this is the case. And even if it was, I think these things are made in a way that does NOT transpire any smell. I’d perfectly understand that someone with a real health problem has an occasional mishap, but if it was all the time and they did not do absolutely NOTHING about it, I’d not consider it acceptable, even if it really was based on a medical condition.

      “Would someone with uncontrollable nosebleeds be considered disgusting because nobody wants to see that gross mess, amiright?”

      If they started bleeding during the meeting and did something to stop it, no. If their blood accidentally stained someone when trying to stop it, no (although blood is considered rather hazardous material, but in this case, I’d understand that it happened and the person is trying to deal with it).

      If they did nothing to stop the bleeding and let their blood spill over everyone’s papers, then hell yes, I’d consider it disgusting and inconsiderate.

    4. Good Wolf*

      This was my reaction exactly. I found this so incredibly unkind. Farts happen; I am one of the people (apparently in the minority?) who absolutely cannot hold farts in most of the time, and as far as I know there is no major medical condition causing this; it’s just how I’m built. I don’t fart *at* anybody and if someone were making this big a deal out of my gas that I was certainly already feeling very self-conscious about, I would be absolutely mortified (and would think far, far less of that person for being so malicious).

    5. JustaTech*

      For me it was funny (and only funny) because it was bosses engaging in a power play, and not a medical condition or something like that. If it had been a medical thing then I wouldn’t have found it funny. And I’m sure it wasn’t funny when it was happening.

      (Nosebleeds might not be a good comparison, just because of the blood aspect. Maybe a runny nose or eyes from allergies?)

    6. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, I thought this was the direction the above comment thread was going but then it took a turn in the opposite direction.

  22. nonbinary writer*

    Maintenance man is my favorite character of this entire story. I hope he is having a very good day, without anyone else’s farts.

  23. Mallory Janis Ian*

    “Well that’s probably as good a note as any to end on for today.” It was unclear if he was referring to the funny joke cracked moments earlier or the fart, indeed he seemed a very sharp individual who probably realized it was a perfect moment for ambiguity.

    This sounds like something Mr. Bennett would have said, if there had ever been any mention of farts in Pride and Prejudice.

    1. Pikachu*

      For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?

      1. Not A Manager*

        “You have delighted us long enough. Let the other young ladies have time to exhibit.”

    2. Telgar*

      This whole thing reminds me more of the beginning of John Scalzi’s “The Android’s Dream”:
      >Dirk Moeller didn’t know if he could fart his way into a major diplomatic incident. But he was ready to find out.<

  24. ChemistryChick*

    Oh. My. Loki.

    I’m grateful that all I have to do about this is laugh hysterically instead of actually experiencing. I have a hair-trigger gag reflex and I would not have been able to retain the contents of my stomach if I had to deal with this.

    OP, kudos to you on your quick translational thinking! Thank you for this update, too!

  25. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    I suggest that the OP arrange hors d’oeuvres if these teams ever have to meet again, and offer to cut the cheese.

  26. ChickenNBiscuits*

    As I’m sure anyone else partnered with a farter can attest, turning on the fan often has unintended consequences.

  27. HotSauce*

    I share my home office with my cat’s litter robot. While that thing is great for containing odors after cycling, a freshly laid cat turd is gag worthy. I invested in a desktop air purifier & it was worth every cent. When my cat walks in for his daily delivery I just turn the purifier on high & it eliminates all odors within seconds. It sounds like the people who work for the dueling farters need one as well.

    1. JustaTech*

      My friend had to teach her cat to use the toilet rather than a litter box because his turds were horrifying, and the smell would fill their tiny house. (The water in the toilet stopped the smell from spreading.)

  28. RagingADHD*

    I really don’t understand what the whole thing about “brazen and unashamed approach to bathroom business” is supposed to be about.

    The guy…walked to the bathroom.

    What do you think people are supposed to do when they need to go to the bathroom? Teleport? Not walk in that direction if someone else might possibly see them? Surely it would have been better if the farter had just gone to the bathroom sooner, rather than try to wait for an opportune moment.

    Honestly, I don’t understand what the thing about farting and seniority is, either? I know “his/her farts don’t stink” refers to superiority, but it’s an ironic description of someone who is arrogant. It’s not a literal description of moral superiority, career superiority, or anything else.

    I’m sorry you have to sit through this, it sounds disgusting. And the fact that each team is convinced it’s their own senior executive explains why everyone silently puts up with it. But the rest of it…the attitude is just very confusing.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Right? I sympathize with the weirdness of the meeting situation, but LW is totally mortified to an extreme degree at any whiff (heh) of a suggestion of someone, anyone, anywhere having a functioning digestive system.

    2. Van Wilder*

      Yeah, I don’t think that was so bad either. But… it’s 2021… why isn’t he just reading his phone in the bathroom?

      Also, nobody can help the staff clean up? Very hierarchal workplace.

      1. Julia*

        The LW mentioned being in Asia, and as an Asian, I can tell you that most workplaces are very hierarchical.

        My mentor once worked for a mid-size, prestigious company in a mid-level position. The company provided cars+driver for the employees. The norm was that employees weren’t supposed to sit next to the driver or even open the doors themselves. It’s all about perception.

    3. RabbitRabbit*

      He lingered to grab a newspaper to accompany him, which generally means this isn’t a quick urination trip.

      1. JustaTech*

        This. To some (not everyone) taking the newspaper to the bathroom basically shouts “I’m pooping!”

        I remember a whole series of competing letters to Ann Landers about if it was rude to take the newspaper to the bathroom before everyone else had read it (because of germs).

  29. Janet*

    Oh my gosh. I have been startling the cat by laughing. The guy probably can’t help it, but your description was hilarious.

    We had our own office farter, but after seeing what he ate, I think I know why.

  30. That One Person*

    So one guy was blamed by his associates cause of his fart/dick jokes, while the other side knew it was their boss. Honestly this was pretty hilarious all around and if nothing else seems like those beneath the two bosses could sympathize with the other pretty well.

  31. RJ*

    OP, this is one of the best stories I’ve read in quite some time. I feel your pain. I also have a very acute sense of smell.

  32. Blinded By the Gaslight*

    I get that some people can’t help it and farting is natural, blah, blah blah . . . but this really just sounds like one more disgusting jackass of a man deliberately fouling the environment for his own amusement, and expecting everyone else to live with it in silence. ::shakes head forever:: Gross. Gross gross gross.

    But this was truly a great work intrigue story! Thanks for the enthralling update!

  33. AKchic*

    This feels like an office scenario written by Mel Brooks. Silent farting as a negotiation tactic, complete with countering / returning fire farts. With coworker hostages in the meetings.

  34. Square Root of Minus One*

    I’m very conflicted between laughter and disgust but others have already elaborated, and above all I was fascinated by the social theatrics on display here. The ability of everyone to go around the elephant in the room for so long… while the maintenance workers absolutely did not. It’s like a social satire.
    A note as good as any to end the meeting is its best line.
    Kudos for the writing.

  35. user423789*

    Am I the only one who is mortified at the thought I could ever ask anybody, and especially a client’s employee, about farting?

    I absolutely can’t imagine that. I think the probability that it would be reported to my boss or HR that I’m asking the client about farting is very high and my professionalism would be put into question.

  36. My disability is a different one but mine gets mocked too, so.*

    Even after Alison so directly laid out in letter #1 that this is often a medical issue, this LW goes on to write an entire update to continue mocking. The prose of the letter, which so many commenters are praising, is all about getting more giggles. Bodies are bodies; some people can’t help when this happens; and this LW wants a ton of grins and attention given they claim to be “not especially amused by fart jokes.”

    1. Despachito*

      But does your disability mean others can be reasonably grossed out (BO, bodily fluids) AND you do nothing to mitigate the effect even if you are able to?

      To be honest, I was taught my whole life that passing gas in public is something what is to be avoided lest you are considered a boor (and that an occassional slip is to be tolerated as it can happen to anyone but not the continuous farting), so I think that the main reason for the mocking is that many people find it hard to believe that all public farters have such a medical condition they cannot help but pass gas and they think that the farter CAN avoid it but chooses not to out of lack of respect for other people.

      I hear here for the first time from people who say they are unable to contain it/do not know how to do it (without a medical reason), and I am still trying to wrap my head around it. Would they do it if they were invited to Buckhingham Palace to see the Queen? During an important interview/meeting with a large client (the answer for this one is apparently yes, in some cases)? During a prom ball? In the classroom? In a theatre? In an airplane full of people? During a romantic dinner with their loved one? And moreover, consider it rude not that they are doing it but that someone expresses that they do not like it?

      1. metadata minion*

        I mean…if you can’t control a bodily function, then yes, you do it in all those situations. You quite possibly avoid some situations because you know people are going to be judgy about it. It’s like asking “would you sneeze if you were in an important meeting?”. Yes, because it’s extremely difficult to control sneezing and doing so usually involves being way more distracting than just sneezing would be.

        1. Despachito*


          1) it is definitely possible to muffle a sneeze (cover your mouth), and there is a big difference if you sneeze doing that or if you do nothing and spray your bodily fluids all over the room

          2) a sneeze does not smell, therefore is not as obnoxious for other people as farts are

          3) an occassional sneeze is OK (as well as I understand that an occasional fart can happen even to the royalty) but if you sneeze all the time, you should either have stayed at home (because you probably have some sort of contagious disease others wouldn’t want to catch) or, if it is an allergy fit and it happens during a meeting, you’d probably leave the room for a while not to disturb the discussion.

          1. ceiswyn*

            So you’re basically advocating for people who can’t control their farts to never go anywhere, ever?

            1. Despachito*

              I am primarily advocating for consideration for others.

              If the person in question really has a medical condition, has done everything they could and yet it did not help, then OK, it is sort of a disability and should be treated as such, but they still should try and minimize the impact on their surroundings.

              Like, will you be really willing to share an office with someone who passes gas and stinks the whole day, every day, with a smile on your lips? And what about a table in a restaurant? A ballroom dance?

              1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

                So, you are saying that people with, say, Crohns or some other medical GI issue should not be allowed to partake in going to restaurants or ballroom dancing. Really?

                1. Despachito*

                  No, I am indeed not saying that they should not be allowed to do anything of that.

                  What I am saying is that they themselves should consider whether their condition at the moment makes it possible for them to safely participate.

                  I am not familiar with all the specifics of e.g. Crohns but I’d assume it does not mean you are incessantly farting for your whole life. You’d probably have highs and lows, and I’d assume you’ll try and adjust your ballroom/restaurant/theatre visits accordingly, and if you feel that you cannot help passing gas all the time, you’d just avoid it, just as you will probably avoid it if you had an upset stomach and were not sure whether you’d be able to contain vomiting.

                  I get it that having any disease is limiting, and that nobody should discriminate against you because of that, or God forbid mock you, and that a decent person should be generally helpful and understanding and if they can make your life easier, they should. But you also have your part of responsibility of not making their lives unnecesarily harder.

              2. ceiswyn*

                It isn’t necessarily a ‘medical condition’. Some people just… can’t control all their farts.

                What consideration are you advocating for them?

      2. JustaTech*

        I have been on airplane flights where the change in air pressure, likely combined with something I had eaten, caused me to have terrible gas that no, I could not contain. I tried. I tried really really hard. The only good thing was that it was a mostly-empty flight and that everyone’ ability to smell is reduced at altitude. What would you have had me do? Hog the bathroom? It’s not like you can get off the plane.

        Not everyone has a sphincter of steel. Not everyone can hold it forever.
        And more to the point, most people (the vast majority even) are not going to be farting *at* anyone.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, well, the good news is that in an airplane, the air is changed every five minutes, from the top down, so it’s an unlikely environment for the smell to spread. It’s a lot worse in other confined spaces, like on crowded commuter buses or subways, or elevators.

  37. Onetime Poster*

    Fun to read and such a ridiculous situation :)

    I just cannot get past how anyone thinks farting so much is normal! Clearly whoever is doing this has a health issue?

  38. PersephoneUnderground*

    This was hilarious, but also- why oh why didn’t the LW try to suggest adding a break to the meetings?!? That was a good suggestion in either Alison’s response or the comments, and it sounds like it would have worked based on the one time it happened unplanned and the likely offender was able to take a bathroom break (and no further farts happened that day)! Unfortunately I kept waiting for an “I tried your advice” section of the letter and it just didn’t happen… Though I know Alison said you might be stuck with it, that was after other suggestions.

  39. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Saw the headline yesterday, but saved it to read at a later time during a break. OMG what a saga! The fart-off! Will be back at a still later time so I can fully appreciate all the hilarity in the comments.

  40. The Rural Juror*

    Our conference room is at the front of our building with three large windows facing west. We’re in Texas, so it gets HOT at certain times of the day during warm months (which is like…over half the year). We nicknamed our conference room “The Meatlocker” because of how cold it gets in there sometimes when the AC is on full blast. The one good thing about how much it runs is that it cycles the air very quickly. No lingering farts. They’re swept away up the return air vent lightning fast!

    I would suggest the LW’s company invest in a good air filter for their conference room if they expect the culprit to be there often. Geez!

  41. e271828*

    In the very funny 1959 movie Good Morning (by Yasujiro Ozu) there is an ongoing bit about schoolboys farting competitively/at will—with unfortunate consequences for the boy who can’t quite get the trick and is repeatedly shown at home with his mother raging about the laundry work he’s making her do.

  42. Snarkastic*

    I don’t think I’ve ever laughed out loud at an Ask a Manager story. These comments are killing me and I’m trying to be discreet.

  43. Brain the Brian*

    Alison could be making up this entire story whole cloth and I would still be here for it. This was the single best update AAM has ever posted.

  44. Visual Conductor*

    This is the most eloquently written fart piece I’ve ever encountered. Entertaining and hilarious, even more so by the style in which this situation is described! Just what I needed today, a good laugh… OP should definitely write more!

Comments are closed.