We’ve all had that one co-worker whom we’ll never forget. Some are those inspirational people who accomplish more in an hour than you can in a week. Maybe it’s that person who had the most epic creative ideas that made you wonder what drugs they took (and why weren’t they sharing?) Or maybe it’s that boss who was always yelling and throwing chairs. Well, the co-worker I’ll never forget was Chatty Gassy Kathy.
Kathy was near retirement age and was the receptionist in the small office of a non-profit I worked at long before I was married or had children. As I look back, perhaps God put her in my life to help prepare me for what was to come.
I can remember the day I went in to interview for the job. It was right before Christmas, and I walked into the office which was eclectically decorated for the season with a Charlie Brown Christmas tree in the corner and motion-sensing ho-ho-ing Santa sitting next to it. Kathy greeted me cheerfully and told me to have a seat. She immediately started chatting me up — it was more of a dizzying monologue of sorts.
“I need to go to Sam’s Club tonight after work and get a big pack of nice toilet paper. See my husband and I are going to a Secret Santa party at my niece’s house tonight. The theme this year is ‘comfort’ so Bob decided that he wanted to bring toilet paper. If you’ve got nice soft toilet paper, it’s comforting he said. So off to get toilet paper I go! I better get a big roll of wrapping paper while I’m there too.”
Two things to note here. 1.) Bob is not to be confused with Young Son’s tooth fairy — two totally different guys. 2.) This was not a white elephant party. No. Kathy was going to a Secret Santa party where people were expecting to get a spa gift certificate, a fancy candle, a pair of cozy socks or a bottle of Bailey’s and hot cocoa mix if they were lucky. But no. One poor idiot was going to be stuck with year’s supply of toilet paper from Bob and Kathy.
She continued on, “Do you shop at Sam’s Club? I love it there. You can get the best deals on things. Bob really likes their big containers of beef jerky.” Lucky for me, before she could tell me more, I was rescued by the person with whom I was to interview.
She took me back to her office and said, “I see you’ve experienced Kathy.” I nodded and nervously laughed. In the end, the interview went really well and there was a job offer on my answering machine when I got home. (Yes, I said answering machine… it was that long ago.)
On my first day I was standing next to Kathy’s desk, and she told me all about the party. “There was some real nice stuff. I got a pretty blanket and some gingerbread lotion, but I don’t think I can use that stuff because it made want to lick my hands all day when I tried it.” I asked how her person liked the toilet paper. “Oh, they really appreciated it. I mean who doesn’t need nice toilet paper?”
All the while she was extolling the highlights of the party, her computer was making lots of clucking, grinding and percussive sounds like it was backing up some big file or something. (Remember this was back in the day where computers used 3 1/2″ disks and were the size of a carry-on suitcase.) Come to find out it was not her computer making these sounds. It was Kathy. Turns out Kathy had an epic flatulence issue and this was just the beginning.
She would walk down the hall to deliver a phone message or to refill her vat-like mug with black Folgers coffee, and you could hear her coming. Fart Fart…Fart Fart Fart…all the way. Then she would stand in my doorway and tell a good Bob story, punctuating the exciting parts with a fart or two. (Turns out my friend’s father-in-law does this too. Who knew it was a thing?!) These stories would go on for ages and sometimes I’d just put up my index finger, pick up my phone and start dialing to get her to go away.
Kathy was an equal opportunity farter too. Volunteers, major donors and delivery people would visit the office. She farted for them all. One time I was in the conference room getting a volunteer set up to work on a mailing. Kathy came in and chatted up the volunteer and suddenly let a good one rip while she continued on with her story. The volunteer looked at me wide-eyed, mouth agape. I just closed my eyes, hung my head and slunk back to my office to put my head down on my desk for a few minutes.
One day I’m surprised someone didn’t end up hospitalized. We were all in an endless meeting in the conference room. When it finally wrapped up, Kathy walked out to her desk and unleashed the most horrific, deafening 20-second fart in the history of mankind. We all thought she had died. But no, she was just fine. The rest of us nearly stroked out from stifling gales of laughter.
At first I was concerned Kathy had an underlying health problem causing all her intestinal distress. But no. Turns out Kathy enjoyed a very high fiber diet. Every day for lunch she would eat two pieces of this ridiculously high fiber bread (I think it was guaranteed to have a whole tree ground up in every loaf.) Then she’d eat it open-faced with sliced apples on top, which she’d meticulously cut one by one with a dull paring knife. Every. Day.
In addition to Kathy’s chattiness and gassiness, she chain chewed Double Bubble. You know — that really crappy rock-hard gum in the yellow, blue and red little wrappers. She’d chew piece after piece all day long, spitting it back into its wrapper as soon as all the flavor was chewed out 20 seconds later. By the end of the day she would have about 4″ of spent gum in her trash can. Maybe she had such a high fiber diet because she had a fossilized wad of Double Bubble stuck in her colon and she was trying to dislodge it with methane.
As I look back, I am amazed at how “normal” this all became. Honestly, I probably should have made an anonymous call to the EPA or at least OSHA to file a complaint about toxic air quality in the workplace. I shudder to think about all the Kathy ass-air I inhaled during my tenure there.
I’m sure you’re wondering, “But what about the smell??” Honestly, they were basically benign. Sadly, I’ve given it some thought and I think it was her diet of fiber and Double Bubble which accounted for the lack of odor. Where one gets into trouble is when farts become SBDs (silent-but-deadly) due to a rancid diet. If Kathy were malicious, she would have dropped off a SBD as she did a drive-by of your office. But no. Kathy was pretty forthright in her flatulence.
I have no idea what became of Kathy. For all her quirkiness and insanity, she was a sweet lady. I hope she and Bob are doing well. I imagine them sitting together on their porch snacking on their colon-blow bread and beef jerky from Sam’s Club…and I’m guessing their bathroom is well-stocked with nice toilet paper.