The topic of flatulence, or as my grandmother says, "tooting," wasn't something I expected to discuss with complete strangers at a Laconia, New Hampshire coffee shop a couple of years ago. However, it was the water delivery man who seemed to spark a causal conversation between customers about the embarrassing act.
"I wish I were farty again," the lady ahead of me said, apparently referencing the physical prowess of the water-toting deliverer.
I didn't respond. Instead, I grinned and looked away.
"Hah, I'm definitely beyond farty," quipped another customer who overhead. Then he looked at me, newspaper and a bottle of orange juice in hand, saying, "What I'm talking about? I bet you're hardly farty yourself."
I remained silent, smiling.
The obsession with passing gas, let alone the fact that total strangers were talking so freely about it, confused yet intrigued me. Let's face it, no matter what age or how classy we espouse to be, there's something about a toot that brings a smirk to the most prudent of prudent. I bet Downton Abby's Violet Crawley would grin, should she let one slip.
But I digress.
From Jersey Girl to the Land of "Live Free or Die"
Why were these people suddenly talking about releasing gas as if it elicited such bittersweet life memories? Why was Mr. Orange Juice expressing the fact that he was perhaps the gassiest of them all? And why did the youth of the delivery man trigger such statements? In public, among strangers, no less?
Turns out, I had recently moseyed on down to the DMV in Concord not too long before this occurred, the first step in swapping my New Jersey "Garden State" license plates for New Hampshire's "Live Free or Die" ones. With much happiness, I traded in crowded roads and costly beach access for an area filled with mountains, lakes, incredible walking trails and less stress. It also only seemed natural after years of vacationing and visiting friends in the general area that I settled down in the wonderful state.
While the kind folks at the DMV filled me in on laws such as not needing to be hands free while driving and speaking on a cell phone (new to me), I was not yet fully versed in the particulars of the language or accents (ditto).
"Wicked," for example, was the name of a musical my Broadway-enjoying Jersey friends often mentioned. In New Hampshire, it is that and a word designed to place emphasis on something. In some parts of the Garden State, there were phrases that can't be printed here that served the same purpose, often accompanied by a rude, one-finger salute.
A Case of Accent Confusion
You see, little by little, I eventually caught on and soon learned that "farty" was none other than "forty."
The man delivering water, who seemed to be of that age, caught the attention of those who wished that they could recapture their youth. But because I suffered from accent confusion, I just chalked up the talk to a case of giddiness that's sometimes derived from the thrill of speaking about inappropriate topics in public places.
I'm sure the strangers who were telling me about their age/intestinal problems were just as confused by my RatherFastTalkingNewJerseyWays, just as others before them likely guessed I was not always a New England native when I informed them that I was a lobster roll virgin and that no, I wasn't really understanding the excitement over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
I feared these wild cats might jump out of the woods and attack me, yet state residents talked about them as though they were a glorious sight. People actually went out of their way to see them, ranting and raving about the experience when they did. Then I learned that individuals were thrilled over their moves in a stadium, not as stealthy forest creatures. Turns out, these folks were huge fans of a minor league baseball team, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
My Apology to New Hampshire Residents
I get it now.
So to those who thought I seemed perplexed, I apologize for the slight giggle back in that Laconia coffee shop. I'm sorry for not responding, my eyes cast downward when you spoke to me. I know now that my smirks could have come off as offensive, as if I were poking fun at and ignoring those expressing the desire to return to their youth.
In reality though, I thought you were talking about your toots, and for that, this three-year New Hampshire resident feels wicked embarrassed.