THE BELL LAP: Can You Smell Me?

Do you ever find yourself walking around Cambridge and realize, all of a sudden and for no apparent reason, that

Do you ever find yourself walking around Cambridge and realize, all of a sudden and for no apparent reason, that something smells like fermented anal leakage?

You may fear that you momentarily blacked out and farted, then regained consciousness and smelled the fart you made [1]. But rest assured, you are not totally insane. These mysterious pockets of stink are woven into the fabric of the ’Bridge, so we performed a thorough investigation in search of the most egregious offenders and tried to develop some coherent theory to explain their presence.

Some perpetrators are obvious. The John Harvard’s/Felipe’s/Starbucks corner combines an aromatic casserole of malty hops, stewed carnitas, and explosive, espresso-induced diarrhea. Walking into this invisible wall of stench can be sort of like being hit in the face with fossilized Brontosaurus shit.

Another “trouble spot” is the alley behind the Kong, whose stench makes a taco fart feel like a warm summer breeze. (On a side note, has anyone else noticed that deuces rotate counter-clockwise at the Kong? It really is another world in there.) The rocks outside the Science Center also smell inexplicably bad, as if they were formed from something other than the Sands of Time.

But more often than not noxious odors permeate with no warning or explanation. The smells defy explanation: they are not always near sewers or bathrooms, and they are rarely in the vicinity of any fat people.

The problem with thinking about foul stenches is that one question invariably leads to another. We had set out to solve one conundrum, but we soon found ourselves “riddled” with other puzzles. Like: What’s a more powerful fart: Dropping a Silent-But-Deadly into one of those deceptively absorbent chairs in the Lamont reading room, or utilizing the superb acoustics of Sanders Theater to let off so loudly that Michael Sandel forgets whether or not you are supposed to push the fat dude onto the train to save those innocent people? Or: What would happen if the whole world farted at once? (Probably everyone would die or the ozone would disintegrate. Either that or…no one would notice!?!?)

Like any good philosophical tangent, this one caused us to feel an uncomfortable sense of uncertainty about the world around us. All of a sudden, thoughts like, “Is the human body really 60 percent water?” (seems unlikely) and “Do dogs experience time seven times faster than humans?” (probably) seemed incredibly pertinent.

Needless to say, we didn’t find any conclusive answers. Like Agent Scully and Detective Mulder in the X-Files 2 [2], we knew there was “something out there,” but aliens seemed unlikely in this case since their diet of dried Neopolitan ice-cream could not produce such a range of smells. In the absence of “evidence,” we developed a couple theories that seem pretty solid: 1) The ghost of John Harvard haunts students in their daily meanderings, cutting ass so hard that the smell manages to open a rift between the phantom realm into the material world, like Keanu Reeves’ in that movie. 2) It is the new terrorism, designed to make living in the city vaguely irritating until one day you just lose it and say, “Punk this, I’m going to kill myself.”

If you don’t find these explanations convincing, you can just file this entire column under “Unsolved Mysteries.”

[1]. This just goes to show that when you’re alone, the “Whoever smelt it dealt it rule” is unfair.

[2]. In this analogy, Schonberger is Scully and Catizone is Mulder, for various reasons.