Monday, 7 May 2018

Empty Vessels

It was almost 303 Kelvins today. For a British ‘bank holiday’, that seems to be a break with tradition. But it gave me the opportunity to do a little field anthropology, i.e. ‘people-watching’, which is an occasional hobby of mine. I was particularly interested in the behaviour of young human males when the weather is hot. Many of them appear to enjoy broadcasting their stupidity loudly to anyone in shouting range, by partaking in a curious activity that seems to have developed in sports stadiums. When gathered in groups, particularly when alcohol has been added to the equation, they will break into a chorus of something that could only in the most generous of terms be described as ‘singing’. It sounds more like an over-extended rendition of the first second or two of someone vomiting heartily.

This is strictly a tribal activity. I have rarely seen an individual participant, unless he was extremely drunk, and even when two are present, it’s not that common. The threshold number appears to be three. This has nothing to do with the ability to produce harmonies, and everything to do with the ability to produce the threat of harm. These hapless phenotypes are the walking embodiment of a genome fashioned in our brutal past, when beating one’s chest was the best way of finding a mate. To witness their ritualistic roaring is to play audience to the astonishing process of testosterone transforming into air vibrations.

Everything I’ve described above, of course, has been occurring for some decades (at least since the 1970s, I’m assured by my editor, who was there). However, a more recent variant has come to my attention. When the human larynx is unequal to the task of asserting dominance through sonic torture, those with enough credit or hard cash have the option of purchasing some form of internal combustion engine attached to either 2, 4, or (sometimes) 3 wheels — and most importantly of all, sporting 1, 2 or 4 exhaust pipes. Often these are modified deliberately to be as loud as possible, breaking asunder the peace of all and sundry for no better reason than to make the statement: I AM HERE. Yes, we know you are, and we wish you weren’t. Some of us go further, and wish you would crash and die.

I’ve speculated many times about the exact psychology behind loud exhausts. I’ve heard people say that large cars might represent subconscious compensation for inadequate genital scale — and based on this assumption, one possible conclusion is that guys with loud exhausts are secretly ashamed of their pathetic farts.

But perhaps the truth is much more straightforward. Perhaps they simply are pathetic farts.