Dirty Dog


Several years ago I was at a conference of educators in Louisville, Kentucky. The collective purpose of the college professors and high school teachers there was to grade the thousands of Advanced Placement Literature and Composition examination papers that had been submitted by students from across America. As much of an honor as it was to be asked to apply and to subsequently be accepted as a grader, my experience at the conference and the reputation I gained there was somewhat . . . unexpected.

Basically our days consisted of arriving at the convention center at 8:00am where we were briefly addressed by a question leader, walked through the collective reading of a few essays by our table leader and then set loose to review hundreds of essays – all written on the same topic, most of them hastily so — for the next seven hours.

After the second day I woke up in my sterile hotel room with the brick wall of the adjacent parking garage as a view, to a sense of dread. My neck hurt, my eyes blurred and butt swelled. Moreover I was pretty convinced that if I read even one more ill-conceived essay on poetic devices, my brain would drip out of my ears like warm silly putty. Nevertheless, I made my way to the convention center’s dining room somewhat steeled by the thought of a free breakfast of soggy eggs and limp bacon. On the door to the dining hall, I saw a small placard advertising a free yoga class offered that very afternoon to weary graders in need of some physical replenishment.

Now I’ll admit that as a former football player whose hamstrings remain as tight as a Jim Kelly spiral, I am about as skeptical of yoga as I am of soccer. But my wife claimed the ancient practice was a balm for aching muscles and a lubricant for ridged joints – not to mention pretty relaxing. So, given the day of stiff reading ahead of me, I resolved to attend my first yoga class later on that day.

By five o’clock my brain was mush and my butt wasn’t much better. Still I stumbled back to my hotel room, pulled on my mesh shorts, ratty gray t-shirt, and stinky old running shoes and made my way to the hotel ballroom that had been reserved for the yoga class.

The room was full of at least forty women, all clad in comfy yoga pants and stylish tank tops. I was the only guy. There was a woman in front who I assumed was the yoga-leader (whatever you call them). She was barefoot and smiling serenely at me. “Namaste,” she said, then pointed me to the corner of the room where a collection of pink and blue foam mats leaned against the wall. I took one and scanned the room for a good spot to unroll it.

It quickly became clear that the leader wasn’t going to start until I was properly situated so I made my way to the back corner of the room and unrolled my mat immediately behind a silver-haired, slender-waisted woman with a stylish reverse-bob hairdo and a slightly up-turned nose.

“It’s my first time,” I said as I unrolled my mat.

She looked down at my shoes and nodded with a slight smirk on her face. Getting the gist of silver-bob’s non-verbal hint I pulled off my shoes and mimicked the supple, ready posture of the women around me.

For the next twenty minutes or so, I breathed in and out. I felt the grounding nature of the floor beneath my feet. I bent over double and worried about my shirt sliding over my head to expose my fat rolls – in other words I did Yoga. To be honest I was feeling pretty good about myself. I had a light mist of sweat on my forehead and the warmth of the room was settling into my bones. And then in happened.

Our leader directed us to fall into the pose known as “downward dog” – in which we were to fold ourselves into the shape of an “A” with our arms spread out on the floor in front of us, our head hanging down between them, and our legs splayed behind us so that our butts were up in the air. Once in the pose we were instructed to take a deep breath and then exhale.

I felt ridiculous in this pose and wanted to make sure that I was actually doing it right, so I looked up and just as I did I noticed the backside of the petite, silver-haired woman with the reverse bob mere feet from my face.  She let loose a loud, multi-syllabic fart.

I dropped to my knees as the sound reverberated through the room. Everyone heard it. Everyone looked.

I was overwhelmed with the urge to disavow myself from the foul act, and to this day I think I might have shouted “That wasn’t me!” if I hadn’t first been interrupted by ol’ silver-bob in front of me who stood, turned her eyes squarely to me and said “Oh, my!” loud enough for everyone to hear, before suppressing a little giggle with three dainty finger placed over her lips.

I got to my feet and stood open mouthed before her. The instructor had noticed at this point and called us back to another pose. But I couldn’t help but notice the other women around me shaking their heads and doing everything in their power to avoid eye contact.

The next day I kept my head down in the dining hall, sure that every woman in the room would have heard about “the guy who came to yoga and let one go” but later when everyone was busy reading the exams, I scanned the room trying to find the offensive brute who had christened me crude with her gaseous expulsion. I’m not sure why I wanted to see her again – maybe secretly I hoped that if I could make eye contact with her I could tell her with my gaze that her fancy pants and padded mat couldn’t fool me — I knew what she really was. But I never saw her at the dining hall or in the reading room, and I certainly didn’t go back to yoga.

By the end of the week, giddy with excitement to be going home to see my family, I had almost convinced myself to forget the unfortunate event, and was sitting at a small café table in the airport, enjoying my breakfast before I boarded my plane. The chatter from the surrounding table was full of stories from the week and it seemed that most of the people in the Starbucks’ were readers like me. Finally the time came for me to leave, and as I stood up my chair scraped across the floor behind me and pitched backward. I quickly reached to catch it and as I did I made eye contact with the table of women who were sitting behind me.

“Close call,” I said.

“Oh my,” one of them answered – sending the rest of them into fits of hysterical laughter. I slunk off to my plane with my tail between my legs, forever branded a dirty dog.

(photo courtesy of Ambro/freedigitalphotos.net)


If you enjoyed this story, you might also enjoy reading about Emily Tomasik’s first attempt at taking a hot yoga class.


**Matt Bindig grew up outside of Buffalo, New York and was educated at Hobart College and Harvard University.  He teaches high school English and lives in Western New York with his wife and three children.