I had ignored the warning on the cover of Bill Bryson's Notes From a Small Island. "Not a book that should be read in public, for fear of emitting loud snorts", said a blurb from the The Times' review. But I was reading it not in any ol' public place, but in one of the very busy lounges at the Frankfurt international airport. There was not a chair to spare as far as the eye could see. Passengers were milling about, the chairs, stacked closed to each other, did not even lose their warmth as one passenger left and another took his place, there was a steady buzz in the area from many conversations - in short, it was as public as a public place could get.
I had started reading the book a couple of days earlier and was now almost at the end, trying desperately to subdue a snort that had started at the pit of my heaving stomach from exploding out of my nose. I really should have heeded the warning because I am, very famously, given to snorting when laughing.
I had valiantly suppressed a rather long stretch of giggles until then, only the gentle shaking of my body, the swishing noises coming out of my mouth and tears running down my face betraying my helpless condition. In the end, it was no use. The snort exploded any way. Before I could recover from that one, another one followed and then another.
I put my head down, resting my forehead in my palms. That was no help at all. I stole a quick glance around my immediate vicinity. There was a Scottish woman talking in earnest to my husband about her trip, her lilting Scottish accent only slightly eroded by years of living in Canada. That was it. I couldn't take it any more. I slapped the book shut and rushed to the bathroom to compose myself. Five minutes and repeated washing of my face later, I made my way back to my seat and picked up the book. I wasn't done yet.
I picked up where I left off, with some trepidation, but I could not stop myself. Bryson's trip around Britain is coming to a close in Glasgow, Scotland. As he is wont to do in all of his trips at the end of a long day traipsing around town and wandering in museums, parks and market places, Bryson fancies himself a drink and a sitdown at a pub. What follows is entirely to blame for the snort fest.