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Yellin' vents
The intelligence
That my skeleton's between doors

This bit it not what it seems. Nearly all the words have meanings different than you'd think. Like most of you, I at first thought "yellin' vents" referred to yelling through an air vent, but it's a weird way to say that, isn't it? So I though about it some more and came to the conclusion that "vents" is a verb, not a noun. When you vent you let out your feelings about something. For this song we'll say it means "lets out". So yelling lets out the information (intelligence) that he is trapped in the vestibule. It using strange wording in typical TMBG fashion and also sounds cool because of it.

So the big question is: what is a vestibule? The word is the title of the song, and the place the narrator is trapped, so it's meaning is important. I would like to submit this lyric is straightforward only on the shallow literal level.

A vestibule has a literal and some broader metaphorical meanings, too, which means the song, whatever the writer intended, is gonna function on several levels, as much TMBG stuff does.

It's a small room or space that initially impedes, then ushers, you into a larger room or space, it is an area of waiting, a lobby, a foyer. There is also a religious meaning, in that a vestibule is part of a church.

Vestibule is also a medical term for several areas of the body which serve that waiting room function. For instance the vestibule of the ear, or the area of your mouth outside your teeth, a place in the heart, area external to the urethra (hm). These spaces may act as barriers to germs, and he specifically mentions being a germ collector, trapped in between the internal space, and the outside where the car is.

He also says his skeleton is trapped, a medical idea, but also skeletons when discussing politicians refer to the stuff a politician, say, a senator, might have done, that he's like to keep quiet, keep locked away? The narrator is a germy secret, locked up inside, a skeleton the senator can't let out. The narrator says it's accidental, but is it?

I agree with the poster below. Since he specifically mentions Senator Spector (R-PA), who is correctly identified below as the former chairman of Senate Judiciary Committee, and on the Homeland Security SubCte of Senate Appropriations, AND the narrator uses the word "intelligence" to mean "information about what someone is doing," this could be a swipe at this particular senator. Also, if the intelligence is about a germ collector, that could be about biological terrorism, or people supplying them "germs by the jar."

This could be more general, as well, about misdeeds in the sense of lobbying misbehavior. It's a stretch, but if we think of a vestibule as a fancy name for a lobby, the narrator could be a lobbyist. Sort of a pun (and TMBG never use puns, right?) in the sense that lobbyists got their name from advocates hanging around the lobby (vestibule) of the Willard Hotel waiting to approach one of the Presidents. Grover Cleveland? Teddy Roosevelt? I forget.

If this is as political as it sounds, it sounds kind of Flansburghy, doesn't it? But the dreamscape layers of suggested meaning sounds all Linnellish, and he is the singer.

In any case, interesting song. ~Christina Miller, January 2007

It's pretty straightforward, about a guy that gets trapped in a vestibule. Awesome song, though.

The only part I don't get, though, is the line "I am the germ collector; I'm getting paid for every jar." It doesn't really seem to fit in. Also, what's up with the mention of Senator Arlen Specter? I just checked Wikipedia, and the main distinguishing thing I could find about him was that he is the creator of some theory explaining how JFK was killed (the Single Bullet Theory), which seems a bit cryptic to put in the song. ~ magbatz

Arlen Specter was the head of the Judiciary Committee and was responsible for introducing a bill that would legalize warrantless wiretapping and protect those involved with the illegal wiretapping program from prosecution. I suppose this could have something to do with the intelligence that this guy vents. Or maybe it just rhymes with collector.

The other day, I learned that the part of your nasal cavity directly inside your nostrils (gold-digging country) is called the "vestibule." In its function as part of the immune system, the nose actually is a "germ collector." It doesn't have much to do with the rest of the song, but neither does that lyric.

I thought this song was about a guy leaving his apartment to meet Arlen Specter, who's right outside. However, he gets stuck in the vestibule, and ends up having to make his way through the air(or maybe smellin) vents to get out.

"I am the germ collector, I'm getting paid for every jar" is obviously code. The narrator is a spy or informant working for Arlen Specter, and the "germs" he collects are actually tidbits of information. When he gets enough information to work with, a "jar" so to speak, he contacts the senator and makes the drop. The narrator was sneaking out of one of those old victorian houses with some new info when he got trapped in the titular vestibule.

In government facilities, a vestibule is a small room between a non-classified and classified portion of the building. This is the room where security checks are done before allowing one to enter the secure area. It sounds like the guy in the song is a spy working for Arlen Specter. A "germ collecter", I suppose, would be someone who collects dirty government secrets. He entered the vestibule and attempted to hear a classified conversation on the other side through the vent. Perhaps he succeeded, perhaps not, but afterwards he realizes the door he used to enter the vestibule had closed and locked behind him. So he then starts yelling into the vent, hoping that someone will hear him and unlock the door. But he's still trapped inside when the song ends. When he says his "skeleton" is between doors, maybe this is Linnell's way of saying this guy is not found in time, and dies in the vestibule. Maybe someone can do more research on Arlen Specter and see if there was an actual historical event like this that happened. -Milhouse911

I think this song is about the anthrax letters of late 2001, during which time the Senate building was shut down. I don't know if Specter was selected just because of his name rhyming with "collector" (which is probably the case) or if there is some specific reference involving him, but I think the key line is that the singer is "the germ collector." He's either cleaning up the anthrax, or, more sinisterly, distributing it. If he's the anthrax-er, that would explain why the case has never been solved: the guy's skeleton is trapped in the vestibule. Tutt 15:27, 20 July 2007 (UTC)

Senator Spector (R-PA) was the ranking member on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health something something, which would have been looking into the policy surrounding how to handle the anthrax outbreaks. Although Senator Tom Daschle's was the office that received the letter identified as containing the same sourced anthrax as sent to ABC, which killed several people, when the Hart Building was closed down in November 2001, Senator Specter's offices were also closed down and cleaned, because they as well as some other rooms were contaminated by the Daschle letter.
I also think he's a "germ collector" to 1. suggest the anthrax without naming it directly, and to 2. suggest the fact it was "collected" by environmental remediators, and that 3.the vestibule-room is analogous to a vestibule-body-part where anthrax enters. I think the meanings are all there, not just one, including the idea of Arlen not being able to hear to suggest the wiretapping. Specter is a powerful senator, so if you are going to talk about something he's been up to, you can't just mention his name. I have no problem imagining the lyricist is referencing both the domestic spying and anthrax legislative consideration in Specter's committee work.~Christina Miller, August 2007

Although the lyrics seem straight forward--a guy tragically dies between two locked doors in a building, however, the references to Senator Arlen Spector remain unexplained. My twisted mind conjured up a haunting metaphor for a "vestibule." Senator Arlen Spector is the head of the committee on mine safety and has lead investigations into the tragic deaths of trapped miners in various situations. Could a "vestibule" perhaps be a metaphor in this song?

I always thought of this as the doomy tale of the macabre, chapter entitled "Mike Rowe" (germ collector, gets paid for every germ). Mike Rowe gets stuck in the hallway of a haunted building while sanitizing it. Senator Arlen Spector suggests that this is a political job, perhaps a clean-up cover-up by the GOP or summat. Perhaps the Vestibule in question is inside the Watergate. Perhaps Mike is locked in there as a counterpoint to Arlen Spector's party switch by his former party. I have no idea, and it's late, but that's my thoughts. --Homfrog 06:53, 26 November 2009 (UTC)

My Interpterp[edit]

I got stuck (not locked) in a Vestibule today, in between two train cars because the trains were packed. So I guess I could relate to this song? Except I wasn't insane at the time. -- Jason DeLima - ! - 04:19, 15 March 2010 (UTC)


I really don't think that too big of a metaphor appears in this song. I agree with the train thing. A vestibule as I know it is the section between two cars on a train, which would explain everything save for "I am the germ collector" etc. I always imagined the singer being some kind of worker for Arlen Specter, and when he gets stuck in the vestibule he's shouting to try and get out.

This is also why I really like this song, it's just a guy singing about how he got stuck in the vestibule between two train cars. Like, just a song about a thing, like "Miniature Sidewalk Whirlwind". And the germ collector line adds urgency for the guy to get out in a way that's non-specific to any real job, barring that line having some other meaning (I guess there might be something to the anthrax thing too though O.o)

People Do Strange Things[edit]

After reading all these interpretations of "Vestibule," many of which are really good, I see that the writers here forget one fact about the human animal.

A celebrity such as a long-time US Senator or a rock star or a movie star is always in danger of being stalked. People will rub against them just to collect souvenirs such as pens, scarves, locks of hair, or beads of sweat. People will assail these celebrities, and even murder them. People will attack them just to get a swatch of their clothing or their flesh. Women even have sex with these men just to get their semen and their money. Likewise, men have sex with female celebrities just to say they got souvenirs from them.

Likely, the speaker in this verse was considered a threat to Sen. Specter and was locked in a venue's vestibule until Specter was cleared from the scene. Even former US Government officials usually carry a Secret Service security contingent. The speaker probably just wanted to scrape a bead of sweat off Specter but was discovered, considered too close a personal threat as he could have assassinated the Senator, and was locked in the vestibule until after Specter and his team left.


Richard C. August

Spector and intelligence[edit]

Spector was the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence during the 104th Congress (1995-1997). This is probably a red herring; I think his title and name just happened to fit the meter and he is just famous enough to get name-checked in a TMBG song.

Dream logic[edit]

Like "A self called nowhere", this song is a description of a dream. It's a typical dream, in which the dreamer is stuck somewhere and subconsciously tries to justify the situation with various bizarre interpretations that seem profound at the time. Mind you, I'm not suggesting that this song literally describes a dream than Linnell had. It's just the approach the lyrics seem to take. -- Thread Bomb (talk) 02:49, 29 June 2020 (EDT)

Something actually happened that inspired this, didn't it???[edit]

I have searched and searched historic newspaper archives without luck but I remember reading a news item about a poor government staffer who was accidentally locked in a vestibule (the little room at the entrance to a building) over a weekend. I don't know if this had anything to do with germs, the Senate, Arlen Spector, or even Washington. It might have been a state government building, but it had something to do with government. When he was found on Monday, the guy was a bit dehydrated (and probably had to pee in the corner, although they didn't mention that part). It captured my imagination, thinking about what it would be like to be absolutely alone with no way to communicate with anyone that you're stuck. This was quite some time ago - nowdays, you'd assume the person had their cellphone on them. That's pretty much all I remember. Years later I heard this song, first at a TMBG concert - it seemed like a new direction for Them, direct and really angry and heavy metal, and John L. strode out into the audience, but I couldn't understand any lyrics... I was intrigued. When it came out on a record and I heard the lyrics, I realized it was in character and in their ouevre, and I also remembered the news story. Still haven't found it.