Monday, March 08, 2004

Always wash your coffee mug.

The dull muscle aches are setting in from yesterday’s hike up Occoneechee Mountain. I guess it’s officially a “hill,” since the only thing I recall from eighth-grade geography is that a mountain must be 1000 feet or higher in elevation. I’m going to call it a mountain anyway, since everybody else does, and 860 feet above sea level is high enough to give you breathtaking views and incredibly tired legs.

We crested the gravelly mountain trail and were looking for an optimal viewing spot to rest when my daughter gave the inevitable “I have to pee” call. I nervously directed her over the leafy forest floor, on the lookout for any happy snake families that might be enjoying an outing as well. We finally reached an optimal tree for screening our shiny white rears from the hikers on the mountain top above. I wiggled her pants, panties and shoes off and directed her to go facing downhill. “Why did you take my clothes off?” she inquired. “So that you won’t accidentally get them wet,” I replied. “Why do I have to face downhill?” came the next probe, to which I answered, “It will help the pee-pee to go away from your feet.” With all of my planning and Girl Scout cunning, my four-year old proceeded to release a yellow stream directly down her leg and onto her feet.

I became angry. Inwardly angry. Not at her, bless her heart, but at the poor mechanics women have for voiding anywhere, be it in the woods or on the commode of our own bathrooms. It is absolutely not fair to be equipped with sub-par relief systems. I’m not envious of the equipment of the opposite sex; I just want my own to perform without dysfunction. How many times have I done the very thing my daughter just did? How many times have I stood over a plague-laden public toilet seat, only to soak my underwear and legs when I missed the target? How many times have I ended up in extremely awkward situations after the call of nature hearkened at inconvenient times?
Read on, if you really must know.

Awkward Life Scarring Incident Number One:
I am twelve years old. I am camping with my father on a daddy-daughter outing, and have tried to ignore the late-night pain in my bladder to no avail. I follow the purple-white light of the bug zapper that serves as the outdoor light of the cinder blocked bathroom. I find both stalls occupied with grown-up women discussing grown-up things that both frighten and intrigue me. I stand against the bathroom wall quietly and politely until I am at the point of no return; I must go somewhere this very minute. I quietly tread into the shower stall, squat over the drain, and proceed to water my very stiff and very blue jeans. Perhaps a drop actually makes it into the drain. To my horror, one of the women now exits her stall and waits along the very wall I had been leaning on minutes before. Their scary mystifying discussion continues. Something about “histerektomees” and other things that my brain erases out of concern for my well-being. The other woman remains in her stall and I remain squatting in the shower, legs burning with lactic acid pain. I finally can stand it no longer. I am wet, tired, and want to be free of their marathon discussion. I stand up, emerge from the shower stall and walk with my head held high past the leaning woman. She watches me with baffled raccoon-eyes, thick with mascara. As I exit the shower and walk over the dewy wet grass to my tent, I hear her exclaim, “What the?!” “Some kid just walked right out of the shower, with all of her d*#! clothes on!!” I quickly zip myself into the tent where my father lay snoring. I drift into a wet, cold, and yet satisfying sleep.

Awkward Life Scarring Incident Number Two:
I am in my mid-twenties. I am staying with a friend for the weekend. We have gone to her grandmother’s house at the beach to take part in their family reunion. We swim, eat seafood, and socialize as new people keep arriving by the carload. By Saturday night, the house is so packed that I am relegated to sleeping on the floor in the laundry area. I sleep comfortably until late in the night, when I find myself again in a sleeping bag with an aching bladder. There is only one bathroom in the house. It is accessible only two ways: 1) through the grandparent’s bedroom, or 2) through the den and back hall, both filled with sleeping bags and sleeping bodies. I try to quietly open the laundry door to the yard outside but find it dead bolted no key in sight. The front door exit is blocked by a sofa-bed. I am trapped and yet I must go. I scan the washer and dryer area, hoping to find a bucket, or Mason jar, or anything to serve as a chamber pot. I spy a coffee mug on the lip of the stainless steel sink; it’s now or never. (The sink was too high and tight for access; believe me, I thought of it.) I grab the mug, lift my nightshirt and squat as tightly on the mug as I physically can. It’s not tight enough, however. I end up wetting the floor, my nightgown and my sleeping bag. And now I’ve peed in grandma’s coffee mug. I’m going to hell. I dump the mug’s contents into the sink, rinse the mug with a trickle of water, and mop the floor with paper towels. In the morning I wake early, scrub the mug like a madwoman and throw the damp sleeping bag into my car trunk. I shower, put on clean clothes and take a walk on the beach. When I get back to the house I decline coffee with breakfast.

Awkward Life Scarring Incident Number Three:
I am in my early thirties. I am pregnant with my first child. It is late in the evening. My husband is trying to wrestle his money out of a 24-hour bank ATM that doesn’t want to give it up. I watch him excitedly tap buttons on the keyboard, set his hands on his hips, and then throw hands up in the air, over and over. The baby decides to stand on my bladder, which makes the calling far stronger than that time in the campground shower, or the time at J.’s grandma’s house. I am in my car with nowhere to go to the bathroom. (The bank is closed.) I wave my hands frantically at my husband, who waves his hands frantically back at me and then turns around to resume his money-machine rain dance. I focus my watering eyes on the car floor to see a plastic souvenir cup (acquired at my husband’s alumni picnic). Without hesitation, I ratchet my car seat back and slide my body forward to the edge. I grab the plastic cup, shove it under my maternity dress and try to form an air-tight seal. I am rewarded with a mocking trickle down my ankle that wets my Birkenstocks and soaks the carpeting. My husband returns to the car to see me dump something out of his college cup and into the parking lot. I tell my tale with deadpan face; my husband gulps and starts the car. He drives home silently despite the wafting ammonia. I toss the souvenir cup into the outdoor trashcan before going inside to change my wet muumuu. After all, his alma mater and my alma mater were rivals. Maybe I could have held it if the cup had been from *my school.