Recently, I took a short trip of a little over four hours to visit a friend. He lives in a small cabin in an isolated, but accessible area of a nearby mountain range, far from civilization. About an hour into my trip, I began to feel an uncomfortable, but familiar sensation. Stopping at a Dunkin Donuts restaurant, I parked, and moved swiftly towards the last available place to procure coffee, and use the facilities, before reaching my destination. A small town with a diner and a gas station were conveniently located near my friend’s cabin, but there was at least a hundred and fifty miles of forest-lined highways, and mountain roads between my current location, and the next stop.
Entering the Dunkin Donuts, I rapidly and awkwardly moved towards the men’s room, only to face a sign on the door saying, “Sorry, bathroom is closed.” Turning to the women’s restroom, and praying it wasn’t occupied, I saw another sign with the words, “Out of Order,” displayed in big bold letters. Is it just me, or wouldn’t you think an establishment selling bladder bursting, hot and cold beverages, would either have a plumber on site twenty-four hours a day, or provide emergency, portable restrooms for customers to use at all times? I can tell you this; I reallyyy………. had to go. Skipping the coffee, and heading to my car, I figured somewhere ahead in an inhospitable, and bear-filled wilderness was a tree along the side of the road with my name on it.
I know that all of you have faced similar situations at one time or another. This is especially true if you’re often stuck in traffic jams, travel long distances for your job, or have small children. How many of you keep empty water bottles and toilet paper in your vehicle, just in case? I do. When my kids were younger we would often go on vacations or short road trips. I used to count the times I would hear a tentative voice from the back seat saying, “Daddy, I need to use a bathroom.”
I would say, “You just went a half an hour ago, can’t you hold it”? The reply would always be the same.
No, I really, really have to go.”
Luckily, there is a specific, unwritten law that says, children are allowed to use the side of the road as an emergency restroom stop. Remember, this rule is only for children. As adults, are choices are limited. Either hold it in, with incredible will power, and Zen-like concentration, or ignore a no trespassing sign, leap a roadside fence, outrun a one-ton bull on a testosterone fueled rampage, and by some miracle make it to a forested area at least a quarter mile away. Oh, there is a third option, but I’ll discuss that a little latter.
As I’ve gotten older; unfortunately, it seems I get that uncomfortable feeling more often. I’ve started to program my GPS with every available restroom facility within a hundred miles, minimized trips of over an hour, and limited my coffee, alcohol, and iced-tea intake. I also stop drinking any fluids before I take a trip longer than an hour. I sometimes look like the houseplant you forgot to water before going on that two week vacation, but it works. I’ve even thought of buying one of those “Porta Pottys,” putting it on a flatbed trailer, and hooking it to the rear of my car. I can tell you this. If I was ever stuck in a massive jam up of unmoving vehicles; I’d be one popular son of gun.
Here’s something you might not have thought about. Did you know there appears to be a direct correlation between the distance you are from a restroom, and how bad you really have to go? It’s true. I think it’s one of those immutable laws of physics, like gravity. If you don’t believe me, then go to a local park or sports field where they have some of those big, plastic portable bathrooms. They’re the ones you try to avoid like the plague, and only use if you reallyyy………. have to go.
Now, do what I did, and consume an entire half gallon of water. Be sure that you’re at least a hundred yards from the nearest porta john, and wait until you start getting an uncomfortable feeling. Begin to slowly walk towards the distant green structure. Do you notice a slight increase in pressure? Are you picking up speed, and are now moving at a fast walk? You’re also feeling a little more discomfort, and your legs are pinched slightly together, aren’t they? How come you’re only half way there, and you started jogging? You’re now three quarters of the way to what I like to call salvation. I have no doubt you are achieving an awkward, yet full-out sprint. I know the pressures incredible, your eyes are watering, and you’re praying that no one’s inside. Come on. Only twenty yards to go. You can make it. Now fling that door open, don’t even bother to lock it, sit down, and relax. You made it – and just in time.
A few months back, I went to my doctor, told her my symptoms, and explained that sometimes, I reallyyy……… have to go. She did a complete physical, some blood work, and wrote down pages of notes. She then had me sit down, gently put her hand on my shoulder, looked directly into my eyes with compassion, and said, “I’m sorry to say this Mr. Dykie, but it looks like you have incontinence.”
I replied, “Oh my God; No, no, not incontinence! How long do I have left, before, you know what? By the way – what’s incontinence?
She said, “Don’t worry Patrick; you’re going to live a long and full life.” She then explained. “Incontinence is a common problem of both men and women. It’s an involuntary leakage of urine from our bladders. It is usually associated with getting older, but has many other causes. In your case it may be caused by anti-hypertensive drugs.
I replied, “I swear Doc; I’m completely clean. The last time I did drugs was just a little weed, way back in college, and maybe just a tiny puff or two before the last visit from my mother-in law.”
She then said, “When I say drugs, I’m talking about the blood pressure medication you take. I think that may be the underlying cause. Your bladder muscles seem to be okay, your prostate isn’t swollen, and I see no signs of nerve damage. I’d like to have you come back in six months. If the problem worsens before then, please make an appointment for sooner.”
If the problem worsens? I think we all know what that means. I said to my doctor before leaving, “Doc, please don’t tell me that the next step in the process, involves the possible, and should I dare to say, the extremely horrifying prospect of the use of – Man Diapers?”
With a wry smile she replied, “It “DEPENDS.”