Before every outing, Cool Boy and I engage in this little dance, though it’s not as fun as it sounds. It goes like this:
Cool Dad: Noah, try to go pee-pee before we leave.
Cool Boy: I don’t have to!
CD: You need to try. When we go somewhere, you need to try because we don’t want to be stuck in the (car/subway/bus) and then you have to go pee.
CB: I don’t have to!
CD: Noah, we go through this every time. Go try so we can leave! (Insert potential disciplinary action depending on how the day has gone.)
(CB drags himself to bathroom. Exits after a minute.)
CB (smiling): I went!!
Relieved, we can finally leave. It may be a game to him, though I’d prefer not to do the dance EVERY time. I guess it’s better than him doing another kind of dance on the bus.
If only I practiced what I preached.
+ + +
The other day, I met a friend at City Bakery on West 18th Street in Manhattan. We indulged in their renowned hot chocolate, which was like drinking a melted Hershey’s bar. It was so rich that we had to get water to wash down the cocoa coating forming in our throats.
After an hour of talking about the finer points of music, we finished. I hesitated at the door but instead shook it off and marched out into the cold to catch the 45-minute subway ride home.
The commute was pleasant. The train had reached the part of the 6 line that was above ground, so the sun poured in through surprisingly clean windows. I looked up from my book, What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell, to see that I was alone in the car. This was a rare occurrence for the middle of the day, but it was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, so I figured that many of the usual riders were relaxing at home on their day off.
And then I realized that I had to go – not go anywhere in particular, but just go. I should’ve listened to my instinct at the door of City Bakery. I should’ve heeded my own fatherly warnings of not getting stuck in a subway, doing a dance. I stood up to mitigate the pressure and asserted myself that I would be home in another 10 minutes.
Of course, it’s never that easy when it comes to matters of the toilet (or lack of). The train stopped at the Elder Avenue station and opened its doors to let in a rush of cold air and no passengers. The doors shut, but we didn’t move. After a minute, a recorded voice announced that we were being held for “train traffic ahead of us.” I had a sinking feeling, which inconveniently landed on top of my bladder.
The train finally lurched ahead to my assurance but also to my agony. Motion was the last thing I needed, but it didn’t last for long. This time, the train stopped between stations and sat. I started weighing my options. I thought about getting off at the next stop and running to the closest Starbucks. Sadly, Google Maps reported that it was over 20 blocks away. I scanned the neighborhood for other places that might accomodate me, but I couldn’t be sure about them. There were markets and drugstores, which could very well have closed their restroom doors to the public.
+ + +
Ever since I saw a YouTube video of pranksters going number one on the subway, I’ve become attentive of where I sit. I look for any telltale signs: accumulations of liquid on the floor, suspect-looking dried “water spots” on the seat, the unmistakable smell.
I condemned those mass transit befoulers for their lack of decency and conscience. Now, I was considering joining their kind. The conditions for it were ripe:
1. My train car was empty, which is the primary factor when it comes to peeing on the subway. No witnesses, no snitches.
2. Next, I checked the adjacent cars. Both the ones in front of and behind mine were clear.
3. Scanning around the car, I didn’t see anything that looked like a security camera. There are security cameras in the stations, but I’d never heard of cameras on the trains themselves.
4. Continuing to check my surroundings, I found more encouragement: A Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cup.
But it was on the small side. Why oh why couldn’t they have gotten the extra large Coolatta instead?! And don’t think that I didn’t notice the door next to the coffee cup. What was that stain?
+ + +
As all of this was running through my mind, the train moved again. Another station, then another delay. Things were getting painful, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it to all of the people, my fellow New Yorkers, who would eventually board this train.
So, I did whatever I could to distract myself. I cranked the dulcet harmonies of Eisley in my headphones. I closed my eyes and imagined happier places, like our cozy apartment with a freshly cleaned bathroom smelling of bleach, or a shaded forest with plenty of obstructed sight lines. I prayed. I was determined to not pee on the subway. And the train started again.
When we finally got to the stop closest to the Starbucks, I stayed on the train. I just didn’t want to move. Thankfully, we went through the last stops unimpeded. I got off at my stop and stumbled home as fast as I could while maintaining bladder integrity. Running would’ve been too much jostling, so I walked with my feet slightly apart more than usual, as if traversing one of those tire courses that football players high-step through.
The sidewalk seemed to stretch away from me, prolonging the walk. As I’m sure some heroic figure has said at some point in history: I didn’t come all this way just to wet my pants in front of my neighbors! By the grace of God, I made it home.
I hope you’ll learn from my harrowing experience. Listen to your body, even its most subtle hints. Make it a habit to try to go before every outing. And maybe carry an extra large Coolatta cup around with you, just in case.