“You know, a woman’s bladder is a strange thing,” my husband said to me from the shower this morning. I had just knocked on the bathroom door to ask if I could pee. “I wouldn’t want you to pee your pants two days in a row now,” he added when I came in anyway. I knew he was half-joking, but still, I chose to ignore his playful jibe.
I went to start the coffee while waiting my turn for the shower and as I filled the coffee pot up with tap water, I looked out onto our back patio where the dog was sitting and scratching his ear with his hind leg. Beside him, my favorite pair of dark skinny jeans lay draped over the back of a lawn chair, reminding me of what had happened the night before. Not that I wanted to be reminded. But you can not ever truly know what to expect or what you will encounter when working with the population of people that I do.
Enter the scene: it is 5:30 p.m.
I had just finished the agonizing process of teaching a cooking class to disabled adults. I was sick as a dog. I was tired. And I really had to pee.
I remember that I have to drive a client on my caseload home. I’ll call this client “Cindy.” Cindy has a traumatic brain injury she sustained when she survived a horrific shooting at the diner where she worked in her 20s. She was the only survivor. When I asked Cindy if she was ready to go she said “yes.” But when she tried to get up out of her seat, she said she couldn’t move. She claimed she hurt her knee.
I helped her gather her things and attempt to walk out to my car. This should have taken three minutes. But instead, it took 40. Cindy would take a two inch-long step and then stop, sigh, and ask me something totally irrelevant like “When is Thanksgiving next year?”
It wasn’t her fault, really. I knew that. And while I should have gone to the bathroom before we left, I hadn’t planned on the extra amount of time it took to move from the complex to the car, and leaving her alone wasn’t safe. I flew through a green light that funneled me onto the freeway, my foot on the gas and my mind on nothing else but how badly I needed to use the bathroom.
I looked over and Cindy began eating a bowl of peas with her hands.
I chose to just be quiet.
I pulled into the apartment complex and climbed out to begin helping her to her gate. There were a few cliques of kids hanging around the complex, but I ignored them. “C’mon, Cindy, you’ll be okay, let’s get you inside,” I said while I waited for her to take the initiative to move from the passenger seat. Instead of focusing on getting out, Cindy chose to start 14 other conversations with me about unrelated things. I had already worked 45 minutes over-time and found my patience decreasing by the second. I tried every method I could think of to motivate her to move a little more swiftly. Nothing worked.
“Cindy, I have to use the restroom so I need you to get out your key to unlock the gate…” I prompted. Cindy stopped and stared at me and spent five minutes digging around a bag full of empty water bottles and newspapers and expired coupons.
I stood and waited. 10 minutes later, she stood up and walked like a blind tortoise trying to climb a sand dune. She then reached a step that she had to step over. So she began to yell, drawing attention from the people standing around. I did the best that I could to mitigate this, all the while tightening every stomach muscle I could feel in my core to keep my bladder from giving in.
“How about I take your key and unlock the gate for you while you step up?” I suggested. Cindy looked at me and handed me her bag. I set it down by the gate and turned to take the key. When I turned toward her, however, instead of giving me the key, she decided to grab my arm as hard as she could to help hoist herself up over the step. I was not expecting this. Nor was my bladder.
What happened next was nothing short of pure, cinematic gold. At the expense of my dignity. And skinny jeans.
I peed myself. There is no way around it. It was as if Cindy grabbing my arm worked as a sort of lever opening the floodgates, and I straight-up lost control of my bladder. Cindy had no idea. After thinking of and mumbling every choice word that came to mind, I panicked and ran to a dark spot under a nearby tree to get out of the light. (Read: I ran away to finish peeing by a tree. Let that sink in a little). This was no help to me, though. The cliques of kids congregating around had witnessed my moment of horror and pee-soaked shame. And were in stitches.
And there I stood, mortified, humiliated, and wondering if I could contact the Witness Protection Program for relocation and a new identity. (When you are standing under a tree in a rough neighborhood with a full bladder’s worth of urine all over your clothes and shoes, there is no such thing as logical thinking.)
Cindy made it inside and, with my head down and pretending not to see the people watching me, I fished out a few t-shirts from the trunk of my car, padded my seat, and drove home. Walking into my apartment later, my pretty black flats squeaky and wet, I felt the full weight of my humanity. My imperfect, comedic, unpredictable, and sometimes, tragic pee-soaked humanity.
The human experience is messy. Every single person who has ever lived has has snot run down their nose. The process by which we enter the world is extremely gross and painful. Not even Jesus was immune to farting. Sometimes I make the mistake of expecting life to be neat or clean or perfect but sometimes that’s shortsighted and dumb and I need a wake up call. Sometimes you just gotta pee your pants for a little perspective.
“You know, a woman’s bladder is a strange thing…” my husband said to me from the shower this morning.
No kidding, my dear. No. Kidding.