Never having to pee again will be the best gift of dying. Up until now I’ve never thought of death as having any gifts to offer, but having spent an amount of time roughly equivalent to 38.52% of my life peeing or worrying about whether there will be anywhere to appropriately empty my bladder, I’ve decided that a lack of urine, that yellow fluid threatening to trickle down my leg after due warning should it so desire, would be the best present you could ask for. As it stands, the question of peeing leaves you having to debate whether it’s even worth leaving the house. Sure there are trees everywhere to crouch behind, but none of them offer quite enough coverage should they be needed in the middle of, say, a downtown corridor.
In Paris I met one of the most awkward bathrooms of my life. I stayed with a friend of a friend who I’d never met and who it seemed my friend had barely met either. Perhaps we were actually illegal squatters, or perhaps this other friend was merely a ghost. The latter would make sense because the suite was small and lacking windows, scrunched up at the top of an apartment building, apparently once the servant’s quarters. And jutted off to the side of this room was another small room, sort of a brown clay pink color (perfect for camouflaging puke) with nothing more than a hole in the middle of the floor. No toilet, just a hole and a pole to grab onto. My friend (now ex-friend, after all, what kind of person subjects another person to such strange toilets without warning?) nonchalantly explained that we just had to squat over it and cling to the pole. I had never imagined a squat that wasn’t over a field of grass in the dead of night. My friend couched the statement by adding that it was supposed to be good for the bowels, as if I had come all the way to France just to learn how to properly poop. In retrospect, that might have been where my constipation issues began. So disgusted were my bowels at the lack of thought and foresight that went into accommodating them that they decided to hex me by never working properly again.
My bladder has a mind of its own, and is rather like something a mad scientist conjured up in a 1950s science fiction movie. It orders me how to live my life in a matter of fact Judge Judy tone rather than the other way around. I spend so much time worrying about peeing that it’s almost become a form of meditation. There should be an app for pee related dilemmas by now, along with an app that shoves your body double out of bed and makes it go to work on your behalf. That’s what robots will be good for, right, living the less Instagramable moments for us? Maybe they can pee for us too.
In the 90s I met a rave bathroom. I shudder to think that I ever went to a rave, but it was only once and it was at the behest of a few teenage friends who had fully given over their spirits to the cult of raves and therefore couldn’t even leave their houses in pants that were less than a mile wide. If you’ve never seen such an outfit, spare yourself and do not google it- consider yourself one of the lucky ones.
Nothing makes you have to pee more than a rave on account of all the drugs that you ingest that make you thirsty. So thirsty that it’s best if you write a reminder on your hand in pen beforehand that you can actually die from drinking too much water, a fate that I continue to be shocked that I didn’t meet that night. Then again, when I recall (like Vietnam flashbacks) what the bathroom looked like, I’m not surprised. A tiny black lit stall (modeled on a prison cell, no doubt) in the middle of a warehouse crammed with garbage, toilet water leaking on the floor, used tampons, remnants of feces, drippings of other people’s pee, various drug paraphernalia, and countless wads of toilet paper, it was a slimy, dank room with a smell that would have been potpourri in hell. I spent most of the night praying to the saint of bladders (if there wasn’t one yet, surely I could conjure one up) that I could make it to the morning alive and find the closest McDonald’s bathroom to relieve myself in a half decent fashion.
At the very least, there should be an Uber for peeing. Take me directly to the nearest nice, decent toilet, no questions asked. Or a ditch will do too, as long as there’s privacy. My bladder is very shy, you see, and if it doesn’t get the right kind of bathroom it seizes itself up and sets up a barricade, daring me to let it implode and wind us both up in the hospital.
At times I’ve dreamed of having a catheter inserted in me, just so that I could walk freely and leave my house without having to waste even a minute on where and whether I’ll be able to pee. I’ve never tried one out, not even in a hospital, but I like to imagine a 1980s style catalogue of all the different catheters one could purchase. So much effort has been put into figuring out solutions for plastic straws (don’t even get me started), but if only a tenth of that effort was put into creating more fashionable and less infection inducing catheters who knows how far humanity would have advanced by now. Imagine what could get done if you didn’t have to worry about peeing! And make no mistake, this is a problem primarily experienced by women- hence the reason no top dollars have been given to solve it. Men can pee wherever they want, whenever they want. Look, I’m not asking for much, maybe just some kind of portable, foldable funnel that could at least even up the pee gender gap?
I’ll never forget the bathroom in Cuba’s airport (which shall remain unnamed so as to protect the innocent). It was only a bathroom because it had a sign calling it such. Rather, it was merely a suggestion, a run down dilapidated box of a room featuring barely held together stalls and no doors. No doors and no toilet paper and no doors. I must’ve had to pee really badly because I have never ever peed in front of a stranger (at least not while sober), but I know I did then, against the peeling blue paint and mud grimed walls.
Enter any crowded room and conduct a quick survey of the women there. The bathrooms they’ve seen run the gamut, but the truly awful ones, each horrific in their own way, converge into their own special strain of PTSD aka post-toilet stress disorder. There are bathrooms whose stenches you will never forget without the aid of electroshock therapy, whose doors barely go past your shoulder, whose placement underground in the worst, most dilapidated part of town all but ensures a ninety percent likeliness of you being murdered in there. This is to say nothing of the long line of outhouses at outdoor festivals that are like mini death sentences unto themselves. Or the cacophony of a multi-stalled restroom, where the shyest of bladders suffer the most. Never do a shopping mall bathroom, especially not the ones attached to the food court. The toilet seats will be drenched in other people’s pee to the point that you will be forced to assume that adult mall shoppers (and they are a breed of their own, really) have mostly never been potty trained.
At least we have Starbucks?