Sometimes holding it in is the worst option

Some of my most uncomfortable memories of childhood stem from being placed on hold. Not by a telephone operator or phone tree system, but a certain someone or circumstances that required my bladder be placed on hold.

We’ve all heard of someone who really knows how to hold his liquor, well I am someone who really knows how to hold my liquid. Given my druthers (whatever they are), I would not voluntarily hold back anything. It’s just not my nature. However, childhood conditioning taught me I could wait a good long time for relief.

My first recollection of being in a holding pattern was as a pre-schooler on cattle trucking trips with my father. He and his friends would load up cattle in a stock trailer and drive for what seemed like days without stopping. It was probably only an hour away, but each bump the marginally-shock-absorbed vehicle encountered accelerated the speed and pressure at which substances needed to exit my body.

When my father was in charge, he wasn’t as conscious as my mother at reducing pre-travel fluid intake and mandating I use the bathroom prior to our departure. Had Dad insisted I “go” before we went, I probably would have lied and said I didn’t have to go.

That might even have been the truth, in which case he wouldn’t have known to insist (as my mother recognized was necessary), that I “go anyway.” It’s laughable now, but back then, I believed it possible to urinate in advance of actually having anything to void. But alas, that was back when I still believed in Santa Claus and the grown-ups.

On long family road trips with my father driving, I had no choice but to sit in cross-legged agony for millions of miles between rest areas. I’d suffer in agonizing silence rather than having to hear Dad’s voice boom, “What do you mean you need to pee again?! I thought you took care of that for the day three states ago.”

What would happen if we went over a bump and my bladder actually burst? That could happen. The backseat would have been instantly awash with my failed good intention retentions. Or what if I miscalculated during my experiment of trying to relax my lower torso slightly in an effort to expand my bladder capacity?

Given my early training, I thought I was good to go, or rather to not “go” a couple of weeks ago. I’d had water and coffee prior to church, then driven 27 miles to church, where I partook of communion wine, followed by coffee to wash down a post-service cookie. After church, I swung through a McDonald’s drive-thru for a large diet soda before hitting the road 40 miles in a different direction.

Halfway through with my beverage, I began feeling the need to void, a slow-registering awareness of increasing fullness. But my goal was to avoid stopping anywhere, so I blared the car radio. Hey, if the technique helps with car repair sound denial, it might work for full bladder denial, too.

Ignoring my pressing bladder needs, I pulled into a parking spot at my destination, the hair salon equivalent of a fast food restaurant. I gingerly unfastened my seatbelt, careful not to add to the growing pressure that had backed up to my kidneys. There better not be anyone ahead of me!

The 10-minute wait promised by the receptionist turned into 30. At 25 minutes, I asked if I could use the restroom, only to be told it wasn’t working. When it was my turn, I got up as delicately as I could and tiptoed to the stylist’s chair, sitting down carefully to avoid splattering.

Chatty and perfectionistic, the stylist took her sweet time. I didn’t hear a word she said, as my mind was focused on my increasing bloatedness and the trouble I was going to have getting out of the chair. When she finished, I used a very flat comb to retrieve payment from my pocket.

“What do you know,” the receptionist announced. “The restroom’s back working.” I trudged pathetically in its direction, not caring, for once, if it were dirty or out of toilet paper. No more holding it in.


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