The last thing, the very last thing, I do before I travel is pee. Even if I don't have to, even if I have to wring the bladder out, even if I haven't had a tea in a couple of hours, I go pee. I'm over sixty, I'm a wheelchair user who travels strapped to the floor of a van. I go pee. When we left Harrisburg to make the drive home, I did the deed, because it's ritual but also because I'd just done a lecture and I'd had a cup of tea, taken in quick sips, as I talked.
We got to the van, got me in, strapped me down, loaded the van with luggage and bags and bags of stuff from shopping. About three hours in to the trip I began to suspect that I wasn't going to make the full seven hours home without stopping at a 'rest stop' which is just a nice way of saying 'pee palace.' Our route took us through a lot of countryside so I just had to focus on something else.
I decided to read. I read. And I read. And I read. Until my book had this wonderfully descriptive passage about the main character taking a shower. I could hear the water ... I put the book down. It wasn't helping.
I now announce to Joe that we'd best be thinking of a place to fill up the tank of the car and drain the tank of the passenger. We stopped at three places and did neither. The stations weren't accessible. I'm harsh on these, if I can't pee at your gas station, you can't put your hose in my car. I'm still OK, still in control, but getting a bit worried. I begin to sweat. I wonder if that will help.
We find a place, it's accessible, we're good, I'm dry, Joe pulls up beside a sidewalk so we can put the ramp down and I can exit. But hold on. First he has to unload all sorts of stuff before he can unlatch my chair from the floor, before I can transfer to the power chair, before I can move the power chair which is presently surrounded by stuff. The power chair is slowly released from captivity. This takes longer than you imagine. I wonder, briefly, if crying would help.
Have you ever noticed that when you are in the car and you have to pee that you're OK until you've parked and then, WHAM, you've suddenly really, desperately have to go. It's like your bladder can sense the presence of the toilet. I'm being calm. Inside I'm thinking, hurry up, hurry up, hurry up, hurry up. I see other drivers park and rush into the building. Great, there's going to be a line up. Great, great, great, and why did I drink that FREAKING tea? Finally I'm out. My chair rears up and bursts into a quick trot to the building.
There's no freaking door opener. Someone rushes by me, also over sixty, also looking like they've got water on their minds. I grab the door, I get in. I hear Joe cursing as he's trying to get everything back in the van. I look over to him, I can see the Pacific Ocean in the blue of his eyes. It's a multi stall bathroom with a row of three urinals. All the stalls are taken but the accessible one. I head to it at the same time as a young teen boy does.
I point to him saying, "new plumbing," and then to myself, "old plumbing." He lets me go first.
From strapped down to zipped up didn't take that long but it felt like eternity.
Back to the car, unload everything, get the power chair in, get the manual chair in, get strapped down, get the stuff back in. Get back on the road. Back in Canada, we figure we've got it made, we're close to home, so we stop for a Tim's Tea.
That, my friends, was a mistake.