Thursday, April 19, 2018

When Adapting Fails, Epically

Oh, Dave. Dave, Dave, Dave. That’s sort of what the voice in my head was saying, along with maybe a few curse words, when I was trying to pee … in public, in broad daylight, in front of dozens of people. Let me explain.

Multiple sclerosis forces those with the disease to adapt as it progresses, to bob and weave around new disabilities, learning new tricks. Recently I had come up with a brilliant one to overcome a common and vexing problem. How to pee on long bike rides when a bathroom wasn’t an option.

In the past, I did what guys do on long rides: find a tree. But as my legs have gotten weaker in the dozen years I’ve had this disease, I’ve had to make changes. Avoid morning rides when my bladder tends to be most feisty, limit cycling excursions to a couple hours, and wear adult protection for emergencies (just in case). This worked okay-ish. But that MS potty pressure—and if you have this disease you almost certainly know what I am talking about—wasn’t going to go away and trying to jump off my trike when the urgency flag was flying had been getting harder, especially with an overheated body due to heavy exercise. What to do?

What my grandpa did when he needed a bathroom break flying B-17s in WWII: pee in a tube. Brilliant! Why hadn’t I thought of that earlier? A quick shopping spree on Amazon got me totally set up: condom catheter and tubing. (Yes, I realize this is a guy solution, but the SHEWEE does exist for women, although for obvious reasons I have not tested this.)

I know what you are thinking. What could go wrong? Other than EVERYTHING. But you would be wrong. It was stealthy, comfortable, and totally stress reducing. Indeed, my maiden voyage was going so well that at one point on the trail I thought I was in a dreamy fairy tale. Running into Rapunzel—yes that Rapunzel, the one with the long hair—will do that to you. Surreal doesn’t begin to describe the experience. (And yes, I did not miss the opportunity to make a lame joke about how long it took to wash her tresses.)

But minutes after our brief encounter, things turned, ahem, hairy. I had to go. Worse, my urgency situation had become rather, er, tangled. I had tucked the tubing deep into my shorts and extracting it meant some rather noticeable (and panicked) hunting in the groin area. Worse, I had just pulled into the MOST public section of the trail. On arguably the NICEST Sunday of the year. Lordy. Bikers, joggers, walkers, dog walkers, picnickers, kids, grandkids, great grandkids, people wandering aimlessly in my immediate vicinity for no discernable reason whatsoever, the works.

Deep breath, Dave. The now-unkinked tube is rather hidden, Dave. No one is looking, Dave, especially with you looking totally nonchalant drinking out of your water bottle, which would explain any puddling. Dave, just channel the theme song from another fairy tale, Frozen. Let it go, let it go, can’t hold it back anymore, let it go. Sing with me now, Dave, you know the lyrics.

Okay, it was a good idea in theory. Stage fright, performance anxiety, tinkle trepidation, call it what it you want. “It looks like you spilled a tiny bit of your Caprisun after you tried to jam in the straw and it broke.” Laura was unimpressed with my efforts and was tired of waiting for the crowds to dissipate given that it was midafternoon and hours from nightfall, so my maiden voyage ended with only limited success.

I’ll try again. I’ll keep adapting. When you have a disease like multiple sclerosis, you have to keep adapting, coming up with new solutions when old ones no longer work. That’s life with a disease. But if you see me pulled off on the side of the bike trail sipping water and looking forlornly into the distance as if I was trying to remember the words to an Idina Menzel song, maaaybe don’t stop to say hi.