I had an ultrasound last week.
My preparation for it was according to strict instructions. I had to empty my bladder at a certain time, then drink a litre of water in half an hour, then keep it all inside for another hour, before driving 15 minutes to the radiologists. Where I knew that they would press upon my very full bladder to take a good look at what was going on inside.
What could possibly go wrong?
I did everything by the book. Such precision is way out of character for me. If I have regular toilet practices then I don’t know about them. I reckon I am wanton when it comes to peeing. I pee when I like. That’s one advantage of being a writer who works from home. It may be the only advantage, actually, but it’s one that I treasure. On this occasion, however, I wanted to get it right. Let’s say my life depended on it. So, at precisely 1.15pm I emptied my bladder. Now, I’m not sure what actually means. Does emptying one’s bladder require one pee or more? Should you have one pee, wait five minutes, then have another … or should you just do one long one? Do you stand there dribbling, for example, until there’s nothing left to squeeze out? I don’t know. No one’s ever told me. It’s not something you’re taught at school. In the absence of knowing for sure, I did the one standard pee. Then I drank a litre of water. This had to be completed by 1.45pm. I almost missed this deadline because I got stuck watching CNN and before I knew it I had five minutes to go and a pint left to drink. I got it in there just in time. I felt like a balloon. Then the hardest part—sitting around, waiting for the appointment, knowing that I wasn’t allowed to go to the toilet until after my ultrasound.
Ordinarily, this would be no problem for me. I’m as good at holding my pee as I am at holding my breath underwater (except longer, of curse). The problem is that when someone says you can’t go, suddenly it’s all you want to do. It’s no exaggeration to say that by 1.50pm I was busting. I did some mind over matter stuff, said a prayer, did a Headspace session, and by 2.15pm had convinced myself I wasn’t busting at all, that it was all in my mind.
I was wrong. It wasn’t all in my mind at all. It was in my bladder. And it wanted to come out.
I got in the car at 2.30pm. My appointment was at 2.45pm. I needed to hold on for just another 15 minutes. Then it occurred to me—it wasn’t just 15 minutes. What if the radiologist was late, and I was sitting around for 10 minutes more? Fifteen minutes? I knew I was in trouble. By the time I hit the motorway, my leg was jiggling and I was squirming in my seat. I knew that if the worst happened, I could just let go as I was driving and then head back home and reschedule. Then shower. I was determined not to let that happen, however, because it’s winter and the driver’s seat would take days to dry. I had to make it without pissing my pants. Which is kind of a rule in our house anyway.
At this point, I should say something about my belt—because it’s the belt that makes all the difference. Two weeks ago my belt broke and I bought a new one. Standing in the shop, I was confronted with a choice between two nice leather belts—one for $60, one for $30. I normally would have chosen the more expensive one because, as we all know, if it costs more it’s better. However, in this case the $30 belt had the words Heavy Duty on the label, and in all honesty it was the chunkiest, strongest belt I’d ever held. This is the one that I bought. It turned out to be a very bad mistake. It was precisely because of the belt’s overly-chunky nature that as I drove to my appointment the force applied to my bladder was nothing short of CIA torture. It was like wringing water from a sponge. I was sure I was about to burst.
Two options occurred to me. One, I would park outside the radiologist’s but run into McDonalds and relieve myself there, then ostensibly lie to the radiologist about how much pee was still in my bladder. Two, I would run into the radiologist’s and ask for the toilet immediately. In this case I would also lie to the radiologist.
I decided on the latter.
Was there a queue at the reception? Of course there was. I had not anticipated this, and I almost dropped my load there and then. I am not a man who is given to holding himself in public, but I did so on this occasion. It was a medical facility after all, so I assumed I would not be the first grown man to have stood in the reception area holding his willy like an excited boy. By the time the receptionist greeted me and given me directions to the toilet, it was already occupied. This was turning into a nightmare.
‘Excuse me,’ I said to the receptionist. She looked at me strangely. I suppose my eyes were bloodshot. ‘Is there possibly another toilet?’
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Down that corridor, to the left.’
I waddled there immediately, undid my torturous belt, and let it all out. It’s fair to say a racehorse could not have made a louder sound.
I exited the toilet after washing my hands, and saw that a middle aged woman was standing in a darkened examination room just opposite, watching me disapprovingly. Had I used her personal toilet? Had she been disturbed by the sound of gushing waters? I didn’t care. I was a relieved man. I returned to the waiting room.
Not a minute later, that same middle aged woman came out to the waiting room and called my name.
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Here I am.’
I followed her to the examination room.
‘Have you just relieved yourself?’ she said, as I sat upon the bed.
‘No,’ I said. Then I said, ‘Yes.’
I have rarely felt so small.
‘What a pity,’ she said, like I had just given away a chest of gold.
‘I’m so sorry,’ I said, feeling genuinely remorseful. ‘But I couldn’t hold on a minute longer. Just look at the thickness of this belt.’
I had an ultrasound last week.