Years ago, I edited a computer programmer’s magazine (Visual C++ Developers Journal, to which I’m sure all of you subscribed). The publisher was based in California, but I worked remotely, subletting an office from a real estate agent.
Since I worked remotely, I was on the phone almost constantly. Talking to authors. Talking to editors. Talking to layout. Talking to the publisher.
Talking, talking, talking.
At the time, I was training very seriously, and was trying to get down to racing weight (i.e., the weight at which my knees no longer squoosh into my belly on the upstroke).
Now, any time I want to get serious about losing weight, drinking water becomes a huge part of my day. Even at work, I’ll keep a couple water bottles at my desk, drinking one bottle per hour or so.
I’m not absolutely certain why constantly drinking water is so effective at bringing your weight down (also, I’m not interested, so please don’t email me with links to informative articles), but I know that it works.
As I would drink, I would — naturally — need to pee. And I’m not talking about needing to pee once every couple hours. Nor am I talking about needing to pee once per hour. I’m talking about needing to pee pretty much all the time.
I remember, for example, finishing up once, cleaning up, and returning to my seat…and getting the first glimpse of that special "it’s go time" twinge as I sat down.
In fact, I have — more than once — contemplated whether it might be possible, if I were to drink just a smidgen more, to both drink and pee at a constant rate, nonstop.
Someone, please try this and get back to me on how it turns out.
The Importance of Good Planning
I don’t need to tell you that if you’re a habitual water drinker and you’re going to be in ninety-minute meeting, you’ve got to take steps. Specifically:
- Taper off on the drinking an hour before the meeting.
- Go use the restroom just before the meeting, even if you don’t really feel like you need to.
(Mildly creepy aside here: At the time, Dug and I worked in the same office — he worked for the same publishing company as I did — and he was also working hard to be a well-hydrated cyclist. As a result, you could always tell when we both were on the same conference call: we’d both be in the bathroom three minutes before the meeting started.)
Sometimes, though, I forgot. And when that happened, meetings seemed to go longer.
And time seemed to slow. Then stop.
Then reverse itself and go backwards.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with excusing yourself from a meeting for a moment for a "bio break," as we euphemized it.
On the other hand, it feels distinctly awkward when you have to excuse yourself to pee for the third time that hour.
And then there was the fateful day where I got a phone call from the president of the company.
It was unexpected, and it was urgent. I put on my headset and settled in.
But, without thinking, I just kept on drinking.
Ten minutes into the call, I realized I had nervously drunk a whole bottle of water since picking up the phone.
Fifteen minutes into the call, I needed to pee. But this wasn’t the kind of call you take a break from. Nosirree.
25 minutes into the call, I needed to pee, bad.
And 35 minutes into the call, I determined it was time to make a new, novel use of one of my water bottles.
I drew the blinds closed, waited until I could tell I wouldn’t need to talk for at least a minute, then put my phone on mute, unscrewed the top of my least-favorite bottle, and made additional preparations, which I shall mercifully not describe here.
I immediately felt three sensations:
- Exquisite relief. I don’t believe I need to explain this sensation, nor why I felt it.
- Strangeness. The knowledge that I was peeing while my boss yelled at me about my inability to ask relevant followup questions in interviews was peculiar, to put it mildly.
- Warmth. The water bottle was — not surprisingly, I suppose — quite warm after I was finished.
I was then able to return to the business at hand — mainly, being trashed by my employer. But it didn’t seem so bad, anymore. I felt calm. At peace. And above all: relieved.
However, my former employer had more to say. And he did. At length.
By the time he was finished, I had rendered both the bottles on my desk unfit for any use but one from that point forward — and an "X" drawn with a sharpie on each of those bottles made it clear what those bottles were exclusively for.
And as I finished filling the second bottle, I had a new problem.
I was not finished.
At which point I learned something I had always wondered about, but had not — until that moment — tested. Specifically: It is, in fact, possible to stop peeing before you’re done. And the relief, while partial, is still measurable.
I’ll take my Nobel prize money in cash, thanks.
To this day, I wonder what I would have done if my boss had not finished his call five minutes later.