Wednesday, January 28, 2009

To Pee, Or Not To Pee

I was going into the city to audition for a talkshow which I found on Craigslist. Every so often I suffer a grand career crisis (usually precipitated by hearing one of my successful ibanking friends discuss how iphones are actually more trouble than they're iworth,) in which I see my ipenniless life flash before my own ieyes. 

I am scrounging around in some imaginary dumpster funneling old tuna can drippings into an empty coffee cup when I come to, and when I come to I'm in one of two places: scouring facebook for pictures of people who I didn't like in highschool whom I secretly hope will fail miserably right along with me, or scouring Craigslist for the perfect dream job which has simply eluded me until now. It's going to have flexible hours and great health insurance, and I'll get to play with kittens and babies and make music and blow bubbles and rate gourmet chocolate on a scale of delicious to super delicious and drink morning mimosas. All I have to do is find it.

I found a link asking for college students to talk about problems. I've got plenty of problems and used to go to college, so I felt I was qualified and wrote as much in an email. Cut to a few days later when I'm sitting in front of a green screen being interviewed by Andrew WK for an Adult Swim talkshow. For those of you who aren't unemployed men aged 18-25 who enjoy ironic heavy metal or absurdist stoner humor, Andrew WK is a rocker and Adult Swim is a block of adult-themed late-night shows on Cartoon Network. He's a fascinating guy and it's a great channel, but don't worry too much about that because this story has not very much to do with either.

This story has everything to do with pee. Don't get too excited though- this is an ordinary sort of pee which was used in an ordinary sort of way, and the only thing to note about this catalystic pee is that it was the cause of my being locked in a 4x6x8 metal box for the better part of 10 minutes which felt like the worst part of 10 years. 

I was on my way to NYC on the trusty Metro North train line, which was (predictably) running a little bit late, and I knew I'd have to hop off and use the patented pissed-off-NewYorker-elbow to jab my way through crowds of commuters and down to the subway in time to make my interview, so I decided I'd save some time and pee on the train.

I don't like to pee on the train. It feels a lot like those weird Japanese gameshows which are equal parts humiliation and extremely random useless talent, like that guy who can traverse half-inch-thick  greased zigzagging platforms while walking on his hands... I'm not quite that talented, but I was pretty proud of how well I managed to balance precariously above a toxic train toilet seat whilst making sure neither my coat, scarf, sweater, or bag touched any part of the inside of the train bathroom, whilst also managing the annoying details of tights, skirts, zippers, and tasteful lip-gloss reapplication. I was pleased as punch with the whole endeavor until I left. Or rather, tried to leave. 

I was locked in. Fuck. I was locked in a metal urine coffin speeding down the tracks and nobody would hear my screams. I tried to stay calm. I fiddled and banged and pulled, but the damn door didn't budge. Eventually a nice woman must have heard me descending into panic because I heard another voice on the other side of the door encouraging me to pull, and although a voice inside me screamed (don't you think I've been trying that alreadyyyyyyyyy?!) I was very grateful to know that at least I wouldn't be abandoned for all eternity. At least one person knew I was here. Maybe she'd leave a stone outside the door with a carving of my name so that when the moon men of the future did an archaeological dig of the innards of Old New York they would find an ode to me encased in my locomotive lavatory restingplace. 

I tried to breath deep and eventually a surly conductor got me out. I thanked the woman who had kept me company through the ordeal and it turned out she was a smart young brunette commuter who worked in entertainment. She was lovely and funny. We exchanged business cards. 

After my second interview on the following day I grabbed Chinese food with a friend. Soup dumplings to die for. Fantastic. But as I left Grand Central to go home I realized I had left a bag at the restaurant. Shit. 

So back to the city I go for the taping of the show this afternoon, and for the hopeful retrieval of said bag. I want to avoid any pee mishaps so right before I leave I make sure to pee at home, but the snowstorm from last night had slowed traffic to a halt and so my impromptu pee forces me to catch a later train. I'm going to be late again. Shit.

I get a textmessage as I step onto the platform. "Did you just get onto the 12:30 to Grand Central?" 

Supercreepy. I am searching for mace, and have a firm grip on the stupid lipgloss when I get tapped on the shoulder by one of my dearest childhood friends who I haven't spoken to in too many years. We've been exchanging phonecalls and facebook niceties for a while, and I've always intended to reconnect with her but just hadn't gotten around to it. Well my bladder had other plans. We spent the entire train ride catching up, sharing our philosophies on life and education, and commiserating about the uniquely sweet horror of regressing back into a 15 year old when you don't have enough money to move out of your parent's house after college. 

Every now and then I am overcome by something very powerful. It's kind of a surge of sentiment, a bolt of illumination, but it's not simply feeling or knowing. It's a feeling that I know something... I have no idea what it is, but I know it powerfully. And it's a knowledge that I am feeling something powerful- I'm not pondering poetry or arithmetic, I'm not hoping that my party chitchat is engaging, I'm not trying to figure out whether I'm in a pissy mood because of my brother's incessant banjo-ing or my own laziness, I'm just riding out the wave of a very powerful feeling.

(Act I finale, 8 part harmony, all parts awesomeness.)

I felt this way when I first read the first chapter of my first Tom Robbins, the first time I saw the finale of the first act of Les Mis on Broadway, the first time I kissed my first boyfriend in my highschool's photography darkroom, the first time I shopped the Yale playwrighting class which would shape my destiny as a writer. It's not always in profound circumstances- sometimes I'm just sitting around a campfire with friends or typing a particularly ******** word, (******** meaning exactly whatever you think it means.) 

After 8 years of having our respective circumstances get in the way of what was once a very close friendship, we picked up right where we had left off, and after spending the entire train ride into NY chatting and laughing and finding commonalities in our lives despite the fact they had strayed so far apart, I got this feeling, this powerful feeling, and I burst into tears. 

This feeling usually elicits a buoyant tingly awe, it makes me want to shout or smile and sing or listen and hold up and close my eyes... it's rather amorphous and very difficult to verbalize because it's different for every circumstance and yet always fundamentally the same. Familiar and powerful. There's nothing sad about it, but I think the best way my body knows how to express it is with an explosion of sorts, and I'm glad my body chose a little bit of misty-eyed-ness because it wouldn't be very convenient to burst into a sneezing orgasm every time I was moved.

I have learned to listen to this feeling. It is a completely unpredictable, perfectly attuned personal compass which has never led me astray. I don't know if or how it was conspiring with my bladder that morning, but I do know that I am grateful for the serendipitous circumstances which led me back to this old friend. Turns out I missed her much more than I ever realized.

So down to Chinatown I run for the taping, I make it out just in time to return to the yummy soup dumpling restaurant which had my bag. I was trying not to freak out about it, but even once I retrieved it I was a little peeved to have had to go out of my way in the disgusting slush to pick up something I had left behind.

After four hours of taping I had downed a full bottle of water and made it to Grand Central just in time for another pee dilemma- pee leisurely, or miss the express train? I go for the first option but I grumble about it. I'm cold and tired and poor. I'm cranky and I let a very good friend slip away for 8 years. I'm hungry. I pee.

I pee in the bathroom of the Oyster Bar. I'm really hesitant to reveal this hot tip because it's one of my all-time favorite commuter secrets, but since we're all friends here I expect you will only use it for the powers of good. Across from the bookstore in front of the entrance to the Shuttle train is the back entrance of the Oyster Bar, and if you're not in the mood for some mean clam chowder, but you are in the mood for some peaceful pee time, you can sneak into the back entrance, march down the stairs like you own the place, turn right, and enjoy the luxuriously appointed toilets of the non-commuter. There's double ply toilet paper, no icky puddles of stickiness, and even complimentary Q-tips. 

I relax a bit. I relax a bit too much because I'm about to miss another stupid train, and I scurry into the last seat on the train just in time. After debating the merits of a rubric grading system with a grumpy teacher in a Cosby sweater, I am introduced to the head of a program called PubliColor, which is a nonprofit. They go into public schools work with kids to paint dreary walls into works of art, they have mentorship and tutoring programs, college prep, workshops, etc. etc. It's basically just an allaround good organization which helps at-risk kids feel empowered. We exchanged cards and ideas about educational philosophy. I felt the feeling. I plan to do a writing workshop there soon. 

(PubliColor Project)

And this made me think about our education efforts recently. If you haven't already seen, every single one of the projects we focused on in my last post have been fully funded. Four classrooms across the country have been changed forever thanks to a little bit of good will. Kudos and thanks. 

But our work is not done- I'll keep you posted on PubliColor and I do hope you will let me know about other unique service opportunities in your areas. A lot of people don't have money to spare, but everybody has a few minutes, and if inadvertent urination can lead to so many small revelations and happy serendipities, just think what some focused attention will reap! 

Which is to say, pay attention to the feeling and always keep your eyes open for the best of a locked door or a lost bag, because with every missed train arrives something found. You just haven't found it yet. 

Pay extra close attention to the feeling this week folks. I have a good feeling about it. It's as obvious as the call of nature when you're paying close attention, and whether it is the crackle of a crease in the very universe unfolding before you, or simply too much beer, is entirely up to you. 

Keep me posted. 

Much Love,


  1. Unfolding universes and opportunities to drink too much beer have merit in equal measure in my life at the moment.

    Phrase of the week: I was locked in a metal urine coffin...

  2. "It's going to have flexible hours and great health insurance, and I'll get to play with kittens and babies and make music and blow bubbles and rate gourmet chocolate on a scale of delicious to super delicious and drink morning mimosas." Martha Stewart on Crack could be fun to watch. I say pitch it.

  3. OMG.. Laughing at the blogpost and the fact that you were going to be interview with Andrew WK. I just took my 13 year old and his friends to see him at the Crazy Donkey in Farmingdale a few weeks back and I have never quite seen anything like it. I wonder, is he normal in private?

    As the the metal urine coffin... I completely agree, and will only use the bathroom on the train when my head is about to explode or I know I will pee in my pants if I wait, and what fun would that be if I smelled like 8th avenue and 38th street did in the days of yore.

    Thanks for the smiles!

  4. I'm glad to hear that it's not just me. I've had a handful of those moments when all is right with the world and you can actually feel your own destiny. Thanks for the heads up. I'll be extra attentive to it.
    -Mike R.

  5. I know what kind of misty-eyed feeling you're talking about.

    and ah, the peeing dilemmas... :P

  6. Loved to read your to pee or not to pee post-- I'm a frequent pee-er myself and I've definitely had my share of pee interfering with life moments. Don't think I've ever gotten stuck in a bathroom though! ahhhhh I would have freaked!

  7. Huzzah for synchronocities. Boo for having to pee in New York.

  8. You're an amazing writer, Hannah. Seriously. Your voice just sparkles (in a good way, LOL)

    I'm looking for the same kind of job you are. I read a parable about luck today that really echoes your post. Just ever know where you'll find your miracle. :)

  9. I've noticed after reading several of your posts that you are in a financial debt. Is it because of the price of your education or just that you don't have a very lucrative job.

  10. "Which is to say, pay attention to the feeling and always keep your eyes open for the best of a locked door or a lost bag, because with every missed train arrives something found. You just haven't found it yet."

    Great line and great post!

  11. LMAO, I cannot believe you actually got locked in the train bathroom, I'm sorry but that's hilarious. Anyway, the post is great, I can't wait to see your book published. It'll be hours of laughing for me, yay.

  12. Wow, followed your link from youtube. Razor wit, talented writer/composer, beautiful and can sing too. Is there any hope for the rest of us? Alas no.

  13. Hannah...Hannah...Hannah.... I don't know how often you receive messages from the dead. This could be a first for you so I'll give a brief explanation of how this is possible. On this side of the " Big Door" things go on just as they did in the world as you know it. Same people same pot bellies and bad breath, etc. and absolutely no clue that anything has changed. If you die at three or eighty, in your world that is it....bye bye; but here we keep on ticking as if nothing happened. The is synchronicity in our universe and the life continues for eternity. Fortunately or unfortunately you are stick with yourself for a long ass time.

    At the 100 year anniversary of your human existence you receive one credit called a "credit communicado" which you can use or bank for the future. This enables you to contact the living for one human hour in any form you desire. This is really neat for people who died before the twentieth century and before the internet. I for instance recently had my first credit and decided to bank mine because I had not worked up a list of who I wanted to haunt the most. Then it happened by accident. I was surfing the web and watched your You Tube video of my song " Falling in Love with Love" and I nearly died again. When I say my song I can only take credit for the Lyrics. My partner Dick(head) Rodgers wrote the music. You have no idea how miserable i was during the years with him. I tried to break it off but was always conned by him or Dorothy to try it again.
    Anyway, I digress, so let me finish this up. I will play this for Dick and he will have a massive stroke( Yes- if you are a Jew you can still have a stroke or heart attack on this side). He thought his doodoo didn't stink if you get my drift and would die a million deaths if he didn't like any minuscule changes to his music. The lyrics he couldn't give two shits about.

    Thank you sooooo much for bringing a smile to one so dead.


    Larry Hart