I had to go to the bathroom. Not a delicate ladylike bathroom experience either. Serious bathroom time. I was sitting in the passenger seat of the truck while Mancandy was driving through New Orleans traffic. After noticing my quiet concentration he asked what the problem was. I said the only possible lie I could think of that might not come back to bite me. I had to pee. That’s more socially acceptable than what needed to occur. He asked if I wanted to stop at one of the many gas stations we were passing on our way downtown. I did not want to stop at a gas station, but I was well aware driving all the way back to the west bank hotel was not an option. I decided to think positively. Sometimes when you have this type of situation the cramps will go away.
This was not to be one of those times.
I tried desperately to come up with a plan. We were meeting a friend that Mancandy knew from high school. There were drinks involved. I assumed we would be going to a nicer bar, or at least not the typical bourbon street bar. There would probably be a restroom. I could disappear for a minute and while they were busy chatting they wouldn’t notice the length of my departure. I felt this was a solid plan.
Until the cramps became true pain.
The real pain hit while we were parking in my favorite little lot on Canal Street, next to a tourist booth and across from the Audubon Insectarium. If you haven’t been to the Audubon experience in New Orleans you are doing yourself a disservice. I took the kids I was teaching in Hattiesburg MS down to the New Orleans Zoo several years ago. A few tried to sneak off to see boobs on bourbon street and one managed to simultaneously mortify me and flabbergast the parents and children around us by recalling an anatomy lesson about bird genitalia in front of the flamingo exhibit (located at the front of the zoo with a huge amount of foot traffic). What they lacked in understanding the distance between the zoo and bourbon street they also lacked in social grace.
While walking through the little side streets toward the French market this was the first time in my various walking trips through New Orleans that I was not focused on food. I love food. I especially love NOLA food. I will stuff myself silly with something delicious and immediately begin looking at my next option. There is no shame. It’s New Orleans. The food is to die for. This day, food held no interest, but dying did. Walking is great for seeing the sites and staying fit, but not so great for holding certain bodily functions. A few blocks in I was desperate and heading toward sweaty. Mancandy was obviously perplexed. I claimed I was fine, just had to pee when we got to a decent bathroom, but I was walking like a penguin and couldn’t speak coherently.
I analyzed every building with the singular purpose of finding a spot that wouldn’t harass me when I darted into the restroom, but would also not have a large audience. I may be desperate, but some things are done, with shame, in private.
As we’re wandering and I’m squeezing his hand so tight I rivaled a woman in labor, I see a sign for a coffee shop hanging above the entrance several blocks away. We’re still far enough from Bourbon that they might have a public restroom, but I doubt it’s available unless you make a purchase. We’re on our way to get drinks with a Mancandy friend. I can’t think of any good excuse to go in.
Two blocks away the cramps gear up to soul eating level. I’m sweating and twitching like a horse after a hard workout. My legs are shaking. I’m taking shallow breaths. I contemplate death as a suitable option but I know what happens when a body dies and it would defeat the purpose. I no longer care about excuses.
One block away tourists step in front of us to use the crosswalk to our left. They are a large group that appears to be a family that is in no hurry and has no consideration for the flow of traffic. I plow through them like a bowling ball headed for pins. I aim for the largest in the group hoping I don’t actually knock someone into traffic but not caring enough to slow down. They scatter and I lose my death grip on Mancandy’s hand in the aftermath. I could hear him apologizing and jogging to catch up. I’d have run if I could, but that was simply not an option.
When he catches up and stares at me perplexed I blurt out in something akin to a shout with no pauses “WE’RE GETTING COFFEE RIGHT NOW I HAVE TO PEE PLEASE ORDER FOR ME I DON’T CARE WHAT SOMETHING CHOCOLATE AND SWEET THANK YOU HERE’S MY MONEY” and shove my purse at him. The dash to the back of the coffee shop was the scariest moment of the trip. New Orleans shops are often narrow but deep, and this was no exception. There were hipsters everywhere, no booths open, and the idea of both bathroom doors being locked made me want to cry. Knowing this was my only option I tried the handle of the closest door and it opened to a private little room. I then wanted to cry in relief. A clean bathroom and privacy! Heaven on earth!
Have you ever waited too long to go to the bathroom and when you see the porcelain throne you immediately have to double down on efforts not to pee on yourself? I have been working 12-hour shifts so I will forget to go until I HAVE to go and there have been a couple close calls when I’m untying the knot in my scrub pants and have issues getting it undone quickly. That was nothing compared to this. The sheer mental and physical effort needed to not relax my entire body was excruciating. I had NOT come all this way and gone through all of this suffering to have to lock myself in a bathroom in some random coffee shop and just die of embarrassment. I made it. Barely.
When I staggered out, giddy from relief at not ending it all like a poorly potty trained toddler, I’d completely forgotten the fact I’d thrown everything at Mancandy and demanded coffee. Since all the hipsters were still there (I felt the world should have changed now that I wasn’t in such dire circumstances but only a few minutes had passed) and he was standing awkwardly in the corner trying to hold my purse in a manly way and juggle a huge cup and a little dainty cup. As I walked up he handed over my purse and the giant cup. At his expression of concern, and the baffled look on his face, I redirected by asking him what he was drinking in his tiny little cup. He glared at the cup in question and showed me on the menu the option he’d chosen thinking it was a large strong coffee. Instead, it was a tiny amount of liquid and the most bitter, vile taste he’d experienced. He equated it to someone chewing coffee beans and spitting the mouthful of ooze into a cup. But he’d paid 8 bucks for it, so he was going to drink it. He’d gotten me hot chocolate. He didn’t say anything but I could tell he was sorry he hadn’t gotten that instead. So I drug him away from the hipsters and out into the street. As we walked he would take sips of his coffee bean spit and grimace. I enjoyed my hot chocolate, despite the fact I was still a little swampy from my near disaster and a hot drink was not doing me any favors.
After the millionth grimace, I offered a deal. If this incident was never spoken about between us or mentioned to others, he could use my hot chocolate to get the taste out of his mouth. He agreed. We walked off to find his friend, have a lovely chat, and go find dinner. We’ve not mentioned it since. But if anyone is stranded in NOLA in a desperate way send me a shout. There’s a lovely coffee shop full of loud machines and hipsters with a clean restroom and zero wait time.