I went to Brooklyn at the end of August to record a podcast at Slate.
Slate moved its offices from a fairly convenient location in Manhattan to a terribly inconvenient location in Brooklyn that I had been to only once before. So I plugged "Slate Magazine" into the Waze app on my phone and was off.
By the time I arrived at the destination indicated on the app, two things were apparent:
1. This was not the Slate offices.
2. I had to pee so badly that I thought I might pee my pants.
My GPS app had brought me to a blighted section of Brooklyn featuring razor wire, graffiti, boarded-up buildings, and not a single person walking the streets. But I assumed that I was close to my destination. Perhaps a block or two away, so when I saw all the free parking spots on the street, I took one, thinking it would be a five minute walk at best to Slate.
I also had to pee so badly that I couldn't stand the thought of driving around to find the place. Even if I had to walk a little ways, I assumed that I could find a place to pee on the way.
Boy was I wrong. When I emerged from the side street onto the main thoroughfare, I saw a single gas station and block after block of empty buildings, chainlink fences, and walls. Not a retail establishment, restaurant, or coffee shop to be seen.
I waddled to the gas station. It was my only hope.
When I entered, I saw a woman speaking to the gas station attendant, who was standing behind nine inches of glass. I also saw a small door marked restroom behind the glass as well.
I waited patiently for the woman and the attendant to finish their conversation, but when it became apparent that it might never end, I interjected.
"Excuse me. Could I use your restroom. I'll buy stuff if I can. Lots of stuff."
The attendant replied, " It's out of order."
"Out of order?" I asked. "Then how do you pee? Or where do you pee?"
"It's out of order," he repeated.
"Yes, but you must pee, I said. Where does that happen?"
"Sir, there's no bathroom here."
"But there must be," I said, "You can't go all day without peeing."
"He said there's no restroom," the woman shot back at me. "Leave him alone."
I would've loved to have engaged further with this woman, but realizing that I was not going to be able to use a restroom here and knowing how dire my situation was becoming, I left.
I stood outside the gas station, just a week after US Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte got in trouble for (among other things) peeing on a gas station in Brazil and wondered if I was about to do the same thing. There was no place to pee anywhere, and not a single tree or area of concealment to be seen.
Then I looked across the street and saw them. Three thin saplings. A tiny stand of trees. All that I needed to pee.
The only problem: The trees were standing just inside the entrance to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, an imposing brick entrance festooned with a guard shack and a sentry. There was no way I was going to slip through that entrance and make it to the saplings without being seen.
Then I caught a bit of good luck. A delivery truck pulled into the Navy Yard and stopped at the sentry post, creating a barrier between the sentry and the saplings. If the truck remained in place long enough, I could duck into the entrance of the Navy Yard and into the trees unseen.
There was no way the guard wasn't going to see me emerge from the stand of trees a minute or two later, but that was a problem to solve after I had relieved myself.
I went for it. I ran as fast as possible with a bursting bladder across the road and through the large gates of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, veering off after about 15 feet into the trees. I could barely contain my bladder for a second more. As soon as I was secreted behind the stand of trees, I peed onto the vine-covered brick wall, keeping the trees between me and the sentry.
One of the happiest moments of my life.
When I finished, the truck was gone. I emerged from the stand of trees and was immediately spotted by the sentry, he rose from his seat. I tried to look confused, held up my phone as if to imply it had misled me (which it originally did), and exited the Brooklyn Navy Yard while offering gestures of confusion and apology.
The sentry appeared annoyed but allowed me to pass without comment.
A few minutes later, after speaking to a Slate producer on my phone, I began the 25 minute walk to Slate in the 90 degree heat rather than driving my car closer to the offices, which turned out to be a terrible decision.
But it gave me time to ponder this:
Had I been a woman, I would've been in a lot of trouble. A woman could not have peed in that fairly exposed location behind those tiny trees. A guy needs the smallest sliver of privacy in order to pee. Essentially, a man need only to turn his back in order to avoid exposing himself while peeing, whereas women require a hell of a lot more privacy.
Then I thought about all the times I have peed against trees while playing golf. All the times I have stepped off a trail while hiking or hopped off my bike to pee a step or two into the woods. All the times I have disappeared into a stand of trees a a park to pee. All the portable toilets in the parking lots of Gillette Stadium where I am able to pee without touching a single thing other than my pants.
Men have it good.
We have it very, very good.
I found enormous sympathy for womankind on that walk to Slate, realizing that had I been a woman, I I might well have peed my pants.
There are solutions to this problem for women, including devices like the GoGirl, which comes in a lovely shade of lavender, but the image of a woman holding a GoGirl against her groin as she pees seems even less discreet than a woman dropping trow in order to pee.
It's also bizarre. Rachel, my Boy vs. Girl podcast co-host, has agreed to give one a try.
I also thought that the Brooklyn Navy Yard is not nearly secure enough for my liking. Had I had been an evil doer with more nefarious purposes, I wonder how much damage I could've done had I been armed with more than a full bladder.