Emo voiced his rigid opinions on a widespread list of topics which reduced him to a marginally okay person to chat with. However, he became an intense downer when blithering about his home life, our job or the New Jersey taxation situation. When he went into his tirades of whining negativity, I tuned him out and assumed; he must be wrong.
One time (12 years ago), he caught me wincing when I stretched.
He said, "Are you okay?"
I responded, "I tweaked something in my back...it'll go away."
Emo said, "How old are you?"
He said, "Yeah, you're right, it'll go away. But as soon as you hit 45, little pains like that NEVER go away! AND, new problems keep popping up."
That attitude typified what I couldn't stand about him.
Since turning forty-five, I have had a series of little aches, annoyances and physical break-downs that never fully recover. It causes me to think of Emo and curse him for being right about this one thing.
One of my latest bodily restrictions that Emo was right about happened in 2007. My son Andrew and I drove to Sandusky Ohio to Cedar Point, (the number rated amusement park in the world). The drive was nearly eleven hours. Back then, my soft drink of choice was Snapple Diet Lemon Iced Tea. For our big excursion, I packed a freezer-chest full of ice and bought a case of tea.
IN MY YOUTH, MY SOFT DRINK GENESIS BEGAN WITH A LOVE FOR COCA-COLA. AS MY TASTE REFINED, I SWITCHED TO CEL-RAY UNTIL ITS LACK OF AVAILABILITY DRIFTED ME TO PEPSI-ONE. WHEN THOSE GENIUSES CHANGED THE RECIPE, DIET LEMON SNAPPLE ICED-TEA CAME INTO VOGUE. NOW, ITS DIET CHERRY PEPSI THAT KEEPS ME COMPANY ON LONELY NIGHTS.
On the long ride to Cedar Point, I wasn't clever enough to notice my acute need for more pit stops. Even worse, a few of those times, my engorged bladder forced me to sprint from the car.
The hint of a problem didn't set-in until a few months passed.
On a chilly, dank and drizzly March afternoon, I drove into Brooklyn to show my mom the mother-son , matching neck tattoo pattern, I designed for us. Coming off the Verrazano Bridge, I was glad that the Belt Parkway was smooth sailing.
The Belt was built during the Depression and its three lanes in each direction, are obsolete by today's standards for volume and speed. Additionally, wacky New York drivers cause plenty of accidents and other obstacles like; never ending construction, tons of litter and feral dogs (alive and dead) further slow commuter progress. Therefore, this tendency for unmerciful delays must be factored-in for the ten miles to my home-base, Canarsie. That's why I always stop at the Cheesequake Rest Stop, (mileage marker 123). Its the last public facilities in Jersey on the Garden State Parkway.
I cruised to the halfway point on the Belt, Ocean Parkway. Then, through the intermittent stroke of my windshield wipers, the brake lights ahead lit up like a Christmas tree. I slowed down and seconds later, I was in a bumper-to-bumper crawl.
To occupy myself and soothe my budding anxiety, I inadvisedly stuck my hand in the ice-chest and grabbed an unscheduled Snapple. I sucked the wide-mouthed bottle dry and was disappointed to learn that I had only rolled twenty feet. At times, it was so bad, I considered putting my car in park. That's when I noticed the rainwater trickling into a tiny rivulet between the highway's median and my car. For the next thirty minutes, I inched forward one mile, through Sheepshead Bay.
In the distance, I could see that there was no end to the nonsense. Nearing the Knapp Street Exit, I wanted to scoot across all three lanes to get off and take the dreaded streets. Between waffling about making this dangerous dash and switching the wipers onto a faster speed, I lost my chance. Immediately, I rued my hesitation. My seemingly poor decision was obviously worth the risk...because a tinkly, tickle from my innards screamed out; iced-tea is a diuretic!
Yes it was true, my body wasn't the lean, mean, pee-holding machine it once was. I was locked into the Belt without an oasis-like toilet in sight. I defiled Emo in my mind and cursed his old-age prophesy because my need to "go" was escalating at a higher rate of speed than my car's snail-like pace.
I saw a portable flashing highway sign that read: WARNING-KNOWN FLOOD AREA. Along side my car, the tiny river of run-off had grown to a babbling brook.
It began to pour as a U-Haul trailer with a picture of Niagara Falls on the back cut me off. Suddenly my bladder's internal meter skyrocketed towards its emergency "YELLOW" danger zone. With my wipers now on hyper-speed, I was now suffering through the early stages of MAXIMUM URINE BACK-UP (MUB). Searching for a remedy, I looked at the girth of the empty Snapple bottle and considered the logistics of driving while using it as a makeshift specimen jar. That idea was squashed when a semi hauling Evian rolled by. The trucker looked down at me and gave me a shared expression of frustration. Ahh, if he only knew...
Beyond the right shoulder was grassy meadow. With no place to hide and such slow traffic, my modesty wouldn't allow me the luxury of ending the torture there.
Up ahead, the little administration tower atop the drawbridge spanning the creek to Mill Basin was in sight. It gave me the idea to do my business in the privacy of trees on the other side. Whatever hope I had vanished as I noticed the right lane cars all merging to the middle. I was squirming in agony as a passerby strolled past on the pedestrian path.
I could now see the problem, a delivery van was stalled at the crest of the bridge. We were nearly slowed to a stop again, as cars gingerly squeezed by until they could zoom to freedom. When I was side-by-side with this disabled truck, the lettering read: D. O. T. BRIDGE MAINTENANCE. Clearly there was no evidence of official activity. To me, that meant that some jerk from the division of transportation decided to visit the drawbridge keeper. And rather than drive safely off the road and walk a quarter mile back...he...this traffic preventer and hero to the nation...didn't care that I and who knows how many other golden-eyed victims, were busting a gut.
I flew down the backside of the bridge, cut into the right lane and pulled into the shoulder as soon as the guardrail ended. The rain let-up and the sun poked through the clouds as I tapped my kidneys onto the dead weeds. I looked back and I could see the DOT driver talking on top of the bridge. I wanted to confront the selfish bastard. But I figured, he'd be gone by the time I walked back up there...so I took comfort in cursing Emo for the billionth time since turning forty-five.