Piddling

June 8, 2014

To pee or not to pee is not a question. Neither is it an answer. I have been peeing all my life, in public, in ratty road restrooms, in palatial bathrooms, accidentally on floors, in jars and bottles, in showers, on flowers, on scorpions.

My mother called peeing piddling. As in, “Gene, have to piddle?” The family was dirt poor when I was little, so we took cheap vacations, traveling to Texas, Arkansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Nebraska, to the homes of Mother’s many brothers and sisters. The piddle question always came up on two lane back roads. Dad would pull the car over to the shoulder, Mother would open the passenger side front and back doors, and my sister and I were expected to pee in the area between the doors. I’ve never talked to my sister about this, but I developed quite the shy bladder, trying to pee with cars and trucks driving by.

I was on a Khoury League ball team when I was twelve. Our pitcher, Joey, had the worst case of nerves you ever saw. He had to pee after every inning. His mom would escort him to the family station wagon and in would climb Joey and thirty seconds later, out would climb Joey, and I never asked him what he peed into. I wonder what the sixty-six-year-old Joey does, if his wife escorts him and he pees in his car.

My most famous pee happened in New York City, at the Broadway opening of playwright Mary Zimmerman’s “Metamorphoses.” My ex-wife had edited Mary’s play, and we were invited to attend the event. (The Off Broadway production opened on 9/11, postponed to 9/20-something.) Before the show, I walked into a men’s restroom and stepped up to a urinal. I heard footsteps behind me, and who should step up and pee to my left but the great Jerry Stiller (it’s his birthday today), all five feet of him. So I was peeing and trying to think of witty repartee, thinking I wanted to yell, “Festivus!” and careful not to look over the panel. Mr. Stiller couldn’t have looked over the panel, as it was way over his head. He finished first (me and my shy bladder) and walked out, not a word exchanged. I rejoined my wife and told her that Jerry Stiller doesn’t wash his hands after peeing, which puts him in the 62nd percentile of men.

The funniest pee I ever saw was on July 4, 1967. I and some friends were at the St. Louis Arch, for the fireworks. At least a million people were there. The men’s restrooms were tents lined with metal troughs. There would be twenty or so lines of men slowly making their way to the front. The smell was pungent and eye-tearing. I was nearing the front of my line when I saw a small black kid, maybe ten-years-old, unaccompanied, in the line to my left. The kid looked worried, as the trough was at his chin level; you could see him thinking. So he arrived at the trough, and to his right was a ginormous white man, decked out in a white, short sleeved dress shirt that draped over his corpulence. The fat man peed, the kid fumbled with his pants zipper and a fountain of pee rose up in front of him, curving to the right and onto the shirt of the fat man, held prisoner by virtue of the fact that he was in mid-pee. The fountain slowed then lowered, and the black kid zipped up and walked off, not a drop of his pee reaching the trough.

It is a male ritual to pee together. Women go to the restroom in groups, but I doubt that they pee together. The New Yorker magazine published an article about Ronald Reagan and his annual gathering of conservative pols, at his ranch in California. Reagan and Henry Kissinger and their pals apparently lined up together and peed and talked and shook their members and zipped up and decided world order.

One of my all-time favorite high school student playwrights, Kathy Bardales, wrote a fabulous comedy set in a women’s restroom at a wedding. The cast of aunties and moms and grandmas come in and out of the restroom, peeing, powdering their noses, reporting on scandals at the reception, the sexual history of the bride, the inadequacies of the groom, the alleged sluttiness of the bridesmaids, accompanied by sounds of the flushing of toilets. Hilarious.

The most famous pee scene in the movies (mainstream movies; they pee in a lot in porn movies—so I’ve been told) was Kate Winslet’s stand-up pee in “Holy Smoke,” with the great Harvey Keitel. Kate’s character hates Keitel’s character’s guts, and she walks toward him, lifts her skirt and pees, rivulets running down her bare legs. It was strangely moving—the pee, I mean, and a fascinating lesson on female anatomy. I’ve seen the film, studied the film, ten times.

I have a friend who shall remain unnamed. She had a summer house, and friends filled the place all summer long. Sometimes the people combos didn’t work so well. My friend had an opinionated daughter who was dismissive of an elderly gentleman friend, a foul-mouthed, crusty neo-conservative type. The two would clash and the verbal claws would come out. One night, the daughter told the gentleman to go fuck himself. The feisty daughter went to bed, and the even feistier elderly gentleman, who had imbibed about six scotches, walked outside to the daughter’s car, unzipped and peed all over the her car.

The town of Staunton used to have a Christmas display in the square, a crèche with representational figures of Joseph and Mary and Jesus and the wise men, all fashioned from wrought iron and decorated in folds of twinkling Christmas lights. The wise men were standing, so iron stanchions were required to hold them up, said stanchions coming out of the wise men’s mid-sections, and the rolling lights giving the appearance that the wise men were peeing. Thus, the Pissing Wise Men were born. See my story, “The Pissing Wise Men,” on eugenebaldwin.com.

I know of no pooping rituals. I bet they’re out there. There is no underestimating human behavior. But, as my organic-fetish friends would point out, it’s natural.

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