Tuesday, February 21, 2006

On Peeing in the Middle of the Night

Having to pee in the middle of the night is an interesting thing. Here in the desert where you must constantly guard against dehydration even in normal life, needing to get up in the night means you are drinking sufficient water to stay hydrated, and therefore, to pee. If you don't need to get up in the night, should you worry about not having drunk enough water? Will you shrivel away during the night? When there is so little moisture in the air and after 6 months of no significant rainfall, will we all turn to potato chips that crumble to dust when someday years from now someone finds us still in our beds, and pulls back the sheets?

Do you have those dreams where something in the real world is woven seamlessly into your dream? As a child I dreamt once that I was outside playing and my mother was calling me to come in and have dinner. Turned out it was really my mother trying to wake me up for school. The neighbor's dog barking in the night that your mind efficiently incorporates into your dream as being a pack of wolves in a forest. The dream where you are desperately searching for a public restroom that is open, one that has a free stall, one that isn't suddenly in a huge open, public space. And you wake up to find it is only that your bladder is full and demanding attention.

Routinely at night I have my 3:15 pee. Nearly every night at 3:15 I wake up, look at the clock ("Yup, time for my pee') and stumble over to the bathroom. I say stumble because sometimes when I wake in the night I can't walk a straight line. I look like a drunken sailor on shore leave trying to find his land legs. Lurching from side to side, pinwheeling my arms about in the dark to avoid obstacles, I eventually fetch up short against the wall outside the bathroom, patting the door to find the doorknob and the wall to find the light switch. It is always wise for me to make certain, before retiring to bed, that the path between the bed and the bathroom is not only clear of obstacles, but clear for quite a wide area to allow for considerable wavering to and fro without incurring injury. Other times my balance wakes with me, and I glide over to the bathroom door like a homing pigeon on a wheeled track.

My bathroom - and I will tell you right here that the key to a happy marriage is separate bathrooms. Separate checking accounts are not a bad idea, but separate bathrooms are essential - my bathroom opens off of the dressing area in master bedroom. For some reason when the house was built, no one thought to put any kind of electrical outlet into the little room that houses the toilet and the shower. Certainly they figured that one wouldn't be cooking in there or taking the hair dryer into the shower, but I can tell you that it sure would be nice sometimes to have a night light. That room is dark enough - even in broad daylight - that you could close the door and develop film without fear of light leaks fogging the negatives, at night it is as dark as a tomb. And there is nothing worse, no place where one feels more vulnerable, than to be perched on the toilet with a full but rapidly emptying bladder and suddenly wonder if you are in there alone.

You know those thoughts you get in the middle of the night? Not in the sense of 'Is there another person in here with me?' Because who is going to silently break into our house, tiptoe through across the bedroom carpet to the little room, and hide there behind the shower door, waiting for 3:16 to roll around so that he can leap out and yell Boo! while wielding a large (cordless) chainsaw? No, no. One starts to think, What if the bathroom is haunted? Will I feel something cold brush up against my legs right now? What if one of those giant, hideous sewer roaches the size of a toy poodle creeps up from the city sewer lines and comes skittering out of the shower stall? Will it run up my ankle? Worse, will I inadvertently step on it when I stand up? If so, once my screams stop echoing round the hills, will my husband be able to go back to sleep?

Now, of course these kinds of contemplation of possible events only helps one to empty one's bladder all the more quickly. (Reminds me of the time when I was still working in salons, and the manicure customer arriving in her enormous truck. Her metallic gold wedgie sandal got caught under the gas pedal and she drove right over a small tree, through a chest-high, dirt-filled cement pot containing another tree, and into the bathroom wall at the front of the salon, where she could be seen through the window, sitting there with a surprised look on her face. I thought at the time that if there was anyone sitting on the toilet, this would have been quite an aid to efficiency in their process.)

But nonetheless, quickness in relief being good but not all, I searched for a night light that was battery powered. I looked in Target - and generally, if it isn't in Target, you don't really need it. I inquired at Ace Hardware, where even the helpful hardware men in the little red vests, their names embroidered sincerely over their hearts could not help me. I searched the internet via Google. No one seems to make a battery powered night light in these broad United States.

I could have simply turned on the light. You know, though, that I would never get back to sleep if I did that, had I woken myself up so rudely and so thoroughly. And my husband sleeps on that side of the bed so it would amount to a beacon suddenly flashing in his eyes, powerful enough to call in the ships at sea. The light switch is outside the room, I could not even close myself safely into the dark room and then turn on the light. Finally, after hearing my lament a friend suggested having my husband install a dimmer switch! O happy day! Now at night before I go to bed, after washing my face and doing all those end-of-the-day female maintenance things, I carefully turn the dimmer switch way down low so that when I finally make it across the room at 3:15 I can push in the dimmer button and a dull glow lights the room enough that I can sleepily pee in peace. Of course, there are still those occasions when I have forgotten to turn down the dimmer, when I press the button on the wall and a beam blasts forth through the crack of the door to hit me square in the eye like a strobe lamp. The surprise of it! It is enough to make one confess to anything. Please just don't throw the cold water on me and hit me with the jumper cables! Whatever it is, I did it!

When we first started dating, my husband was living in Wales, and I in the wilds of the American desert Southwest. We would chat late at night over the internet. I would wait up past my bedtime to see the box suddenly pop up on my computer screen with his name on top, and a big Helloooooo! :-) typed out in it. Then we would chat about our respective days until one or the other of us got so tired that it was time to go to bed. And we were 7 hours apart in time, me going to bed too late, he waking up too early. One time I asked him how he always woke up about the same time every night to talk with me. Every night for months and months. Did he set an alarm? Kinda, he said. Before bed every night he would drink a large glass of water, knowing that it would wake him up about 6 hours later. It was his water alarm, he said, so that he could wake up in the dark of night, just to talk to me. Now how romantic is that?