July, 1984 + Portland, Maine
"Quandry: A state of uncertainty or perplexity as requiring a choice between two unfavorable options."
This quadriplegia business can really be a bitch, as we've seen. From time to time, I find myself at the boundary between dire need and "Come on now, you can't ask someone to do THAT!" What am I to do? I have to stretch the social fabric to extricate myself from a bona fide quandry, like this:
Asking perfect strangers for minor help, like opening a door or handing me something is usually not too difficult. Like my Dad, I have always been defiantly independant. "No thank you Pal, I'll do it myself or it won't get done." The injury changed all that. The predicaments, quagmires, and quandaries i encounter require me to ask some people for outrageous things. Some balk: "Sure buddy I'll push your wheelchair up hat ramp, but I'm sure as hell not messing with any tubes or bodily fluids."
A lot of people must think I'm retarded anyway, by how they react: "Why, now, listen to that poor mental crippled boy, you'd almost think he knows what he's saying. It's marveluos what they can do for these poor souls." Every now and then I come upon a gem. I am forced to rethink my dim view of the human family. Take this story, for instance. Imagine yourself in the following situation that goes WAY beyond the pale. Ask yourself, 'What would i do?'
It was around noon on a warm, muggy, and overcast summer day. I was leaving a Bar Exam review class at the University of Southern Maine. The summer was 1984 and I was living alone and preparing to take Maine's bar Exam. I was dedicated, driven, and dead serious. I was under a lot of pressure. If I failed the exam, I would have no job, no prospects, nothing to do, and probably no marriage.
Nothing was going to keep me from my 16-hour a day schedule. I took books to bed with me. I could then study at 3:00 AM when I restlessly awoke, like I did every night. My brain swirled with sui generis, quantum meruit, littoral rights, hue and cry, and accessories before, during, and after the fact. I had a very bad case of exam anxiety. I was a mediocre test-taker, at best.
Of course, on this day I was rushing, always rushing, ahead of myself in thought, already home, studying, preparing, and worrying. I got into my van to head straight home and hunker down for the entire day and evening. Hardly aware of what I was doing, reflexively, I reached down to check how much urine was in my leg bag. There was none. I was immediately brought up short and plunged headlong into the moment.
I had a very big problem. With my stomach sinking, sick and tightening, I realized one of two possibilities existed: (1) I had wet myself and was sitting in piss or (2) the quart or so of urine from early morning to noon was somewhere else, sitting between me and the bag.
After rapidly checking, I saw I was not wet. Good, so far. Next, I looked down and, sure enough the condom catheter that was hooked by a rubber tube to the leg bag had a bubble full of that wretched uric acid liquid at the end of my dick the size of a softball. It was just sitting there, mocking me and my bar exam plans. If it broke (which it was bound to do, and soon), I would be up piss creek, in a manner of speaking.
I couldn't fix it by myself. I was, as always, myself alone. I didn't want to sit in piss, obviously. That would ruin my whole schedule, like an accurate granade thrown into my bathroom while I was... Well, I'm sure you can imagine the rest. I had two choices and only two: get help or get wet. Time was of the essence. I was just a little frantic.
I got down out of the van very carefully, wondering how in the hell I was going to resolve this quandary. After about five highly anxious minutes, I noticed two male university maintenance workers, each in his forties or so. I had never met either of them, though one I had seen around the campus. They were both dressed in USM uniforms and looked masculine, if you know what I mean. They had short hair, were clean-shaven, looked rugged, and wore work boots. They had that, "Hey boys, lets have a few cold ones and watch the game" look about them.
I had to ask one of these strangers to come into my van, unzip my pants, open the fly, reach in, and (somehow) release the bubble. I had no rubber gloves, no towels, no antiseptic, or anything to make it easier. As I played this out in my head, it was all just too crazy. "SAY WHAT?" "You want me to reach WHERE and do WHAT?" I had to do something or I would be sitting in urine all day.
I did a quick benefit-cost analysis. Benefit: I got the situation resolved, thank my newly minted piss buddies, go home dry and happy, study all day and into the night, pass the bar exam, and save my job, my sanity, and my marriage. Cost: These guys think (1) I'm lying, (2) I'm plain lazy, or (3) I'm a trolling drag queen with brass balls looking for action and they (A) walk away enraged, (B) go to a shrink, (C) beat me up, (D) call the police, or (E) try to take me up on the drag queen thing. There just weren't any good options here.
I was never much of a bullet biter; I'd take the morphine every time. Here I was, between a good beating and a better day. So, bite the bullet I did. The conversation went something like this:
Me: "Listen, Guys, you don't know me but I've seen you around
and you seem like decent guys and i need a big favor and
I'm not lying or crazy or gay or anything. I mean I'm a
student and I have to go home and study or I'll lose every-
thing, bit I've got a piss bubble at the end of my pecker
that's like a grapefruit and I need one of you to come
into my van with me and reach into my pants and release
the bubble so the piss can go into the bag on my leg right
"Oh, sure" I was thinking, "That makes a lot of sense. " I prepared myself to take the beating.
Saint Guy: "Sure, I'll do it. Just show me what to do."
With that, this diamond in the deep rough followed me up into the van, did everything I asked, jumped down, said, "Let me know if I can ever help you again", and walked away. I could hardly find the words to give him the 'Thank You' he deserved. I miss Maine. A whole lot of good, solid, and funky folk live there.
I studied all that day, evening and night, passed the exam, saved my job, my sanity (I guess), and my marriage (for awhile, anyway). Thanks, at least in part, to Saint Guy the Great, to whom I dedicate this limerick:
"In my pants sat a softball-sized bubble,
That had to be fixed on the double,
Then along came Saint Guy,
Who opened my fly,
And released me from all my piss trouble"