The Cast: Myself (Mr. Pee-pee-pants), Pam (a very good friend).
Erich recently sent me words of wisdom contained within a text message, and they read something like this: Friendship is like wetting your pants. Everyone can see it, but only you can feel its warmth.
So, let us begin. With wet pants.
When you’re a kid, one of the most embarrassing things you might have to deal with is bedwetting. And unless you have a family member who is cruel and tells your friends about it, the bedwetting remains a private matter. The only thing worse, is wetting your pants in public. I don’t think this last one has an age limit on embarrassment.
When I was in 1st grade my teacher had a weekly assignment for the class. Each week there would be an illustration of a cartoon character on a very large notepad, placed at the front of the classroom. Our assignment, as class members, was to draw the figure on an 8.5”x11” piece of paper. If we wanted a good grade, we needed to add something of our own. A simple background, a flower in their hand, a hat, anything. One particular week the image we were to draw was a Smurf.
If you’re a kid from the ’80s you know that Peyo was in his heyday with those Smurfs. They were everywhere, Saturday morning cartoons, toys, books, drinking glasses (we had the whole set). Even our Hallmark store at the mall had a corner dedicated to Smurf paraphernalia where I could get my Smurfy fix. Oh, the toys…
So, when that week’s assignment manifested itself I became very ambitious and was going to draw a Smurf cowboy (inspired by one of the many Smurf figures I owned) standing in a bar with a tall mug of root beer. Yeah. This was going to be awesome. However, at the time of this story, I was only about 6 or 7 years old but my dreams and ambitions were King Kong in scale, maybe even of Godzilla proportions.
Anyway, I had planned a project of a grand scale, a detailed saloon-like background, wooden floors that included woodgrain, even a spittoon. That week, however, I spent most of my free time, that could have been used to complete my drawing, trying to catch up on the classwork that was due because much of my class time was spent goofing off. It was a busy week.
Understand, I wasn’t a purposefully problematic student, in that I didn’t try to disrupt class, but I did have my moments where I definitely could have been better behaved. In my time working with middle school age children I have encountered many of these types of students over the years. Not problem kids, just children trying to figure out how to channel their energies.
Alright, sidetracked again, I was talking about what again? Ah, yes, drawing the Smurf. So, I hadn’t been working very hard on the drawing and Friday had arrived. The illustration was due. I wasn’t allowed to go out for recess and my teacher said I would have to stay after school until the drawing was done. Fine. I had earned all that had come my way. I accepted that. So the end of the day came and the other kids left, except me and two other kids who had the same situation I did.
The other two students had been working hard, were done quickly, and then went home. As did I. Well, maybe I didn’t work so hard. Well, maybe I hadn’t been working much. Alright, I wasn’t working, still. Bu-ut, I did need to go to the bathroom. Bad.
“Teacher? Can I go to the bathroom?”
“No. Keep working.”
I deserved that. I had not been working on the project, all week.
A while later, “Teacher? Can I go to the bathroom?”
“No. Keep working.”
I deserved that also.
This exchange went on for some time—maybe hours, it felt like hours. And I truly did deserve it. I had been a stinker, pretty much all week. I wasn’t trying to, but there were a few situations that had occurred earlier in the week. For example…
Keep in mind the mentality of a 6-7 year old. O.K., in our bathroom there was a hole in the floor that happened to line up with the sit-down toilet’s partition. The only way to see what was in it was to get your head down underneath the partition and peer down in. For some stupid reason that hole, it piqued my curiosity to an almost insatiable extreme.
A drain, to my child’s knowledge, had a cover on it. Like a grate, or a metal plate with holes in it. This hole had nothing covering it. So I thought it was part of something that was going to be finished. I kept waiting for it to get finished. It never got finished. It was starting to drive me crazy. I wanted to look down the hole, to see what was down it, but I never had the chance. Anytime I was about to, someone was either in the stall or would walk into the bathroom. You can’t just kneel down, poke your head up, under the stall wall and say, “Pardon me, I have no interest in interrupting your poopy-plop-plop time, but I’m just dying to see what’s at the bottom of this hole here in the floor. So, just continue about your business, thank you.” That’s kind of a social no-no. Ya’ know.
So earlier in the week, about Wednesday, I was alone in the bathroom and had to see what that hole was. I knelt down, peered down the hole and saw a little water at the bottom of that pipe. What? Water? Why? Hey, it looks almost full. Maybe I could fill it all the way up. Yeah…
So I began to get mouth-fulls of water from the sink and would then spit them down into the drain. It looked like I was filling it up! Yes! (I really wasn’t, because it was a drain)
“What are you doing?!?”
Wasn’t it obvious what I was doing? I was kneeling on the bathroom floor, cheeks puffed out with a mouth-full of water. It was dripping off my lips. I slowly turned my head and saw my teacher standing in the doorway with her hands on her hips and an angry confused look on her face. Ooh-ka-ay. Apparently not.
Once again, I had not behaved well most of the week.
Alright, let’s try to get back on track. My bladder was about to explode and at this point, I was no longer sitting at my desk. I was standing, no… No, I was dancing about my desk, trying to draw a Smurf cowboy. Finally, my teacher relented and I was allowed to go to the bathroom.
FINALLY!!! I began to walk toward the bathroom, following the prescribed path: Head to the back of the room, by the sinks, and then a straight line to the bathrooms. With every step I was quoting Shakespeare, “To pee, or not to pee…” My bladder was WAY more than full. I had five gallons of urine confined in a one-gallon bladder. I had successfully made it onto the linoleum that replaced the carpet at the base of the sink area when it happened.
I gave that linoleum, and the surrounding trim, the perfect opportunity to test its waterproofing ability. My bladder unleashed like turning on a faucet full blast. No, more like the Mississippi River meeting the Gulf of Mexico. No, more like the opening of the Hoover Dam flood gates. No, more like Niagra Falls being, Niagara Falls. No, it was more like the Hoover Dam bursting because Niagara Falls wanted to meet up with the Mississippi River, and the faucet, in my pants, and onto the floor. The linoleum was now the Pee-cific Ocean, for ants.
As my teacher witnessed the disaster, I could tell she felt horribly bad about what had just unfolded before her eyes. I tried to mop up what I could with those terrible brown paper towels that were just this side of being tree bark, washed my hands, and returned to my Smurf drawing.
As I began to work, my teacher told me I was done and could go home.
Home. I was going to have to walk home in pee soaked pants. There was no hiding it. They were tan corduroy (love that ’70s to ’80s transition), it was plain to see what had occurred. As I opened the door to the outside world I scanned the playground to see if any neighborhood kids had returned to play. Nope. Alright, I now only had the open school property, the three blocks of houses (on both sides), the vacant lot/neighborhood park to pass through and I was home free. Everyone was going to see me and my pee pants.
I was already small for my age, and this was the perfect ammo for bullies. I was going to be teased for the rest of my life. 1st grade and I was going to be ‘Pee-Pee Pants Boy’, forever. But there was nobody around. Strange, there were always kids, always. But the lot was empty, the streets were empty. I might make it. I began to walk home. There was a breeze and it made my pee-pants cold against my legs. This sucks.
Then Pam came around the corner of the school. Pam was a girl from my grade, we had been in kindergarten together and would be in the same class for many years until I moved away. She was a friend, but we weren’t close. Pam was also kind of a tom-boy/tough chick (‘chick’ was complimentary in certain circles in the ’80s), she had the Rocker hair and the denim jacket—for as long as I knew her. Oh, if she sees me she might tease me. Oh, she sees me. Oh, she has a friend. Oh, goody, they’re walking this way. “Hey Pam.”
Pam introduced me to her friend, asked what happened, I explained, and they continued on to the friend’s house while I continued my walk home. I saw no one else the rest of the way. Including the vacant lot/neighborhood park (which was a big surprise). I was sure Pam was going to tell somebody during the weekend and that I would get teased next week. My life was ruined. School was now going to be a nightmare. I was never going to hear the end of this.
I was wrong. Nothing came of it. Nothing was ever said of it. Pam never mentioned it to me or anyone. She would later tell me that what I went through was embarrassing enough and that teasing me about it would just be mean.
Apparently, friendship is just like wetting your pants. Everyone can see it, but only you can feel its warmth.
*The banner image is a 2015 Google Maps photo of my childhood home on Cheryl Street, in Billings, Montana.