One thing I won’t miss about this lengthy chapter is the “pandemic pee planning”.
During the lockdowns, even though I was following rules to the letter and only leaving the house for essential groceries and necessary appointments, trying to manage my bladder around the limited number of public restrooms that were open to the public during that time added a whole logistical challenge in itself.
After a lifetime of being sold on the merits of proper hydration and drinking eight glasses of water daily, you can see where a potential problem ensues.
In a pre-pandemic world, if I was called to a three hour meeting, if a “health break” wasn’t on the agenda, I knew I would have to excuse myself at least once to make it through to the end or else I’d be wriggling around in my chair, crossing my legs like a pretzel.
As a younger employee, I stressed a lot about it as I did not want to appear disrespectful by walking out in the middle of a meeting. As much as I held great admiration for people who could hold their bladders for three hours, I had to admit and accept that I wasn’t one of them. As I got older and more confident, I worried less about it (which only seemed to make potential urgency worse) and was resigned to the fact that, “when you gotta go, you gotta go.”
But it is amazing how the ability to use a public restroom when you need it (or even a little proactively) was something we took for granted.
In the pre-pandemic world, I never gave it a second thought. When nature called, I knew that most malls, department stores, big box stores and fast food restaurants were well equipped in that regard. I could run errands to my heart’s content and could just use the facilities in the spur-of-the-moment, when and where I needed.
During the more drastic stages of the pandemic lockdowns, with so many places closed, it took much more advance planning to know exactly where and when to go, and to synchronize my bladder accordingly.
With malls and non-essential businesses closed, that reduced the number of public restrooms significantly to begin with. But with fast food outlets running on a drive-through basis only and their doors were closed to the public, the options were even more limited. There have been a few times I needed to call places ahead of time just to confirm that their public restroom was open if I expected that my total errand time was expected to be lengthy.
I did get burned once though, when a confirmed restroom was closed for cleaning when I showed up. Fortunately I had a back-up plan, but that was when I noted the ridiculousness of the planning required.
Clearly, the powers-that-be behind these decisions either don’t drink eight glasses of water daily or are graced with the ability to hold their bladders for prolonged periods. But I graciously accepted the necessity for all of these measures and precautions.
When it came to groceries, we were told to try to shop once per week. Conceptually it made sense in trying to reduce our exposure to the risks of Covid-19. But when that multiplies the duration of the shopping trip from a quick dash through the express to a full cart experience, then each minute browsing, reading a fine-print label or weighing the pros and cons of a food decision just exacerbated the ticking clock on my bladder.
I quickly adapted and made sure that all grocery decisions were made before setting foot in the grocery store, despite the impossibility of knowing what we’d be craving five to seven days ahead.
There wasn’t so much of an issue when doing groceries at our village grocery store, just a few minutes away. But for the specialty items we couldn’t get there, when you add to the equation the half hour commute to the city (each way), you can see the need for a very efficient trajectory of errands. This didn’t leave much room for traffic tie-ups, construction delays, nor long line-ups to get into establishments or at the check-outs.
This also required a mindful management of fluid intake on the mornings prior to a visit to the city. The eight glasses of water plan had to be suspended on those days. Smoothies for breakfast were out of the question. Too much coffee or tea only accelerated the potential of panic. Plus, I returned to Mom’s advice from childhood “even if you don’t need to go before leaving, try anyway.”
Looking back, it was a lot of work to coordinate a most efficient trajectory of errands, but I am glad that a lifetime of organisational and logistical experience worked in my favour as I made it through without having to resort to using a tree… ok, well, maybe once… but I had plenty of hand sanitizer with me when that happened.
Thanks to the vaccination roll-out, now that we are in the early stages of reopening and more public restrooms are available, it has certainly made things easier to plan longer (but still efficient) trips to run errands, while still taking the necessary precautions to reduce exposure to Covid-19 and its dangerous variants.
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Have a great day,