This week as I began to toss around ideas for topics to write about, I heard myself in my head sounding like a cut-rate stand-up comedian, with jokes beginning along the lines of: did you ever have to go the bathroom really badly and find the bathroom at the bar/restaurant (fill in the blank) isn’t accessible after all. And then you had to a) ride your scooter home (if you were even near your home) because your scooter couldn’t fit through the door to the bathroom or b) take the water bottle out of your scooter and use it as a urinal (disgusting!) because your scooter couldn’t fit into to the “disability” space and it isn’t as though you can just walk the four feet separating you and the toilet. But I couldn’t come up with a punch-line. Simply put, the situation is not funny.
For those of us with MS and bladder control issues, one has to always think ahead; whenever venturing out into the world, one has to worry about the possibility of finding a place to pee. You map out in your head the accessible bathrooms and become some kind of a restroom connoisseur. You know all the high (believe it or not, Old Navy on 6th Avenue, clean and roomy) and low (Tompkins Square Park, too many homeless) end bathrooms in most of the city and keep a vague map in your head of where is best to empty your bladder. Some have suggested I put together a handbook of sorts for people in my situation, to which I respond, “I really don’t want to learn more about this topic than I absolutely have to. You know, too much information.”
'Nevertheless, Starbucks and Barnes and Noble, who for all intents and purposes are the closest thing the city has to public restrooms, can be lifesavers in a pinch. Movie and conventional theaters are pretty reliable, although it is in these places I’ve come across the worst of the worst: people who don’t want to wait on the longer public lines and dive into the disabled restroom for convenience and to keep me waiting, desperately needing to pee. Recently, I was at the Shubert Theatre on Broadway with my son to see Hair; I was about five feet away from the disabled rest room and the able-bodied young woman saw me coming and quick slammed the door in my face. I am not typically prone to profanity but I fairly lost it on her when she came out a few minutes later. On other occasions, people have thought nothing of using the disability toilet when other toilets are free. I guess they like the openness of the space. The new Yankee Stadium has disability stalls with grab bars but a scooter cannot fit inside. Excellent planning, guys!
And whenever possible, try to have a back-up plan. You never know when a toilet is going to be broken or simply unavailable and as you all know, when you gotta go you gotta go, which is why I’ve taken to discreetly carrying one of those portable urinals with me wherever I go. Oh, the adjustments one has to make.
If all else fails, feel free to stop by my place: 145 East 15 Street, #7A, New York, NY. If I’m home and the bathroom is free, you’re most welcome. Just call first.
As my dad always said, “Keep fighting the good fight.”