The Longest Line

D. E. Larsen, DVM

The fog had settled over the field, and it was difficult to see the players. The fog was thick enough that even the players would lose sight of the ball when it was punted or when the pass was high.

I snuggled into the thin blanket the covered our laps. We were at Coquille, watching my oldest brother play football. I was eight years old in this fall of nineteen fifty-three. The early November night was getting colder as the game wore on. A mallard duck wondered out of the dense fog and into the glare of the lights. It flew in circles hoping for a place to land. For a time, it captured more attention than the ball game.

“If you need to go to the bathroom, you better go now,” Mom said. “It will be crowded when halftime starts in a minute or two.”

“I am okay. I will wait for halftime.”

When the buzzer sounded to end the first half, I started to the small bathroom located at the far end of the football field. There was an immediate crush of people leaving the grandstand with the same destination in mind. 

By the time I got out of the stands, I could feel that I had a bit more of a need for this trip than I anticipated. I maneuvered clear of the crowd and moved at a trot toward the bathroom. Even still, it seemed to take me forever to reach the small building.

There was a bunch of men piled up at the door waiting to get inside the building. They were all talking loud and gesturing with the hands and arms as they told hunting stories from the recent hunt or a story of playing football when they were kids. It was all interesting, but I just needed to pee.

Finely, I pushed between a couple of men talking at the door and squeezed inside. The place was packed, just like Mom had said it would be. There were four or five lines. I tried to pick the shortest line and took my place in the line. Things moved slow, and my urgency grew.

I was sort of bouncing from one foot to the other a big man turned away from the urinal, and the old man ahead of me took his turn. I took a deep breath. It wouldn’t be long now.

I looked around. The other lines seemed to be moving pretty well. I looked back at the old man in front of me. What on earth was he doing? He hadn’t even started yet. I was back to my little dance. Pretty soon, he should be done pretty soon.

Looking around, I started counting the cracks in the paint on the ceiling. There seemed to be a lot of cracks. I wonder how old this building was? Probably as old as my Father, I thought.

This guy seemed to be peeing now. It shouldn’t take him long at all. I bounced from one foot to the other. It was so bad, my bladder seemed to be painful. I started counting the cracks in the ceiling again. This place at least needed a new paint job.

How long can it take for an old guy to pee? He was still at it, and he wasn’t acting like he was getting close to being done. He must have a bladder larger than a horse. Even then, a horse doesn’t take this long to pee.

I looked at the ceiling again, closed my eyes, and started to hum. I don’t think I knew a song. I was just humming like an old tomcat purring. I thought if I could look away long enough, the old man would be done when I looked back. How long can it take for an old man to pee?

I was close to a disaster at this point. He seemed to be done. He was putting things away. I don’t think his mother taught him too well. It even seemed to take him forever to put himself away and zip up his pants.

Then he starts talking to the guy at the urinal next to him. What am I to do. He is telling a story. He is talking about the doctor working on his rigging.

I had to do something. I tried to squeeze in beside him and push him out of the way. He didn’t move. He didn’t notice.

“Mister, I have to go bad,” I finally said.

“Oh, I’m sorry, young man,” He said as he moved away and said to the man that he was talking with that he would tell him the story later.

I had to stand on my tiptoes to reach the urinal, but it was worth it. What a relief, I thought as I relaxed every muscle in the body. In a short minute, I was done. I have no idea how that guy could spend all the time.

I moved away from the urinal, zipping my pants as I worked my way through the crowd to the sink. I rinsed my hands, no soap, no paper towels. I walked out into the cold air, wiping my hands on my pant legs.

What an ordeal. Next time I will listen to Mom. 

It would take nearly another 60 years for me to finally have some empathy for that old man in front of me.

Photo by on Unsplash

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

4 thoughts on “The Longest Line

  1. Please sir…don’t tell women about men’s bathroom woes…You guys have all those bowls…Women are given usually…just one toilet.. Perhaps 2 rarely any more. And our lines go very,very slowly..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This was probably the only time I ever spent any significant time standing in line. Probably why us has stuck in my memory.


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