In 1979, there was an accident at a nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania called Three Mile Island (TMI). Initial reports indicated there was a small explosion and perhaps some minor injuries. It wasn’t until later in the first day that it became known there was a significant leak of radioactive materials, into both the air and the ground.
As details unfolded in the week that followed, the public learned that we had narrowly avoided a so-called “China Syndrome,” in which the core of the reactor would melt deep into the earth. Groundwater could’ve been contaminated and the air could’ve been filled with poisonous gases. Pennsylvania could’ve become even more inhabitable than it already was. Fear gripped the nation as more and more details were released and we imagined what might have been.
Ever since this near-catastrophe, whenever anyone is given too much information about something fearsome and repulsive, we call it “TMI”.
The following post may contain TMI. Sensitive readers should — wait, this is the Internet; sensitive readers shouldn’t be a problem.
+ + +
I didn’t do a real good job this year of coming up with worthy New Year’s resolutions. In the past, I’ve promised myself I’d lose weight or be more thrifty, and generally did a good job of follow-through all the way into February. I’ve put the ambitious agendas aside this year, and decided instead to work on smaller, more achievable goals.
The main improvement initiative I’m undertaking currently is to pick up things that have fallen on the ground. I’m still okay with stuff that’s supposed to be down there — pebbles, earthworms, the drunken homeless — but I’m trying to put forth a real effort to make my world a better place with the simple act of bending down and retrieving discarded litter. Some people have chosen to help earthquake victims; I’m thinking that charity begins at home, in an approximately three-foot radius of where I’m standing.
The real fact of the matter is that I’m contributing a lot of this debris on my own. Maybe I shouldn’t be so self-congratulatory for picking up after myself, and yet it still gives me a warm feeling to know I’m working to clean up our environment. Just because the trash is of my own making shouldn’t discount the substantial effort it takes for someone my age to squat.
It’s because of these “warm feelings” that I’ve been creating such a mess in my wake. You see, I have a problem that confronts many men in their 50s, and I’ve been using small wads of paper stuffed into my shorts to address it. I have a problem with dribbling.
In my younger days, I enjoyed many an afternoon in a robust workout on the basketball court. I’ve never had much of a vertical leap and my three-point shot rarely found the hole, but I’ve always been a good ball handler, even perfecting a behind-the-back crossover that frequently left me open for a layup. What’s been hurting my game in the gym lately is that the floor tends to get a little slippery when I have to splash through a puddle of my own urine.
Really, that’s an exaggeration. My touch of incontinence doesn’t result in the kind of fashionable gushers we’ve recently seen in concert from a certain female singer for the Black Eyed Pees (spelling?). The difficulty I have isn’t the uncontrollable release that wetted Fergie in the midst of all her booming and powing; rather, what I’ve experienced is the drop or two trickle that lies in wait until I’m all zipped up and heading back to my desk. It’s not outwardly noticeable, and I don’t think it’s causing any kind of hazardous spill that could injure or sicken my co-workers. It’s just that warm, then cold, moistness that suddenly shocks your upper thigh and reminds you a little too vividly of what it was like to be young. Very young.
My solution to this embarrassment is to wad up a piece of bathroom tissue, forming a hood that contains the tiny spill. My slacks hold this cap in place just long enough to catch any fleeting beads, until the wad gradually works its way down my leg and I can pull it out and deposit it in the can. It’s a pretty good system, as long as you can subtly pivot at every turn to check your tracks and make sure you’re not depositing a trail of crumbs like some latter-day Hansel and Gretel.
So that’s how I’ve gotten into the habit of stooping down to pick up debris. If I’m doing it often enough that people who witness the act think I’m just being a conscientious employee concerned about the appearance of the office, then they won’t be suspicious if they happen to notice the tile comet sliding down my ankle. Only once has anyone commented on the emergent hat, and I was able to laugh that off by claiming it was a dryer sheet.
Well, I’m tired of laughing at myself over a situation that plagues so many otherwise hygienic people. “No matter how you shake and dance, the last drop’s always on your pants” makes for a playful adolescent rhyme, but I’m sick of having it ringing in my ears every 90 minutes like some particularly bizarre ABBA tune. For too long, the slightly incontinent have hidden in the shadows, peeing themselves in shame, paralyzed by the ever-present fear that someone will shine a light into that shadow and scare us into a lethal blockage. I say enough is enough. It’s time I was praised for my ingenuity instead of disgraced for a thoroughly natural glitch in my plumbing.
If we’re going to leak, let us leak with pride. Let’s take the steps we must in order to preserve a sanitary home and workplace, yet let us not feel as guilty as if we were responsible for some awful catastrophe.
It’s not as though the leak were radioactive.