Dearest Rachel –
It’s one of those things you don’t necessarily think about while planning, but is absolutely imperative. In fact, it almost goes without saying, although by doing so, one runs the risk of forgetting just how necessary it is to bear in mind, so I might as well point it out: much as rest is required between runs, so too are restrooms.
Admittedly, I’m not telling you something that you didn’t know. When we were on a road trip, you always made a point of stopping wherever you could whenever you needed to. Sometimes I would actually kid you about your relatively tiny bladder. Other times, I’d like to say that I understood it better than most people; that story that Junior told at your memorial service, where I wasn’t mad at you for almost seeming to have missed the plane, I knew it was due to you making one last pit stop at the very last minute, to ensure that it wouldn’t be an issue on the flight until the very last moment possible.
Sometimes, however, there’s only so much you can do. Last night was an example of those best laid plans going ridiculously awry.
First off, when you have a crowd like ours, not everyone needs to go at the same time. Which would be all well and good, were it not for the fact that, as a consequence, there is always someone who is needing a restroom at any given time. Basically, everyone’s needs are staggered throughout the night, requiring us to find a place after virtually every leg of the run. That’s perfectly understandable, don’t get me wrong, but it is a bit inconvenient.
But this situation is then aggravated by the fact that suburban Milwaukee is not New York City. These towns are not, by any stretch of the imagination, ‘cities that never sleep.’ Places close for the night; even gas stations. This can pose a problem in our situation, when multiple runners need a washroom – both for the obvious reason, as well as to dry off and change after a strenuous and/or weather-affected run – and there’s nowhere to go that’s open. We very nearly were beaten to a checkpoint by the runners while we vans passed station after station, trying to find a place that was both open, and willing to allow a dozen people to use their facilities all at once in the wee hours of the morning.
I need to mention about the ancillary uses of a washroom for those who found themselves rained, snowed or sleeted upon. I walked in on Pastor Juan, for instance, holding his running shoes up to the nozzle of a high-velocity air dryer, trying to get them back into some condition whereby they’d be comfortable enough to wear by the time he would be needing them for the next leg of the relay. It was a silly-looking tableau to stumble upon, but a surprisingly useful and necessary thing when you consider it.
By the time we had wrapped up the second leg of the relay at about five o’clock, I followed Jim to a strip mall in search of breakfast. We managed to find a Dunkin’ Donuts, which to our pleasant surprise (not that it should have been so much; you and I both remember those commercials with the baker waking up in the dark of the morning, muttering ‘time to make the donuts’ under his breath, almost as if in a trance, or on autopilot – but there’s been a lot of places we’d expect to be open that haven’t been so much these days) was in fact open. They even had the chocolate cream-filled variety, which I don’t think we’ve seen in our area for the better (or worse) part of the last decade or so. Maybe I just never got there early enough to get my hands on them. I made sure to get a dozen; I’d like to think that Daniel will enjoy a few of them when I get them home.
As we’re leaving the donut shop, there are some murmurings about how none of the remaining checkpoints are near any facilities, which is clearly generating concern. People are weighing whether to hydrate or not, based the likelihood of that future need. Again, I know it sounds silly, but you better than most people would be able sympathize and empathize with their plight. For my part, I’ve no advice to offer; everyone’s tipping point is different, so they have to weigh those choices for themselves.
Still, if ever I would ask you to wish us luck, it would be now. We’re going to need it yet.