It has been years since I was in a staff bus or shuttle as we used to call them. The call I received last night gave instructions on the RV & time – 0700 hrs. I had planned to leave home at a quarter to six. That would give me time to get to the RV point on time. RV point is short for rendezvous. However, in the process of heating my ndengu in the morning, I happened to get late and did not leave at the time I had planned to. Wait! I am not lazy; I had woken up at 2.30am. How that time flew, I don’t know. Writing time that one. Within the course of this time, I had a banana and lots of water. My water bottle is like a cigarette when I am at the home office. After my ugali and ndengu, I had a mug of coffee. Black. (This is because this was an outdoor day. Meals on “outdoor days” are covered in the morning) unless those days when I am assured of free time over lunch hour or allowance. The later being the strongest factor.
I had coffee because I had woken up at almost 1.30 AM. I snoozed until 2.30 AM. I needed to be active the whole day. Black coffee would neutralize the obvious effect of Ugali in the morning and the reduced sleeping hours. I then left the house in a rush because I was already late. It was around ten minutes past six as I left the gate. I was almost running to the road. I stood there for another like 5 minutes deciding which Matatuto take. They were all empty and those that were passing by were occupied to capacity.
I finally found a Matatu my heart was contented with and boarded it. The rest of the way I was crossing my fingers and hoping that I would arrive at the RV point on time. I had messed up and I would pay for it. The few minutes or so I wanted on the other side were to triple while entering the CBD. We got to OTC at exactly 7.am. I confidently walked to the RV and I called when I neared the place. It happened that they had not left and I was so relieved. I was actually the first in the 2ndof the designated bus. There were other people as well – like six. They had kept time. I settled into the bus. I took a seat in the middle. I am so used to Estate Matatus that seating anywhere past the middle area is a total disaster. We waited for others and waited and waited.
For some reason the urge to visit the restrooms is somehow elevated in the morning – even after the day opener. As a habit, I usually make sure the last thing I do before leaving the house is emptying my bladder. Whether there is the urge to, or not. So now I could feel the urge rising. However, since we were to leave at 7am, I convinced myself that I would make it to reach the destination without having to hold it in for longer than necessary. It’s just last week, when we discussed endurance limits of women versus men when it came to short calls of nature. I argued that it’s all a matter of training and you can hold it in as long as possible. Here I was now applying my own theory. There is that initial urge that usually passes after a while. This can buy me up to an hour. I even end up forgetting. So, it’s at that point that I did a quick check and figured that I could handle it and I would not need to rush to the restrooms before the bus left. The journey started at exactly 8AM. This, I am not kidding. Whether coincidence or how on point they were meant to be I don’t know. These Toyota Coaster buses are the in thing in corporate tours or even leisure tours around the country, comfy, classy and everyone outside looking through the clear windows can see these very important people inside. Thika Super Highway is usually nice when you are going in the opposite direction of rush hour traffic. At Ruaraka, the urge came in with a new force that was not normal. I had to let go. I looked at my watch and it was only 7 minutes into a journey that is usually 45 minutes! I was going to die of urine. Death by pee pressing. Or death by urine retention. For some reason, I managed to hold it but still I had to go. Every rumble strip on that highway was a disaster. You know how you feel that Bump! Bump! Bump! in your belly, this time it was worse. It had the potential of coming with it showers of blessings from urea land. The expansion allowances on the overpass near TRM took the award of the worst bridge. That was uncomfortable. By the time we got to Toll Station, I was already sweating and wiggling my legs like a lower primary girl waiting for the teacher to say go! I knew no one from the bus. At least not personally, but I had seen some of the faces a few times. As I listened to their stories, I could tell that they were people I have met on various forums online, or I have read their work. Most of them were writers and journalists. For some reason, no one sat next to me. That inner voice of mine, which I am almost giving a name, was already whispering to me ‘as much as we want to embarrass you, we want to soften the blow. You will pee on yourself but won’t soil anyone else’s pants but yours’. I almost believed this voice. I wanted to cry! I have many biological theories but I have not managed to put them all to the test. I have one, taking dry snacks to dry out a full bladder from the inside. I don’t know if it would work, but whenever I am outdoors, I always think that having dry snacks the likes of biscuits and cookies would dehydrate the body enough for the pressure on my bladder to relax. Forget biscuits and cookies. This clown had drowned an 800ml +/- bottle of water, and added a mug of black coffee on top of it and ignored relieving himself when the opportunity arose. Surviving this one was almost impossible.
By now, everyone in the bus was happily chatting. They had known each other. They even had common interests and all sorts of topics were being discussed. I could not even open my mouth. Felt as if even smiling would involuntarily relax my muscles where they mattered and let everything go. By the time we were passing Mang’u High School, I already hated everything. I even hated the sight of the school. For the record, every time I pass by this place my heart warms up. It glows on the inside. Even if I am on the window seat, I make sure the people sense my passion for this stretch of the road. I crane my neck to weird angles as if I am confirming if the trees I planted are still being watered. Reason number two is to give that subliminal I-was-here message to people in the car I was in. This time, my face was on Witeithie. ‘Nkt! Look at how it has grown!’ ‘This thug town!’ ‘Who created a quarry here now?’ ‘Who tiles the external walls of a house? And decides to have balconies from the third floor?’ Bump! Bump! Bump! The rumble strips went. I was sure this was it. At this point, I put my left hand on my crotch. Phew! Dry. I hated everything to do with that road from the engineering, to how people overtook, to the nuts crossing the road, to the bus driver. Everything! Just because I was pressed. I hate having a bladder. Why wouldn’t we just sweat and close the chapter of excess body fluids excretion? Doesn’t matter anyway. Because I was already wiping my brow with the back of my hand, sweating profusely but still my bladder was full. I could not believe this was happening to me. I don’t know how long my hand stayed there but the coordinator asked if I was okay. I said yes. I lied. This by the way would be an offence – holding your ‘areas’ in front of a lady. The right hand was tightly gripping the headrest of the seat in front of me as if that helped anything. I almost insulted the jovial lady taking the roll call. Can you imagine how it would have appeared! Oh my! Sweaty/ shiny face, one hand for support and another on my crotch. Vincentian Prayer Center and I was literary praying for my body to hold.
The exit to Thika town was disastrous. At that point, I was on the final stage. This is the point of no return. A steady pulse followed by spasms or irregular pulses – sweet ones by the way. Now for the adults, men especially when I said point of no return I meant point of No return. The moment it started feeling ‘sweet’, like I was in eerrr… Even the brain now starts to play games with you to get you to release those Pelvic Floor Muscles etc. There I knew I had given every journalist, every news writer and every blogger in the bus an article for the following week. This was my moment of embarrassment. I was finally peeing on myself.
Here is what I had in mind before we got here. Open the large window and pee outside. With this, besides embarrassing the people in the bus and the companies involved, I would be embarrassing myself as well. I would be kicked off the bus, and obviously blacklisted from any invites & events in future and access to very many areas. I did not have a water bottle so a mobile urinal was out of the question. The absorbent material trick would also not work. This is where you use any absorbent cloth/ material you have and either dispose it or put it in a paper bag and throw it out later or toss it out the window. This works when you have a bag with clothes and on a stretch like Tsavo or Mwingi – Garissa – at night. I could not sacrifice my jacket for this. It was too cold and I had nothing else with me besides my usual one-round-fire roll of tissue, a hankie and an envelope. The other option that got me a little patient was monitoring the speed of traffic Thika Inbound. To the left of the great Thika circle/ curve, a grassy patch seemed a very nice place to relieve myself with the traffic. I would run to a tree, relieve myself and get to the bus before traffic opened up. By this time, I was pulsating in my groin as if I had been working for the past few minutes for my first child. & you know this has no pause! Every time I wanted to call out to the driver, the traffic moved a few meters & my patience kind of grew. It continued that way until we drove by The Redeemed Gospel Church. This was too public to do it anywhere and I could not see any hotels or anything related to my needs.
We managed to access the town after traffic opened up and I was so relieved when the driver stopped at a Hotel. I was the first one at the door and I could not wait for that beep, soft cranking of parts and the whine of a motor signaling the automatic opening of the door. Instinct led me to the restrooms in a place I have never been before. Well, a few others were in an almost similar situation as well, but not as bad as I was. Others came and went leaving me there as if I had been planted there. Relief at Last! The kind that comes at the exit, not entry into the process. I returned to the buses to find them empty. In my state of agony, I did not even hear the breakfast brief. We were here for breakfast then proceed with the journey, and not for my bladder needs. Oh! Interesting! My stomach being what it is, a search for “Ugali – Ndengu” gave a “Not Found” result, and I took breakfast, just like someone who had just woken up!