A half mile beyond the rest area I had opted not to stop at, the smoothly flowing traffic that was sweeping me along found itself behind a procession of cars, vans, SUVs, pickup trucks, semis and busses that had stopped proceeding. Three lanes of idling, pollution belching vehicles stretched to the horizon and beyond.
The moment my bladder realized we were going to be there a while, it prepared a plan of action. It was a simple plan: collect any and all fluids. It wasn’t satisfied with that morning’s orange juice and extra cup of coffee. It scoured my body for pools of liquid it had overlooked in the past, finding, among other things, several ounces of beer that had lingered undetected in a dark corner since a keg party one Saturday night October 1969.
The vague urge I had experienced as I sped past the rest area, and which had been extreme discomfort only a moment ago, was now excruciating pain. I was trapped in my car. I removed my seat belt, I unbuckled my belt, and I unbuttoned my trousers, but the bloated bladder kept expanding to fill the available space. And like the traffic, time had come to a standstill. The seconds were like months, the minutes like decades and the radio newscast lasted longer than the Jurassic Period, which gave rise to thoughts of mass extinctions, which led to thoughts of my extinction. The scene seemed real. The lights of the emergency vehicles were flashing and an EMT opened my car door and looked in.
“Oh, Frank, this is horrible,” a young guy, who shaved once a week, although he didn’t need to, said. “I think I’m going to be sick. Please don’t look, Frank. There’s nothing we can do for him.”
Frank, the wise, irascible thirty-year veteran with an acid tongue and a heart of gold, pushed his partner aside and peered in at my lifeless body.
“Ah, Kid, this must be your first bladder explosion.” Frank said with a knowing smile. “Bladders explode all the time, Kid. You’re going to see three or four of these a week for the rest of your life. And I’ll tell you what, Kid, this one ain’t nothing. As bladder explosions go, this guy’s was a cap pistol. They still had cap pistols when you was a kid, didn’t they Kid? Don’t worry, Kid, you’ll get used to it.”
Frank and The Kid worked with boring efficiency until they were knocked to the ground by the shock wave from what sounded like a nuclear bomb going off.
“Oh my God, Frank, it’s a terrorist attack!”
“Settle down, Kid,” Frank said as he helped his partner to his feet. “I’ve got a pretty good idea what that was, and it wasn’t no terrorist attack, Kid. You finish up here while I go back and take a look.”
The rookie was supposed to gather and stow the equipment, but the sight of me in my post-kablooey state was too much for him. He looked at me, then turned away and a moment later looked again. And as he looked at me, I could see deep lines being etched on his face and his hair turning grey. When Frank got back, he didn’t seem to notice that his partner had aged thirty years in five minutes.
“Now, that was a bladder explosion worth remembering,” Frank said as he slapped The Kid on the back. “Like I told you, this guy ain’t nothing. You gotta go back there and see what a real bladder explosion looks like.”
Reluctantly, The Kid went to take a look. Twenty minutes later, he returned looking youthful, confidant, invigorated.
“What did I tell you, Kid?” Frank said.
“You were so right, Frank. Thanks for sending me back there. This guy,” The Kid said, pointing at me. “This guy is just so like another day at the office, Frank. I hope his life wasn’t as boring as his death, if you know what I mean.”
“It’s hard to say, Kid, but I bet it was.”
That would be just like me, I thought, to die in some remarkably mundane way after living a remarkably mundane life. Then traffic began to move, I returned to reality and another mundane day unfolded.