In the play (and later movie) "Prelude to a Kiss," an old man manages to enter the body of a beautiful young bride when he kisses her, to the great consternation of the bridegroom (who somehow KNOWS his new wife is different, and he’s right: She’s now a grouchy old man in a beautiful young woman’s body!) When the old man is finally persuaded to leave, his parting words of wisdom are: "Don’t forget to floss." Well, I have some hard-earned wisdom for YOU: Drink lots of water!

I lived in New York City for many years, and during that time, I always managed to stay slightly dehydrated. I didn’t really think about it, it was an automatic reaction to being out for hours, taking subways and buses from chore to chore, while confronting signs saying "Restrooms for Customers Only." I would contemplate taking a long ride up an escalator to reach the Ladies Room in a nearby department store–I knew where these were in every store–but this could end up adding as much as 45 minutes to an outing, plus there was always the problem of being tempted by the merchandise! Public toilets have always been a huge, unsolvable controversy in New York. For instance, I remember when the city imported coin- operated street toilets from Paris, only to find that homeless people were sleeping in them.

In New York, we used to go to the opera, which we love dearly, but an opera makes even a very long movie seem short, especially when you take all the curtain calls into consideration. The Soprano must be given a huge bouquet of flowers and must then remove one and give it to the Tenor, etc., while the audience claps and cheers continuously. At that point I would be jumping up and down in my seat not just from enthusiasm, but from needing desperately to pee, but by the time I made it out to the lobby, the line to the Ladies was a mile long. Whitley and I finally joined a club (which cost an amazing amount of money), just so we could use a special restroom set aside for members during the intermission. I never thought it would be possible to pay so much just to pee.

Pee stories abound. I remember once squatting down to urinate in the Boboli Gardens in Rome (I was wearing a skirt at the time), while pretending to be admiring the flowers. Speaking of skirts, a woman once told me that after coming back from Greece and experiencing the toilets there, she now understood why Greek women do not wear slacks (she didn’t elaborate). A man I know who regularly takes his family to visit his relatives in Italy once described a bathroom there: "It was a beautifully tiled room with a hole in the middle, and it wasn’t a large hole, either," so there was not only the problem of aim, there was the feeling of desecration if he missed. I once heard that Ben Franklin’s kidney stones were so bad that he could only pee successfully while standing on his head.

My particular pee story goes like this: I got up from the toilet one day, turned around to flush and saw DARK RED. Obviously I had a problem. I called my doctor and got a test, and he sent me to the urologist who sent me to a surgeon who specializes in removing kidney stones, who ordered more tests, then set a date to remove them. It turns out my stones were in the wrong place to be zapped by sonar, so he would have to, as he said, "Go up your urethra with a laser and shoot them into small pieces." Not wanting to criticize his bedside manner, I declined to tell him that this sounded like a scenario from "Star Wars."

I remembered the time that Whitley got a kidney stone. He had been taking planes constantly while touring for one of his books and hadn’t drunk enough water. When he got home, he woke up one morning in excruciating pain (he later said it was the worst pain he’d ever experienced). I called EMS and he was taken out of our apartment building on a STRETCHER and whisked away to the nearest hospital, where they didn’t even have a bed for him (hospitals were very overcrowded at the time), but deposited him on a gurney in the hallway. When I went to see him, I noticed he was hooked up to an I.V. and I thought, "This is going to be a LONG day, I’d better get some breakfast," so I went across the street to a restaurant. Before the waitress even had time to bring me my food, I looked up from the table and there was Whitley, fully dressed, and ready to go home. It turns out the hospital staff was smarter than we’d given them credit for: they knew it had to be a kidney stone and they also knew that all the fluid that was being pumped into him from the I.V. was going to cause him to pass it. Sure enough, pretty soon, he needed to pee in the worst way, but no one had even left him a bedpan, so he removed the I.V. from his arm, climbed off the gurney, visited the Men’s Room, went back to the gurney to get his clothes and get dressed and then just left! He never "checked out" because he’d never been "checked in."

I wasn’t so lucky: My stones were not in a place where they were likely to come out on their own. My first surgery date went like this: I turned up at the hospital (after not having eaten or drunk anything for 8 hours) with a bad case of bronchitis that I’d caught on an airplane. I got into one of those rear-end-revealing gowns and was lying down, ready to be wheeled into surgery, when the anesthesiologist came in and took one look at me coughing and sneezing away and said, "Go home."

So I went to the doctor to get some help for my problem (including some REAL cough medicine), and rescheduled the surgery. This time, I passed the anesthesiologist’s criteria, so the operation was a "go." I fell asleep and woke up (almost) stone-free. But then the excitement started: LA had an EARTHQUAKE!

I remember lying on a gurney on the 7th floor, coming out of the anesthesia and struggling to open my eyes, seeing a nurse open a laptop computer on the counter of the nurses’ station and say, "It’s a 5.8." Since I was lying on what was essentially a bed on wheels, I didn’t feel it and none of the nurses were concerned, because the hospital was built on rollers, so it just rocked harmlessly back and forth (although I was certainly glad the quake struck AFTER my surgery, so that my doctor’s "Star Wars" gun didn’t waver).

But I DID have a problem: the elevators all automatically shut down, so I couldn’t get from the 7th floor (where the operation had taken place) down to the 5th floor recovery area, where my poor husband was waiting, scared to death. I asked the nurses to please dial his cell phone, and they obliged but the cells weren’t working either! Meanwhile, the orderly tried to wheel me into one elevator after another, but he couldn’t get any of the doors to open. I even suggested walking down the stairs or maybe sliding down them on my rear end. I thought maybe we should try to find a burly fellow who could throw me over his shoulder in a Fireman’s Carry and take me down two floors.

Of course, it was finally all over–the elevator doors eventually opened, and I was wheeled down to the recovery room, where I was reunited with my now very frazzled husband. When I saw my surgeon again, he told me that they hadn’t been able to get all the stones this time, so I would have to do it all again, and meanwhile, TO DRINK LOTS OF WATER.

And that’s my "Prelude to a Kiss" message for YOU.

NOTE: This Diary entry, previously published on our old site, will have any links removed.

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