Your Step-by-Step Guide
To Overcoming Paruresis

Steven Soifer, et al
(New Harbinger)
You're having the time of your life at the office party but it's time to take a pee and you go into the bathroom and shut the door and you can hear all those people in the other room laughing and singing and because they are so near --- even though the door is shut --- for the life of you you can't, well, pass water. You have paruresis, also known as SBS [Shy Bladder Syndrome] or, for the poetic paruresistics, BBS [Bashful Bladder Syndrome].

So what to do? Well, we live in 21st Century America, so you

  • Make contact with the International Paruresis Association, and
  • Go to so you can find a support group.

And how will your support group support you? You'll be given a "pee buddy," a former, or, if you will, a reformed shy bladder person. He or she will arrange "pee dates" with you. This is not my always vivid imagination creating this --- it's right here in the book.

And so when it is time to go a-voiding, your buddy will be there, but, well, not right there, at least not at first --- he or she will be in the other room or down the hall or outside, but far enough away --- proximity is the problem --- for you to successfully do what has to be done.

If all goes well, the next time your buddy will be a little closer --- perhaps just down the hall. The next time, he or she will advance even further, perhaps be outside the very bathroom door. And then: you'll find you can be relieved while you are in the same room with your buddy, and, by transference, sooner or later, you'll be able to take on the bathroom on the main floor of Grand Central Station.

Sounds straightforward --- but for people with SBS, these steps are vital. For not being able to take a piss when others can hear you, or are close by, as you can imagine, is a royal pain (it's also embarrassing, and potentially a danger to one's health).

§     §     §

This slim volume, Shy Bladder Syndrome, is over-the-top in fascinating information: where does SBS come from? Usually some trauma associated with childhood. How do the workshops work? Lots of telling of stories of friendships lost, of trying and trying and not succeeding, of being so ashamed that one was unwilling to leave the house.

There are also testimonials,

    I think the workshop was so successful because it emphasized graduated exposure therapy.


    I was totally unprepared for the overwhelming, genuine caring and concern that literally poured from the gathering.

And then there are some genuinely surprising facts:

  • According to an IKEA survey, the primary reason people work at home "is to avoid having to use a communal bathroom;"
  • Different strokes for different folks, even historically: Herodotus tells us that in Egypt, "women stand erect to make water, the men stoop;"
  • "Europeans, in general, detest U. S. public restroom designs [where] the standard design for stalls are sides and a door that start one foot above the floor and extend only five and a half feet in total height;"
  • In England, it was found that "fully 96% of women don't sit on the toilet seat;"
  • One of the most worrisome problems for a SBS person is the Department of Transportation requirements for mandatory drug testing. This, for them, is the worst nightmare possible (it has to be done before an "authorized" representative of the testing company.) The IPA has suggested that alternative procedures would be allowed, such as "blood, hair, saliva, patch, or catheterization."
--- Joe Finney

Storm Chasers
The Hurricane Hunters
And Their Fateful Flight
Into Hurricane Janet

David Toomey
The first flight into the heart of a hurricane came about in 1943, on the 27th of July. Joseph B. Duckworth --- another of those names you think they made up, but they didn't --- was a former pilot for Eastern Airlines, now in the Air Force.

British pilots were being trained at Bryan Field in Texas, which was punishment enough, but they were also complaining because they were being forced to fly North American Aircraft Corporation's AT-6s which they considered dangerously flimsy. A hurricane brewed up in the Gulf of Mexico, and Duckworth made a bet with the British that the plane could make it into (and back out of) the storm.

Those were the days, weren't they? You're in the Air Force and some Brit bitches about the safety of the training planes so you say "Watch This," climb in, and take off right into the maelstrom to prove that it's no big deal. Toomey tells us that it was a small but fierce storm (in some parts of the world they're called willy-nillies) with winds of 80 - 100 mph.

Duckworth had planned just to get in and get out so he penetrated, he reported, somewhere between 4,000 and 9,000 feet up and as he was about to depart, he suddenly arrived in the eye. The clouds surrounding him were, he said, just like "a shower curtain."

When he got back to base, the weather officer was "slightly miffed" that he hadn't been invited along, so he and Duckworth got back into the AT-6, flew back in the storm, and returned with little damage. Except to the English pilots' egos.

The military was not so entranced with losing some of their airplanes and pilots to such zany tricks --- but meteorologists heard about it and were fascinated. "The pilots found fewer gusts and less turbulence than they had expected, and a few went so far as to say that conditions on the peripheries of thunderstorms were worse." Soon, flying in and out of hurricanes became the accepted method for the military to determine its power and probable course.

§     §     §

Storm Chasers concentrates on the fate of eight men who were downed while doing hurricane reconnaissance in 1955. But it also goes into the history of hurricanes, and the many attempts made to predict the course, the power, and possible site of landfall. By far the most interesting parts of the book have to do with experiences of those who have lived through one --- on the ground, at sea, or in the air --- and Toomey is at his best when he is describing the awesome power of such a storm, how one survives ditching in an unforgiving tempest.

However no one who participated in the flight of Crew 5 into Janet survived to tell the tale. How to tell their tale? What Toomey has chosen to do is to build three possible scenarios. He then shifts his narrative into the present (and we assume, fictional) tense:

    The plane's nose takes it hard. The observer's station is smashed, and the crew is thrust forward against their seat harnesses. The pilot's side windowscreen is cracked, and water explodes into the cabin. There is a mild curse from Morgan...He feels the pressure increasing, he can see only darkness, and he realizes that the plane is sinking quickly, and irretrievably. His final thoughts are muddled, but among them is a vague satisfaction at the knowledge that he will die with his crew...

Well, what can we say? A book of facts suddenly tumbles into fiction. It's believable; it's dramatic; but it is also stretching a point. How do we know that Morgan's thoughts were muddled? And that he uttered mild curses? And that he was satisfied to be dying? It's all in what you are willing to fabricate.

Compare this to A Perfect Storm. Sebastian Junger did not try to enter the heads of the dying men. Rather, he gave a very exhaustive run-down on exactly what happens when a fishing-boat flips in a storm; and then, he gave a very exact description of what happens to the human body when water instead of air is suddenly being inhaled into the lungs. It was a brilliant and gripping tour de force, and no fiction was needed.

During the course of Storm Chasers Toomey also fabricates a few other things. In speaking about America in 1955, he says, "Few could foresee that within the year, Fidel Castro would invade Cuba." With inner-tubes and surfing gear? Castro and his men lived and fought the Batista government out of the mountains of the Oriente province; they didn't have to "invade."

Toomey also tells us that the post-war American Navy had "Irish Catholics from Cincinnati, Baptists from Tuscaloosa, and following Eisenhower's 1948 order to integrate the armed services, there were black men in the squadron." But it wasn't Eisenhower who integrated the military:

    President Truman signed Executive Order 9981 on 26 July 1948, which stated, "It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin."

--- Gil Weinglass, USN, Ret.

Down to a
Soundless Sea

Thomas Steinbeck
Early in the 20th Century, Joe Chapel signs on to work in the boiler-room of the tramp steamer Los Angeles. Before this, Chapel had been a drifter and good-for-nothing, but after a few days on board, the officers and crew make a man out of him: responsible, hard-working, courteous.

Unfortunately, through neglect of one of the officers, the boat runs aground in a storm and sinks off Point Sur. Although partially blinded, Chapel survives.

    Chapel began to reflect upon questions that were only now finding resolve and purpose. He faced a world of diminishing prospects, and only determination and ingenuity could lead him out of his pit of aching uncertainty. But one thing became certain with time. If the dream was a true reflection of Chapel's soul, then he was free to be his own vessel and his own master. All he needed to do was chart the course and leave the rest to faith and the dream.

After a few weeks of recuperation, he is able to salvage the beached motor launch of the Los Angeles and go off on his own, making a living capturing miniature black sharks, selling them to the Chinese who live in the area.

§     §     §

Doc Roberts was "a respected medical man and good friend to almost everybody on the Monterey coast." He was "a strongly built specimen with orderly, handsome features and a generous expression." He would travel the rutted roads in his rickety cart with his faithful horse Daisy, and his tiny stock of medicine, saving people's lives, putting them back together.

One of his clients who lives in the far reaches of the peninsula, "Old Stoat," had broken his leg. He was a cursing, smelly old bastard, who never took a bath, trusted no one, and beat up on Mary Rose, his new young wife. Through a set of coincidences, Doc Roberts brings a young injured man --- Jersey Dean --- to the Stoat ranch, where he (Dean) falls in love with the girl (Rose) and manages to run the old bastard (Stoat) off the cliffside, and everyone lives happily after.

These tales are what we used to think of as Saturday Evening Post Potboilers. The good people are wonderfully good, the bad people are incredibly evil, but good always wins out over evil. I suppose there is a market for this reheated Pablum in Duluth, Topeka, Dallas or Orange County (but probably not Big Sur).

Unfortunately, it has the stink of the production line: there is little interest in the characters for they have no character inasmuch as they are Good or Bad (and never in-between). The drama lies in watching how the author pulls this plate of spaghetti together at the end --- the Good triumphant, the Bad dumped off the cliff. My guess is that if Thomas Steinbeck had grown up as Thomas Strudelheimer, Ballentine Books wouldn't be peddling this prune-whip to the world.

Just to make sure that we know from whence he comes, the author sticks in a story about a boy named John who borrowed four dollars from a Mrs. J. W. Post in the back woods of Monterey when he didn't have the fare home. Months later, on August 12, 1920 to be precise, as promised, he returned the money to her by mail with a note that concluded, "I beg, my friend, to be allowed to remain, yours very respectfully, J. E. Steinbeck Jr."

Thom's father was a powerful radical writer who changed this nation's view of the poor and the dispossessed. His dispatches from the middle west about the lives of the Okies appeared in several newspapers and magazines, and related, in horrific detail, the pain, the hunger, and the world's indifference to hundreds of thousands of displaced people. These journalistic masterpieces were to be transformed into one of the great books of the 1930s. At all times, there was no sugar-coating, no prettying up the facts, no romantic diddling.

His son, obviously, has other priorities.

--- R. K. Woolworth

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