I was in agony, absolute, total, agony. Around me were hundreds, if not thousands of people, all of us intent on being some of the first people to take a ride on Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park. I’d seen the sneak preview video and it looked amazing, like no other ride I’d ever seen.
There was no way I was going to drop out of that queue, to go pee, but the pain…. oh my God, the pain. I felt as if I was holding on to a rising balloon, and if I just held on a little longer, I could make it, but if my grip failed me, I would fall and die. That’s just a metaphor, but in reality I really was on the verge of death. Let me explain.
First of all, you should know that I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, not just a fan of the movies, but the books and everything else related to the magical teen and his band of extraordinary buddies. You’re probably thinking that I’m just a kid, but you’d be wrong. I was a kid when the first movies came out, but as some guys on the mean streets sometimes say, “Once an addict, always an addict.”
When I heard about the new ride in Orlando I got in touch with another guy I knew from the Harry Potter Fan Club Facebook page and we both agreed we’d try and get on the inaugural ride. The reason I picked him is because we both live in Florida, I’m in Tampa and he’s in Jacksonville. We wouldn’t have too far to travel, so the deal was made.
The plan was to get a hotel close to the theme park and the next day wake up well before dawn and start queuing before the crowds came.
As you guys all know, you can have the best intentions in the evening and when you get up in the morning you don’t have the same amount of enthusiasm. We were sharing a room and when that alarm clock went off at 3 a.m. we weren’t in the best of moods. Maybe those few beers the evening before had been a bad idea.
Fortunately, the hotel had a 24-hour café and I sank two double espressos, followed by a bottle of water, followed by a mocha Frappuccino to go. My friend wasn’t into coffee, he said it gave him anxiety, but I can tell you this, soon after I’d downed those espressos I was good to go.
Since we knew we’d be standing in a queue for maybe a couple of hours we bought some stuff from the convenience store and put the food, water and soft drinks in our backpacks.
What was surprising was the fact when we got to the park around 5 a.m. there was already a stream of people lining up at the entrance to the park, all of them there for Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.
No kidding, we even met a guy who’d come all the way from England. The dude was dressed in a wizard’s cape and written on it were the words, “Potty for Potter.” He had to explain to me that “potty” can mean crazy in the UK. The guy was kinda condescending about having to explain that to me, but I paid it no mind.
This guy was potty, there was no doubt about that, flying over the Atlantic for a theme park ride. He told me he’d read in the media that the experience was one of a kind, and the park had spent $300 million on it. He said some of his countrymen travelled the world to watch their stupid football teams lose, so what he was doing wasn’t all that crazy.
“You mean soccer?”, I asked, genuinely. What did I know?
“NO!”, he said, shaking his head in disdain, I mean football!.
Jeez, I thought, I’m gonna have to spend the next few hours next to this guy and I’ve already upset him.
After about an hour we saw more and more people join the queue.
It was hard to say how many because it wrapped around the corner. In front of us I would guess there were about 300 to 400 people.
The time was now about 7 am, so there were only a couple of hours to wait before the park opened, but the thing was, I needed a pee. I’d only had those small espressos and had barely touched my Mocha Frappuccino, but I still felt those first pangs of pee pain. You know, the part where you’re not quite sure that if you just hit the release button for a second if something will come out.
At nine am, we were allowed inside the park and to my surprise, no one tried to jump the queue. Every single person was directed towards the ride, with some of us now inside the theme park and from what I could see, a lot of others still queueing on the outside.
That made me feel quite proud that we’d made the decision to wake up so early.
The sun was now out and I was in a bit of a predicament. I still needed that pee, well, I needed it more, but I was also thirsty. Those beers the night before really had been a bad idea. I decided I would just take a sip of some Coca-Cola rather than glug down water.
I’d later find out that this decision was a bad one, because sweet, soft drinks, like the coffees I’d drunk, are what you call diuretics.
What are they, you might wonder.
Well, the answer is they promote something called diuresis. Ok, so you’re still in the dark about this. The simple answer is they make you pee…. pee more than, say, water. Caffeine is like the king of diuretics, and I’d just had it in coffee and Coke.
I was really holding that pee in around the 10 am mark, about 5 hours into our queue. There were some helpful distractions, such as videos playing with some amusing words from Hagrid, or pictures of the ride itself and the pretty amazing Forbidden Forest that had been created. Still, I was now in pretty serious pain.
At around the six-hour point, I was standing cross-legged and slightly bent over. This seemed to ease the pain, as if I was squeezing the tubes where the urine traveled to meet its final destination. What I would later find out after a bit of research was that at this point, I was in danger of weakening my bladder muscles, something which could harm my bladder for the rest of my life.
In hindsight, this was the least of my worries.
Surely, we were close to getting on the ride, I hoped, and I just stood there looking like a man who was slightly demented or had recently been in an accident. My buddy had done the right thing and had just been taking small sips of that water, but to be honest, in his excitement, I don’t really think he was that concerned about my predicament.
I’d also later find out that the parts of my body that were helping me keep in this pee, now probably a tsunami waiting to happen, are called urethral cylindrical sphincters. These are great when you tighten them for a short while, such as when you don’t want a puddle of pee beneath you on a busy bus, but they are brakes, not doors, so they can be worn out.
At the seven-hour mark, I couldn’t overstate how much agony I was in. I knew we were close to getting on the ride, so I held on for dear life. That British guy heard me telling my buddy that I thought I was about to pee myself. My friend laughed, but I can tell you, it wasn’t funny to me.
My buddy said that if it was that bad, just go find a bathroom and he’d hold my spot in the queue.
You won’t believe what happened next.
That British guy overheard this and said in no uncertain terms that if I left the queue I’d have to start from the back. He said he also needed a pee, but in Britain, he said, there’s a thing called queuing etiquette. I think this guy thought he was special just because Harry Potter is British. That, or he was just a xenophobic snob.
I can recall his exact words. He said, “The reason we have queuing etiquette is because if we didn’t there would be chaos.”
“Queuing chaos doesn’t work,” he said, and then went on about a time in the past he’d had difficulty buying a train ticket in India and how he’d almost gotten into a fight at a buffet where hordes of hungry Chinese people fought over shrimp.
He said he wasn’t picking on me, only that if order broke down then order would cease to exist. “Formal and orderly queuing,” he said in a patronizing way, “is the mark of a civilised man.”
What a total jerk.
He told me that if I left the line he would make a complaint and say I had jumped the queue. What I really couldn’t believe is that other people in the queue didn’t get my back. I guess one less man in the queue was good for them, and so they just kept quiet.
The words that went through my head were, “The milk of human kindness”, and then I wished I hadn’t thought about milk. Gallons of it, pouring over pristine porcelain mountains. At that moment my urethral sphincters almost called it quits.
I’ll fill you in later, but I will tell you that I had already caused myself some damage.
It was at about the nine-hour point that we were very close to the ride entrance. I’d almost made it, but the problem now was the excitement I felt almost made me lose concentration and loosen those muscles, and let all the urine flood out. I had to concentrate. Keep the door locked, I kept saying to myself.
Everyone was laughing and joking, taking selfies and looking in awe at the ride we were about to go on. I was undoubtedly the only man in that queue who did not have a smile on his face. If anything, I grimaced, a kind of agonized grimace, like someone who’s just won the lottery and then been told they only have a week to live.
We finally got in the castle, but to be honest, I was in no mood for taking photos. I was hardly even aware at this point if I was actually holding a pee in, it was like I’d gone into survival mode. It felt like my urine had become a hardened prisoner and my entire body now was some kind of detainment unit.
The ride itself consisted of Hagrid’s motorcycle with a side cart next to it. I told my buddy that in the interest of me holding in this pee it might be best I take the bike and he the side cart. It was all about control, you see, I needed to feel in control. That British guy was right behind me on the other bike, something he’ll regret to this day.
At something like 50 mph we drove past Fluffy the three-headed dog, and other such things as Cornish pixies and a Centaur. I didn’t really care, I just wanted the experience to be over as quickly as possible. This was turning out to be one of the most painful and pointless days of my life…and there would be consequences to come.
The unexpected drop, opened the doors
I thought I had it under control, even on the biggest descents and through the sharp bends, but then there was a surprise drop and the heavens burst, the tsunami came, my bladder roared as its doors were kicked down by a violent torrent of urine.
My pecker must have been flailing around like an out of control fire hose, hours of back-up urine gushing from its spout like a great yellow geyser. The pee was everywhere and it stunk. It was old pee, neglected pee, and when it ejected from me it spread far and wide.
I looked behind me and saw that British guy wincing, looking utterly disgusted, his eyes glaring into mine. Was I embarrassed, you might ask. No, is the answer, I was relieved, incredibly relieved, and almost ecstatic that my British foe had tasted the vapors of an agony he had been an accomplice in creating.
I know guys, maybe I shouldn’t have felt so overjoyed that someone had to experience great wafts of urine vapor in their face. But you know what, I paid for it. I soon got my karma.
When I finally got back to Tampa after a pretty awkward farewell with my Harry Potter fanboy buddy, I felt a stinging pain every time I went to the bathroom to pee.
The consequences of holding in the pee
After seeing a doctor I was told I had a urinary tract infection. That could be cured he said, and told me he couldn’t believe I’d done a 10 hour urine hold. If there are records, he said, I might have broken some. The bad news, though, was that he said the damage done could be irreversible.
He told me that long-term bladder stretching could make it hard for me to pee in the future and one day if I kept doing this kind of thing I might have to put a catheter into my member and draw the urine out. On the other hand, all that stress on my bladder could lead to incontinence, so holding in even normal pees would be impossible.
I had some blood checks and my kidneys were functioning normally, but he said when you do something as crazy as I did, kidney damage can occur as can the appearance of kidney stones.
“Just don’t make a habit of enduring those marathons,” he said. “A few minutes is fine, but holding on for hours isn’t good for you at all.”
The one thing that really scared me is when he told me that the bladder can actually burst when you hold in a pee as long as I did. He said it was very rare, but it had happened. When it does happen you can actually die.
He told me not to worry, though, because the cases he’d heard about all happened to people who already had compromised bladders. He said, like what happened to me, before the bladder bursts people will just pee themselves.
He said cases of healthy bladders just bursting are so rare that he doubted that could have happened to me, but in the few cases it has happened, urine leaked into the abdomen and when people didn’t get straight to the emergency room they died.
The punchline to this story
I could have actually told one of the attendants at the park that I needed the bathroom and gotten the green light to go. He would have made sure I got right back into the queue, despite what that British guy might have had to say about that.