“Here you are,” said the woman who had introduced herself as Stella as she returned to the spartan desk in the huge, open plan office where she had indicated that Phil should sit down. She was setting a mug of coffee down in front of him. “Help yourself to more from the machine whenever you want it. I need to get back downstairs in case any calls are coming in. Connie usually arrives just before eight o’clock and she’ll tell you what to do and get you started. Your office-mates should be in soon too, but they’re not such early risers as you evidently are.” She smiled at Phil and took her leave.
Twenty-six year old Phil Somerville took a few deep breaths to calm his nerves as the receptionist’s footsteps died away and he started to take stock of the tidy, deserted office in which he was seated. He had been relieved to see that Stella had shown no trace of any reaction other than friendliness and professionalism when he had arrived at Langham and Rutherford solicitors’ offices and introduced himself. His main anxiety about starting his first day at work, towering above all the other stresses of anticipation which such a huge day involved, had been that Graham, one of his new colleagues-to-be, might have broken his promise of secrecy about what had happened when Phil had arrived for his interview four weeks earlier and why he had ended up less than immaculately dressed for the interview. Any indiscretion on Graham’s part would have likely resulted in the embarrassing incident spreading around his new solicitor colleagues and other office workers like wildfire, as Phil had been fretting. He had for that reason scanned Stella’s face anxiously, when he said who he was, to catch any possible flicker of amusement in her eye. But her perfectly ordinary reaction reassured him that Graham had probably kept his mouth shut.
His interview had evidently gone well enough to result in his being accepted as a new trainee solicitor at Langham and Rutherford, but one question had made his toes curl and caused him to dig deep for an inspired response. Connie Rutherford, the partner who would be Phil’s direct boss, had said: “You have probably noticed that everyone here wears a neat suit, whether we are interviewing clients at the time or just working in the office. We are also obviously required to dress impeccably when we are representing clients in court. So I find it interesting that you have not come to this interview in a matching jacket and trousers. If you were to be accepted for this position, would dressing appropriately be any problem for you?”
Phil had gulped and then come out with the response to this dreaded question which he had feverishly prepared while Graham had been driving him back to the solicitors’ firm for his interview, delivering the answer in as confident a manner as he could muster, and hoping that the slightly dumbfounded few seconds of silence with which the two interviewers received it could be construed as a positive reaction. “Yes, I will certainly wear a very good suit at work to give the right impression to Langham and Rutherford’s clients. The reason I am not doing so now is that I feel that my talents should speak for themselves and that a suit is not necessary to convince you of them in this interview. Therefore I have dressed casually so that you can see me for my real worth to your company rather than any pretend facade which a suit might afford.”
Now, on his first working day having been accepted for the position despite this interview no-no, and with nothing to do but wait, Phil sipped nervously at the coffee for the next ten minutes. His heart rate had just about returned to normal when he was awakened from a reverie by the sudden noise of footsteps and conversation outside the door. Swallowing his mouthful of coffee hastily and replacing the mug back on the table in his hurry to greet the new colleagues and make the right impression, Phil instantly cursed to himself and looked down anxiously at his shirt, tie and suit trousers to see where the splash of coffee from his mug had ended up. To his relief, his white shirt and neat grey, recently dry-cleaned suit showed no sign of wetness, and only a couple of drops of the brown liquid on the spartan white desktop betrayed his carelessness. Coffee down his suit, while less drastic as a disaster than what had happened on the day of his interview, would still have been a bad start to the first day of his new job. Phil grabbed a tissue from his pocket, dabbed on the table surface hurriedly, and replaced the tissue in his pocket just in time as the door opened.
A female voice was in full flow. “Yes, my hit and run case is in court tomorrow. The client couldn’t really suggest anything mitigating when I interviewed him, seems like he just panicked at the time, so I think… oh hello! Are you Phil?”
Phil stood up smartly and extended his hand towards the young woman with as confident a smile on his face as he could muster. She introduced herself as Jenny, and the young male following her into the office turned out to be called David. Both solicitor colleagues seemed friendly, both were neatly dressed in business suits of a similar quality to Phil’s own, and Phil started to relax as the two of them hung up their outdoor coats, settled down at their respective desks and kept up a banter with him as they each grabbed a coffee from the machine, switched on their desktop computers and generally started work. Phil had clearly been expected, and they were obviously as keen to make a good start with him as he was with them.
The door soon opened again, and another male and female entered the room. This time Phil recognised both colleagues. The woman, a middle aged woman, was the firm’s partner Connie who had been one of Phil’s interviewers. And the male of about thirty following her into the room was Graham. Phil felt himself blushing slightly as Graham greeted him with a slap on his shoulder and a wink, but the neutral friendliness on Graham’s face reassured Phil that he had kept his promise of secrecy.
“I see you two have already met, then?” said Connie as she observed the interaction between Graham and her new protege. “How come?”
“I was downstairs when he arrived for his interview,” responded Graham smoothly. “We exchanged a few words then,” he continued. “Good to see you again Phil, and good luck with your first assignment.” He turned back to Connie. “He’s shadowing Jake to start with, right? They’re interviewing Danny Hayes and his brother.”
Phil sighed inwardly with relief as he observed Graham’s deft handling of Connie’s question and his glossing over of the lengthy, excruciatingly embarrassing encounter which Phil had had with Graham prior to the interview.
“Yes, you’re working with Jake to start with, Phil,” said Connie. “He shouldn’t be too long, at least not if he stayed off the beer and partying yesterday. Were you out with him last night, Jenny?”
Jenny shook her head. “No, I don’t encourage him, you know,” she replied.
Connie nodded at her approvingly. then continued: “Well, I did ask Jake to get here early today for a change to help get Phil started, so hopefully he’s dragged himself out of bed by now. Could someone set Phil up with a PC, please, and anything else he needs until Jake gets here? And show him around the place if you have time.” She headed off to her own adjoining office leaving Phil with the others.
While Jenny set up Phil’s computer for him and Graham and David fetched sundry stationery items for Phil’s desk and pointed out the location of photocopiers, printers and a cupboard full of client dossiers, several other new colleagues arrived, and Phil became acquainted with a middle-aged male called Vishy, a male of his own age named Jonathan, and a woman in her thirties called Liz, in addition to meeting up again briefly with the other senior partner of the firm who had interviewed him, Richard Langham, the company’s sixty-three year old founder, who shook hands cordially with Phil.
“I see you do indeed possess a smart suit, even if you don’t use it for job interviews,” Mr. Langham remarked, casting an approving eye over his new recruit. “Now, you’ll be joining us for the dinner and concert tonight, I hope?” he continued briskly. “Are you a Rachmaninoff fan like I am?”
“Oh yes,” replied Phil slightly breathlessly in his attempt to come over as enthusiastic. A quarter of an hour earlier his new colleagues David and Vishy had told him about this work outing which was scheduled for that same evening and warned him that attendance, while not strictly compulsory, was most certainly expected of all the firm’s employees. “I’d like to very much, sir. I love Rachmaninoff’s piano concertos especially.”
“Splendid,” beamed the older man. “I’ll see you again tonight then at the dinner if not before. Now best of luck with your assignments today. I’m sure you’ll do well. And don’t call me ‘sir’,” he added with a wink before disappearing in the direction of his private office further along the corridor.
By the time the door finally opened again some three quarters of an hour later than the first colleagues had arrived, and a tall slim guy of around Phil’s age swaggered in wearing a beige suit, punching Phil affably in the shoulder and introducing himself as Jake, Phil had already relaxed completely and warmed to his new colleagues in the friendly office atmosphere. But the first question that Jake asked Phil after introducing himself, pulling up a chair and sitting down next to Phil, caused Phil’s jaw to drop and his hands to tremble. “Right then, what do you know about wetting your pants?”
“Um… excuse me?” replied Phil faintly, battling with his face in an attempt to look innocent, as if to make out that he had no idea what Jake was talking about. Various people in the office had overheard Jake’s question and were looking at Phil in anticipation of his answer. Jenny in particular was standing right by Jake and gazing at him, and from the rapport between the two of them which Phil had noticed as soon as Jake had arrived, it seemed likely that Jenny and Jake were an item.
“How can a healthy young adult bloke piss himself?” Jake seemed to be performing slightly in front of Jenny in his interrogation of his new colleague. Jenny looked amused. Jake gazed at Phil as he waited for his reply, establishing a subtle dominance over the new trainee solicitor who seemed to wilt under the pressure.
Phil felt dizzy with shame and horror. Graham had betrayed him after all! “Um…” he began again, but faltered. Jenny laughed. Phil glanced abjectly and reproachfully at Graham who was observing the scene from behind his desk a few metres to one side.
Four weeks earlier, Phil had arrived by bus in his neat, light grey suit in the unfamiliar area of the city and had located the premises of Langham and Rutherford on the basis of the street number of their address with more than an hour and a quarter to spare before his interview appointment. Deciding that he should present himself at reception approximately ten minutes before his appointed time, he attempted to while away an hour by wandering around the streets in the vicinity, rehearsing in his mind his answers to the expected questions which would be posed to him in the interview, and recalling to himself the information about the company which he had feverishly researched the previous evening so that he could demonstrate an interest in what he hoped would be his first place of work as a junior solicitor.
Phil’s reconnaissance during the subsequent fifteen minutes of the neighbourhood, which was a concrete jungle of streets and office blocks, soon turned into a concerted search for somewhere to relieve himself as the bladder twinges of which he had been aware on the bus became a serious sense of fullness as he continued to bide his time. This search was not fruitful, and Phil finally decided that his best course of action was to report far too early for his interview after all and find a toilet there straight away before the situation became absolutely critical, which it was threatening to become by now.
Walking purposefully and briskly back to the venue of his interview, and wincing slightly as his bladder started to seriously protest, Phil grabbed himself momentarily in the groin at a point when a corner in the road was concealing him from the view of anyone ahead of him, and mentally cursed the extra cup of coffee he had consumed to calm his nerves that morning before setting out. Rounding the corner, he broke into a slight trot which brought him to the door which he had located a quarter of an hour earlier. He bent slightly forward, one knee bent inwards across the other, as he pushed ineffectively at the door and then looked at the pair of doorbells and their inscriptions in some confusion.
“Can I help you?”
Phil, startled by the unexpected male voice from right behind him, swung round to see a pleasant-faced guy of about thirty in a dark blue business suit and tie. “Oh,” Phil began, slightly flustered. “I’m looking for Langham and Rutherford. I’ve got an appointment.”
“Reception is round the side there,” said the stranger, indicating a side street to the left, “but you can come in this way if you like. It’s slightly quicker to get to the offices from this door.” He was inserting a key into the lock. “I spotted you running up the road just now, so I guess you’re a bit late for your appointment, right?” He pushed the door open and gestured to Phil to step inside.
“Um, no, that’s not till eleven, but I wanted to be early,” said Phil as he stumbled over the threshold and gazed round the foyer hurriedly and anxiously. A lift and a flight of stairs were in evidence, but no obvious bathroom facilities. “Actually I really need to go to the toilet first,” he added as he felt his bladder spasming again.
The unfamiliar employee was shutting the door behind them and turning back to Phil. “That’s round the corner to the right and then just continue to the end of the corridor… careful!”
“Oww!” gasped Phil in agony. He had moved off in the direction indicated as soon as the young man had uttered the words, but his shin had slammed immediately against the rim of a large clay plant pot on the floor which he had failed to notice on entering. As the pain seared through his body, he clutched his lower leg with both hands and hopped around on the other leg for a moment.
“Steady on, man, are you okay?” asked the stranger.
The pain in Phil’s leg subsided within seconds, but his senses then picked up a new warm feeling around and underneath his groin. Phil gasped again as he clamped off the flow which he had just released, then set off around the corner which the guy had indicated, breaking into a slightly limping trot as he spotted a sign reading “gentlemen” at the end of the corridor ahead. The warm wetness which he could sense in his underwear was replenished by another spurt lasting a second or two as he came to a brief halt outside the door, but for the moment at least Phil’s senses were focused on the pain in his bladder and the necessity of relieving it immediately, rather than the warm feeling around his groin and what that feeling must mean. He pushed the door open, charged into the deserted men’s washroom, and bolted into a cubicle, opening his suit trousers with trembling hands in one practised movement and then relieving himself into the toilet with no time to shut the cubicle door behind him. He closed his eyes as the feelings of relief surged through him, for the moment ignoring both the dull pain from where he had banged his shin and the warm but cooling wet sensation underneath where he was holding himself.
The sound of the men’s room door opening behind him also barely registered with Phil as he felt the tension in his whole body ebb away and his bladder emptied itself, but as the last of the droplets cascading into the toilet finally dried up and his hands fumbled with his underwear and flies to put his equipment away again, the feeling of the sopping wet material under his fingers brought the thought which had been lurking at the back of Phil’s mind to the fore. The sensation of relief from his bladder started to give way to this more troublesome notion.
“Are you alright?”
The voice interrupted Phil’s train of thought again as his fingers manipulated the zip and the clammy wetness bubbled around them through the soft material. His heart beat faster as he became more conscious of the fact that the young man who had let him into the building had followed him into the toilet, and that he was in no fit state to turn round.
“Mmm,” replied Phil indistinctly as he pulled the zip of his suit trousers up into place, pressed the button to flush the toilet, and then glanced downwards at himself. He gulped as he stared at his suit trousers.
“Are you sure?”
Phil made no reply. As the noise of the flushing toilet filled the air, he continued to gaze down at his trousers. Just two hours before he had been similarly examining them in the hall mirror before he set out, checking for any imperfection such as a crease or a piece of lint. Now he stared in horror at the dark, wet area which spread out over the crotch and the two or three streaks which continued downwards from the large patch, one down the inside of his left leg and the other more prominently on the front of the same leg.
“That looked painful,” the voice was continuing from behind him. “Those plant pots should be moved out of the way really. They’re not safe there. Sorry about that. Are you sure you’re alright? There’s a first aid box at reception if you need a dressing or anything.”
“Ohhhh…” groaned Phil indistinctly in reply.
“Come out and let’s have a look at your leg,” said the stranger. To Phil’s horror, he sensed the man coming right up behind him and tugging at the crook of his arm. He turned a quarter circle so that he was facing one wall of the cubicle and turned his head further to look at the young man but with his wet groin still concealed. The guy was pointing at the leg which Phil had banged.
“No, it’s okay,” stammered Phil.
“Roll up your trouser leg and let’s have a look,” persisted the man. “I’m Graham Turner, by the way. I’m one of the solicitors here. I’m not expecting any clients this morning, so I guess you’re due to see Jenny Houghton, right? The others are out of the office at the moment.”
“Um, no, I’m not a client. I’m here for a job interview.”
“Oh yes of course, for the vacancy. The partners will be interviewing you then, I guess. I’ll tell them you’re here. What’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you Phil. Now let’s just check your shin isn’t bleeding first. You don’t want to drip blood on Connie’s carpet while she’s interviewing you, now, do you?” Graham grinned at Phil making eye contact once again and then turned his attention to Phil’s lower half once more. “Come on, turn round and let’s have a look.” He dropped to a squatting position ready to examine Phil’s injury.
Phil numbly hoisted up the leg of his suit trousers so that the shin was exposed, then closed his eyes in anguish as he felt Graham’s hands touch his bare leg. There was a silence for a while, one which lasted rather longer than Graham would have needed merely to examine the injured shin. Finally Graham replaced the trouser leg gently and stood up again.
“No bleeding there, just a small bruise as far as I can see,” he reported. Then he added in a matter-of-fact voice: “But you seem to be a bit wet. Have you peed yourself?”
Phil gulped, made no reply, and stared down once again at the damage to his beautiful suit. As the extent of the wet patch and the streaks which emanated from it registered more emphatically with him, and as he came to terms with the fact that it was screamingly obvious that he had indeed peed himself and that he was now in no state to be interviewed for the post of trainee solicitor on which he had pinned all of his hopes, Phil felt like bursting into tears. He put his hands over his mouth and continued to stare downwards at himself.
“Okay, don’t worry,” said Graham hastily after a few seconds, recognising that no answer was needed to his question anyway because it was perfectly obvious that the lad had indeed peed in his suit and was absolutely devastated by this. “What time’s your interview?”
“Eleven o’clock.” Phil’s voice was barely a whisper as he fought back the tears.
“In fifty minutes, then,” said Graham. “Is that enough time for you to get home and change and then get back here? Where do you live?”
“Rifford Green. The bus only runs every half an hour. I won’t make it.” Phil covered his face with his hands as the enormity of what had happened started to sink in.
“We’ll go in my car then. It’ll only take quarter of an hour to Rifford Green, and the same time to come back. We’ve got time if we go now.”
“But this is my only suit.” Phil’s voice was an anguished whisper.
“Then you’ll be wearing something other than a suit for your interview, won’t you? Or do you honestly think you’ll give a better impression like that when you’ve quite obviously wet yourself? Come on, Phil. My car’s right outside.”
“How can a healthy young adult bloke piss himself?”. Jake, with Jenny fawning at his side, had Phil on the ropes.
Graham filled the silence following the question as he spotted Phil staring across at him instead of answering Jake’s strange query. “For goodness sake, Jake, can’t you provide a bit of context to your questions instead of just dropping the poor guy into it?” He made eye contact with Phil. “He’s referring to your first client, but he’s got a funny way of broaching the subject.” Graham winked at Phil reassuringly, fully aware of the sudden anxiety which Phil had felt and understanding the reason. On the way back to the office that morning four weeks earlier, Phil, by then dressed in clean dry underpants and a pair of dark trousers which did not really match his grey suit jacket, had begged Graham not to mention what had happened to anyone. Graham had assured him that it was none of anyone else’s business and that he did not need to worry.
Phil now recovered his composure and turned back to Jake. “What’s the context, then?” he asked in as neutral a manner as possible, hoping that Jake and Jenny had not picked up on his initial horrified reaction.
“Our client this morning, mate,” replied Jake. “Danny Pissypants. A very big baby, he’s twenty-one now. He’s coming in at ten-thirty. With his older brother Pete Soggynappy who was present and witnessed the incident too.” Jake was clearly exercising his wit for Jenny’s benefit.
“Danny and Peter Hayes are their names,” corrected Graham who had originally accepted the clients but had passed them on to Jake.
“Oh, I do apologise, Danny and Pete Hayes then,” continued Jake. “Danny, the younger brother, was arrested on Tuesday evening and bailed to appear before magistrates in two weeks’ time. We’re supposed to be defending him on a really wholesome combination of charges. Insulting a police officer, damaging the inside of a police car, and – wait for it – indecent exposure. Quite a collection, isn’t it?”
Phil looked nonplussed. “And pissing himself, you said?” he prompted.
“Well, that’s what his older brother Pete was babbling on about when I spoke to him on the phone yesterday. I guess pissing your pants is not a crime, but somehow that’s what I gather happened from what the lad’s brother was on about. I guess we’ll find out what precisely Danny Piddlybriefs’ problem was when the two of them get here and we all try to work out some sort of defence to his charges, find out what the hell the big wet baby was playing at.” Jake was rewarded by a giggle from Jenny.
Graham was still eavesdropping on the conversation at Phil’s desk and interjected at this point. “You know, we are actually supposed to be open-minded and show some understanding of our clients so we can take their side in the story. Otherwise it’s a bit difficult defending them in court. To say nothing of keeping good relations with the clients for the sake of the business. I’m sure you know that, Phil, but I’m not sure Jake’s ever really got the hang of keeping an open mind and taking the clients’ side.”
“Oh, don’t worry about me,” retorted Jake to Graham. “I’ve got a very open mind. I’m sure twenty-one year old Danny has a perfectly innocent explanation for weeing in his jeans and being charged with these charming misdemeanours. It will be all the police officers’ fault, I’m sure.” He turned back to Phil. “That’s why you’re going to find out all you can about why healthy adult blokes might piss themselves after a night on the town. There’s your computer, all the information on the internet is at your mercy, find out about it and get yourself prepared for Pete and Danny Woopsy-Daisy-I’ve-done-it-in-my-pants Hayes when they come in an hour.”
The Hayes brothers had slightly similar appearances, they were wearing identical rugby shirts, and they gave the impression of having a particularly close emotional bond with each other. However twenty-five year old Pete was clearly the dominant one. At times during the interview he evidently found it appropriate to reprimand Danny, the younger one by four years, whenever he felt that the latter was stepping out of line or not making enough effort to answer the questions being put to him. Danny, clearly devoted to his older brother, gave a chatty and slightly boisterous impression during the introductions with the two young solicitors Jake Purnell and Phil Somerville in their neat suits and ties, and he maintained this impression from the initial pleasantries right up to the point where the discussion moved on to the details of his brush-up with the police the previous Tuesday evening and how he had ended up with the weird set of charges for which he was now summonsed to appear before magistrates.
Phil’s previous hour spent reading up about the human system of processing fluids and bladder control had been rather a waste of time as a start to his first day. The information had not even covered banging your shin against a clay plant pot or any other particular reason for involuntary urination, so Phil had ended up without any preconceived ideas about what might have happened to their client. Phil was nonetheless keen to create a good impression in front of his new colleague Jake, who had by now stopped his evident showing off and adopted a more professional attitude after Jenny had returned to her desk to concentrate on her own work. Phil wanted to make sure that he took an active part in the interview, adding questions of his own as well as taking notes while Jake established the basics of the story.
These basics took some time to emerge, because the younger brother Danny initially kept up a voluble, incessant and at times slightly insolent chattiness (“This is my cool brother Pete, he’s an actor, he’s been in plays in the theatre, he’s got such a cool motorbike, I always stay with him when I’ve got free time from college,…What a boring office, haven’t you got anything cool to put on the walls? Pete’s got all sorts of cool stuff at home…Do you blokes always wear suits? Haven’t you got anything cool to wear? Don’t your girlfriends get bored looking at you?…” and so on, and on and on). But when Phil brought the brothers each a cup of coffee and Jake’s request to get down to business was finally backed up by a firm rebuke from Pete to Danny, the latter’s demeanour switched suddenly from its previous hectic chattiness to a sulky unwillingness to cooperate.
“The magistrates will expect to learn your side of the story, so we do need to make sure we know exactly what happened,” Jake was saying in an attempt to encourage Danny, who had failed to respond to Jake’s opening question asking for Danny’s account of what had occurred. “Let’s take it from the start. The two of you were returning from a night out, right?”
“Not me, I was just picking Danny up and giving him a lift back to my place on the motorbike,” said Pete. “He’d been out with his student friends for one last night at college, then he was coming to stay with me for a few days.”
Danny perked up again and launched into another hyperactive monologue. “Yeah, I had a great time. My mate Steve was there, so was Adrian, and Ben and Jonathan, they’re dead cool, and Toby and Hugh. But Toby went home after he got into a fight with Adrian. Serves him right really, well okay Adrian started it by making some remark when Toby kept going for a piss every twenty minutes, but then Toby shouldn’t have mentioned Adrian wetting his pants in the queue for the toilets at Alton Towers last year. Stands to reason Adrian hit him. All of us are in the Real Ale Club, we drink the proper stuff, you know, not the gassy lager you get in most bars, but stout and porter and cool stuff like that. Oh yeah and Gary too, he was there, he’s really into real ale, he drinks the bottled stuff from Germany. Gary was drinking so much I reckon he was pissing even more than Toby, I’ve never seen a bloke go to the toilet so many times. Still, it’s real ale and it’s worth it even if you do end up peeing your brains out. Pete here knows all about real ale too, don’t you, Big Bro? You won’t catch Pete drinking rubbish. Pete’s met my mates from the Real Ale Club and they think he’s dead cool. You wouldn’t believe what my mate Steve said about Pete after the first time they met him and they all saw his cool motorbike. Steve wants to get a motorbike just like Pete’s but he still needs to get his licence. Adrian reckons Pete can get the bike modified if he wants, but Pete knows better than that, he’s had his bike since…”
“Danny!” interrupted Pete sharply, successfully bringing his brother’s verbal diarrhoea to a halt. “That’s enough. You know perfectly well we’re not here to talk about beer and motorbikes.”
“Let’s hear from you, Danny, about what happened when you were arrested on Tuesday,” prompted Phil, his pen poised over his sheet of paper.
Jake filled in the details which were known by then and brought the discussion to its necessary focus. “Let’s see, we have three separate charges. Insulting a police officer, indecent exposure, and causing damage to the inside of a police vehicle. Well, the first one can usually be explained away by hefty emotions, and we might be able to convince the magistrates to let you off that one. Depending on what exactly you said to the officer, I suppose. But the other two are pretty serious, aren’t they? What happened?”
Danny stared sullenly at the table. “Go on, Little Bro,” prompted Pete after a pause. “Tell them what happened.”
Danny opened up. “Look, it wasn’t my fault! Those policemen wouldn’t let me piss in the road! What was I supposed to do? I was trying to tell Pete earlier that I needed a piss, banging on his arm and yelling, but he couldn’t hear, and when he stopped at the lights I just had to go, so I got off the bike, and I didn’t know the police were there. That stupid officer asks me what I’m doing with my thing out, and so I tell him what the bloody hell does it look like and I call him a stupid git and yeah I know that was stupid of me but I just couldn’t help it because I was angry and bursting for a piss and he made me put it away before I’d even had a chance to piss, and he was acting like he couldn’t understand why I was standing there in the road…”
“Wait, wait,” interrupted Jake. “Calm down and take it from the beginning. You got off your brother’s bike while he was waiting at traffic lights, right? Why did you do that?”
The story which emerged, under some somewhat brusque, occasionally even sarcastic, questioning from Jake, and some much gentler prompting from Phil, was that the younger brother Danny had discovered that his bladder, coping with the consequences of a rowdy evening of beer drinking in his college town with his fellow real ale connoisseurs, could not hold out for the duration of the journey to his brother Pete’s home some forty miles away, despite this taking less than an hour on Pete’s motorbike. In the latter stages of the journey, Pete had mistaken Danny’s attempts to signal that something was amiss, banging on Pete’s chest with his hands, for a general expression of joy and excitement which would have been quite typical for Danny.
Pete had therefore carried on, oblivious to Danny’s desperation, until they had finally arrived in Pete’s home town where, with barely one minute of journey time before they would have arrived at Pete’s house, they had been forced to stop at a red traffic light. Danny, on the point of wetting his pants by that stage, had then immediately clambered off the bike in the middle of the junction, waddled uncomfortably to the side of road, and opened the fly of his jeans, completely unaware of a police patrol car right by him. Ready at last to relieve all the pressure which had built up to critical proportions, he was startled by a firm hand on his shoulder.
A heated altercation followed, which included the police officer ordering Danny to put his equipment back into his underwear where it belonged immediately and to take off his helmet, and Danny insulting the officer after the latter asked him what he thought he was doing (“What the bloody hell does it look like, you stupid git!?”). The officer and his colleague then officially cautioned Danny and bundled him into the back of their car with the intention of giving him time to calm down while they turned their attentions to the motorbike’s driver. Pete, aware of the unexpected turn of events, had by now manoeuvred the bike to the side of the road. After several minutes of questioning to Pete about where he and Danny were heading and whether they had been drinking alcohol, followed by inspection of Pete’s licence and insurance documents, the two officers then got back into the front seats of their car to deal with the younger brother. It was then that they discovered, to their extreme annoyance, that Danny had by now released the entire contents of his bladder into his jeans and that the back seat of their squad car was drenched in Danny’s urine. At that point they had lost all patience with the young man, placed him under arrest, and driven him straight to the police station to be formally charged, still wearing his soaking wet jeans.
Danny’s two legal representatives showed differing reactions to the story. While Phil nodded, made sympathetic noises and scribbled notes in response to Danny’s and Pete’s account, Jake interrupted occasionally with sardonic questions. Pete reacted to this in a slightly annoyed manner at one stage, supporting his brother protectively with an arm round his shoulders, but Jake insisted that these questions would be expected from the magistrates when Danny appeared in court and therefore it was necessary to establish the answers in advance. Jake made a particular issue out of the fact that Pete and Danny had almost arrived at their destination just two streets ahead when Danny got off the bike to urinate at the side of the busy street in full view of the general public, and Jake wanted to know why Danny had not just waited the final minute or so before he would have been able to use Pete’s toilet. “Surely you’ve been toilet trained, haven’t you? Didn’t your mother teach you to wait for a proper opportunity when you needed a wee?” was one of Jake’s questions. He also focused on the short nature of the journey (less than an hour) and openly wondered why Danny had been unable to wait that long. “Did you forget to go for a pee before you got on the back of your brother’s bike?” was another exploratory question. And when Danny defensively indicated that he had indeed gone to relieve himself before saying goodbye to his student friends in the bar, Jake followed up with “Can’t you normally wait fifty minutes before you have to piss again?”
To Phil’s relief, since he had started to feel that Jake’s questions had become unnecessarily embarrassing and demeaning to their twenty-one year old client who had clearly done little more wrong than suffer the consequences of a full bladder at an inconvenient moment and had handled his encounter with the police poorly because he was panicking about being unable to hold it any longer when the officers apprehended him, Jake finally brought the interview to a close. An agreement was reached that Danny would plead guilty to the charges, that Jake himself would represent Danny in front of the magistrates, and that Jake would strive to present the case that Danny was extremely sorry both for exposing himself in public and for insulting the officer, that he knew that this was wrong and would never do it again, and that the damage to the car seat was an unavoidable consequence of being shut inside the police car with no access to a toilet. After that, said Jake, it was luck of the draw whether the magistrates would be understanding enough to let Danny off with a caution or whether they would choose to impose a fine or community work.
After the brothers had departed, Jake handed Phil a file containing information about another of their clients who had been arrested on a charge of dangerous driving and told him to go back to his desk and study it. Jake evidently had little work to be getting on with himself, because he then wandered over to Jenny’s desk and spent twenty minutes obviously chatting her up. Jake was clearly entertaining her with the juicy details of the interview which they had just conducted, and Jenny was giggling at Jake’s account. As Phil half-listened to the snippets (“…silly idiot tried to pee in the road right in front of a police car…pissed himself in the car while they were checking his brother’s motorbike insurance…I said to him ‘Haven’t you been toilet trained? Didn’t your mother teach you?’…”) Phil privately thanked his lucky stars that it had been Graham, and not Jake or Jenny, who had been on hand when Phil had arrived for his interview four weeks before and had suffered his own unfortunate accident. Jake in particular would undoubtedly have handled the situation far less compassionately and helpfully than Graham had done.
Phil drained his coffee cup, muttered “Excuse me a minute” to his colleague’s Jake, Jenny, Vishy and Stella at the large restaurant table where they had all just finished their dessert, one of two tables at which the entire staff of Langham and Rutherford was dining out, and stood up to squeeze round the back of Jake’s chair and go and locate the toilet. Going for a pee before they all headed on out to the concert was obviously a sensible plan, but Phil was also keen to take a break from the company which had been rather dominated by Jake’s conversation during the meal. Jake was still clearly showing off in front of Jenny especially, and while he was no longer talking about their interview with the unfortunate client Danny Hayes and his brother (discussing clients in a public place was obviously strictly prohibited), the slightly loud-mouthed, beer-fueled chatter of Phil’s colleague was beginning to get on his nerves. They had all walked from the office, still in their neat suits, to this restaurant directly after finishing work, and while Phil had found his first working day shadowing Jake a generally positive experience, he now felt he needed a bit of a break from this particular colleague. The glasses of beer with which Jake had accompanied his meal, coupled with the fact that Jenny was also at their table and fawning over him, were loosening Jake’s tongue to the point where Phil was beginning to find his conversation obnoxious.
Phil managed to escape the confines of the restaurant table and scanned the far end of the restaurant keenly. He had observed Vishy heading in that direction when the middle-aged colleague had briefly left the table at the end of the main course, but he had not seen exactly where Vishy had gone. Not seeing what he was looking for, Phil started off vaguely in the direction which he had seen Vishy take, but he was immediately hailed by a dominant male voice at another table which he was passing.
“Hey Phil, are you coming to join us?”
It was Richard Langham, the older of the two partners of the firm. Phil mentally cursed to himself as he realised that he had inadvertently blundered towards the other of the two tables at which the workforce of Langham and Rutherford were dining out. His visit to the toilet would therefore appear to be on hold. All eyes at that table were on him now as Richard hailed him, and Phil turned and smiled at both partners Richard and Connie, and his other colleagues David, Liz and Graham, all of them seated at the table with half-finished cups of coffee and looking up at him.
Richard gestured grandly at the spare empty seat. “You appreciate good music, don’t you, Phil? This lot here haven’t the slightest idea what we’re listening to tonight. Come and tell us about Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto. Liz, order the young man another cup of coffee, will you?”
Phil sat down under the gaze of the other five people at the table and, to Mr. Langham’s obvious approval, began a slightly self-conscious summary of the information about the composer which he had hurriedly read up from the internet during spare moments during that working day in preparation for just such an eventuality. Phil was, after all, very aware of the need to impress his new employers in whatever way he could. Richard Langham, now detecting a kindred spirit in Phil, started up his own spiel in response, and Phil found himself listening to a lengthy and animated musical critique, to which he feigned great interest. Graham caught Phil’s eye across the table at one point, smiling and winking at him, and Phil began to relax and even enjoy this somewhat more sophisticated company than the group at the other table had been. Even so, Phil was well aware that he really could have done with relieving himself first before getting involved here at this table, that the extra cup of coffee which he was given was not helping that situation, and he made a firm mental note to himself to find the toilets in the concert hall before the concert started if he did not get another opportunity here in the restaurant.
The concert hall was in easy walking distance of the restaurant, and before Phil knew it, deep in conversation as he was with Richard Langham, the restaurant bill had been paid and the entire large group from both tables was setting off out through the door. Richard was continuing to expound on classical music to Phil as Phil walked next to him towards the concert venue, his neat grey suit riding satisfyingly against his legs as he moved, and his bladder calmed down in comparison with its earlier protestations, reassured by Phil’s firm intention to find the toilets and pee before getting seated for the concert. Jake, the colleague in the beige suit with whom he had been working closely during the day, was still impressing Jenny with his inane chatter, evidently loosened up by the beer which Jake had liberally consumed with the meal, and other colleagues were forming small groups of their own as they walked.
Connie, the other partner of the firm, had the concert tickets to hand and took the lead as they all trooped into the huge foyer of the concert hall. Phil gazed around him as they assembled inside, spotted the sign reading “toilets” which he had been looking for and glanced anxiously in the direction which it indicated, but was immediately forced to turn his attention back to Richard who had grabbed a programme from the stand and was pointing out the printed items to Phil. “Look, that’s good planning,” Richard was saying approvingly to him. “They’re starting off with the Prokofiev. That will get the orchestra warmed up nicely. And then the pianist is on after that for the Rachmaninoff to take us to the interval on a real high. I was hoping they’d do that, because…”. Richard continued to bend Phil’s ear as Phil shot another anxious glance at the sign which he had seen, then turned back to the older man.
Richard’s monologue continued for another minute and a half as Phil continued to listen politely. “…then you get the most exquisite pause broken only by a single note held by the solo clarinet, and then dum, dum, dum-de-dum and BOOM with the percussion as the piano takes the theme back. I don’t know much about this guest pianist, to be honest, but I’m looking forward to hearing his interpretation of that particular passage…” The solicitor colleagues were by now moving on forwards into the auditorium at Connie’s direction. Phil gulped and shot another glance in the direction of the toilets. “Come on, Phil,” continued Richard. “You and I appreciate music much more than anyone else here. Let’s grab the best seats.”
The split second decision which Phil now had to make, a choice between announcing his need to relieve himself and holding up his new bosses and all of his colleagues while he went to do so, or keeping quiet and just tagging along with everyone else to take his seat in the crowded concert hall, fell to the latter option. Phil had noted the provision in the concert programme of an interval, and in the circumstances in which he now found himself, the pragmatic decision seemed to be “hold on until then”. The majority of the audience was already seated in the auditorium by now, and many people had to rise from their seats and let the ten legal experts from Langham and Rutherford in their neat suits squeeze tightly past. Their reserved seats were situated almost at the front, close by the orchestra, and right in the middle of two consecutive rows with five of the lawyers in front and five directly behind them.
Phil followed Richard into the foremost of their two rows, pushing past many other concert-goers as he and his new colleagues all made their tortuous way to their block of ten seats. As he finally sat down uncomfortably on the push-down, cinema style seat in the cramped confines of the long row of concert-goers, he took stock. He was seated with Richard Langham on his right and David, a colleague of about his own age wearing a dark coloured suit with whom he had had little contact so far this working day, on his left. Connie and Stella were also seated in his row, on Richard’s other side, and the other five colleagues, Jake, Jenny, Liz, Vishy and Graham, were seated in the row behind him. To both Phil’s left and right were many other people, all seated in the same cramped seats. The members of the orchestra just in front of them, separated by only two rows of audience members, were busy tuning their instruments, and the sound of this was competing with the chatter around them as the still arriving members of the public gradually filled the still vacant seats around them.
Richard had by now finally stopped chattering to Phil and was talking to the other partner, Connie, who was seated on Richard’s other side. Phil tried to settle himself in his seat, but then shot a sudden nervous glance behind him as he wondered if he should fight his way back out again and go for a pee after all. That was still perhaps just feasible as a possibility, if highly inconvenient for everyone around who would have to let him out again, not to mention embarrassing. Then he put that thought firmly out of his mind again as he decided that the bladder pressure would just have to be tolerated until the interval. He adjusted a crease in his grey suit trousers, rubbed his sweaty hands nervously together, moistened his slightly dry mouth, then started to read his copy of the programme which he had taken from the supply in the foyer. Assuring himself that the situation was manageable, that he could sit reasonably still for the time being without his need to urinate being obvious to either Richard or David sitting to either side of him, and that he would be able to go and pee in the interval after the Prokofiev and the Rachmaninoff, Phil calmed his nerves and waited as the final audience members took their seats, the orchestra finished tuning, and the hum of conversation around them was suddenly replaced by applause as the conductor strode onto the stage, bowed to the audience and turned back to the orchestra. The noise of the applause died away, an expectant hush washed through the crowded concert hall, the conductor raised his baton, and the violins brought the first movement of the Prokofiev symphony underway.
Hundreds of people around Phil were now getting to their feet as the conductor gestured at the solo pianist who was getting up from the piano stool and bowing, and the applause rose to a deafening crescendo. Phil too was on his feet in an instant, now at last no longer needing to try to limit the effects of his urgent discomfort by mere subtle shifting of his cramped seated position, as he had been doing right through the Moderato, Adagio and the Allegro Scherzando of the piano concerto. Now he could finally stand up and move about on the spot as he held his bladder shut for what should be the last remaining moments before he could bolt out to the toilet for relief. During the second, slower movement of the Rachmaninoff concerto, Phil had started to feel so desperate that he had been seriously wondering if he was actually going to make it. And during the final movement, while Richard on his right had concentrated his attention solely on the orchestra, Phil had sensed that David on his other side had picked up on his subtle squirming and was glancing at the crotch of Phil’s suit trousers now and then as if he was expecting to see a wet patch suddenly appear. Phil, who obviously had no intention of letting that happen, had limited his squirming as best he could, waited successfully for the familiar themes of the piano concerto to reach their conclusion, and was now using the audience’s ecstatic standing ovation to move about on the spot where he stood. “Encore, encore!” the audience was yelling, and Phil too yelled and applauded his appreciation of the performance as he braced himself to get back out through the crowds to the toilets where he could let it all go.
The applause died away. Phil turned to his left and prepared to work his way out into the aisle, then stopped and looked in confusion as he saw that David and everyone else in his row were sitting back down. The pianist was sitting back down at the piano. An expectant hush was returning to the hall. Phil lowered himself back into his seat and tried to come to terms with what he now realised was happening, as the pianist waited for complete silence to return and then started up an extra solo piece which was not listed in the concert programme. The audience’s request for “encore” had been answered, as Phil now realised as he made one last hopeless glance at the audience members in the row to his side before resigning himself to the fact that escape was not yet possible after all.
Phil’s bladder protested violently now. In pain, he pressed his legs together and jammed his hands in between them, then shifted one hand and held himself tightly there through the suit trousers. Another vicious spasm ensued, and Phil squeezed again to avert the impending catastrophe as he felt his whole body now threatening to give up the struggle. Sensing David looking once again where he was clutching himself, he turned his head and looked back, catching David’s eye, his face now clearly betraying the agony which he could feel. David looked back at him with an obviously concerned expression. Phil brought the spasming back under control for the moment, at least to the extent that no spurt of pee escaped, but then grabbed his crotch and strained once again as the brief recovery relapsed to another wave of urgency and panic which, once again, Phil just managed to control.
The piano piece continued. Phil now lifted his hands momentarily out of his lap, placed them to either side of his seat and pushed down so that his body lifted slightly upwards, then flopped back down and sat right forward as he strained again to keep the terrible pressure at bay. The feeling of desperation was then infused with an extra combination of embarrassment and annoyance as his ears picked up a muffled commotion from his colleagues in the row behind them. He could hear Liz gasping slightly, Jenny muttering “oh no”, and then Vishy’s whispered but clearly audible remark, probably addressed to Graham: “He’s pissing himself, he’s wetting the seat.” Phil’s desperation, as he continued to struggle to avoid spurting pee into his suit, gave way partly to a new angry emotion. “No!” he mentally retorted to Vishy’s whisper. “I am not pissing myself, I am not wetting the seat or my suit. I am holding it in until this short piece has finished, then I’m doing it in the toilet like any decent adult human being! I am staying dry. I am not going to let Graham’s prompt saving action and subsequent discretion after that incident before my job interview all be in vain by wetting myself in front of my colleagues now!” And, to another muffled, horrified gasp from Liz and a clearly audible snort of mirth from Vishy behind him, Phil bent forward again, held on for dear life, and waited as the short piano piece reached its final closing chords.
The entire audience was on its feet and applauding again. Phil got numbly to his feet too, felt David’s hand on his arm pulling him to the left, heard him mutter “Go on Phil, run for the toilet!”, left his place and staggered along the row, squeezing past David and the other audience members to get out into the aisle. In some confusion he noticed vaguely out of the corner of his eye that the attention of Vishy and several other colleagues in the row behind was not on him at all but that they were gathered together, apparently huddled around, and fussing over, someone who was still seated. But Phil had no time to investigate what was going on there. His progress towards the relief station indicated by the signs was painful but urgently brisk as he made his way, fortunately not barred by too many people since most of the audience was still busy applauding. The feeling of physical and emotional relief as he stumbled up to the urinal, opened his trousers, pulled his underwear aside and released it all, almost made Phil burst into tears. His suit trousers were dry, his underpants merely a bit damp, and he had miraculously avoided a disgrace of unthinkable proportions.
His pee flowed, and continued to flow, as Phil stood there trembling. Other males were joining him at the urinal, finishing up and leaving again, but still Phil stood there as his bladder gradually emptied and the strain ebbed away. As his breathing returned to normal he started to become aware that the latest guy to take his place in the adjoining space was Graham, the new colleague who had helped him after the unfortunate embarrassing incident before his job interview four weeks earlier. Phil pulled himself together and acknowledged his colleague standing next to him, and a brief conversation ensued about the music which they had just heard.
“I could do with some fresh air,” remarked Graham after the two of them had finished peeing and were rinsing their hands at the sinks. “We’ve got at least fifteen minutes before the second half. Are you coming outside with me?”
The two young men wandered out into the cool evening air. “I’m keen to get away from the others for a few minutes anyway, to be honest,” Graham was continuing. “Jenny’s absolutely furious. Liz has gone to alert the concert staff, see if they can help, or at least get it all mopped up off the floor before the second half starts. Connie’s trying to help too, I think, and Stella said she’d try to clean up the seat with some paper towels or something, but I’ve no idea if she’s found any. As far as I’m concerned they can sort it all out themselves. It’s not my problem. I guess you saw what happened, did you?”
“No,” said Phil. “I suppose I vaguely noticed something was going on, but I didn’t stop to look. What happened, then?”
But before Graham could respond, their conversation was interrupted by a voice from behind them. It was that of a young male, boisterous and friendly in its tone, if slightly insolent, and Phil recognised it at once. He turned round to see their client Danny Hayes accompanied by his brother, both lads grinning as they greeted Phil and Graham and wandered up to them. “Hey, look who it isn’t!” Danny was hailing them. “What are you doing here? We’ve got to stop meeting like this, you know. Pete and me, we’re having a night out, celebrating finding you guys who will get me off my charges and tell those policemen they were wrong. You guys having a night out too? Still in your boring suits, I see. You’ll never pick up any girls like that, you know. Where’s Jake, is he not with you?” The two brothers were both dressed in trendy outfits, obviously prepared for a night out on the town, in marked contrast to the rugby shirts and jeans in which they had kept their appointment at the office that morning.
“Hi there,” said Phil. “How funny seeing you two again so soon. Yes, Jake’s around somewhere.”
“Oh look, there he is,” said Pete, his attention drawn to the entrance of the concert hall right by them through which a figure in a beige suit was emerging. “Hey, Jake!” he called.
Jake glanced over momentarily like a frightened rabbit on hearing his name, then immediately turned away and made to leave along the street in the opposite direction from where Phil, Graham and the brothers were standing, but Danny bounded up to Jake and waylaid him. Pete followed in his wake.
“What’s the matter? Not speaking to us anymore?” Danny was saying as he stood in Jake’s way. Then he stopped short as he looked at his defending solicitor. “Oh crikey!” he exclaimed.
“Have you peed your pants, Jake?” asked Pete.
“Oh crikey!” repeated his younger brother. “He has too!”
“Get out of my way,” mumbled Jake as he attempted to escape but failed to get past the pair standing in his path.
Phil looked over at the colleague who had been training him during the working day but with whom he had had no further contact since he had left him drinking beers and showing off to Jenny at the restaurant table earlier that evening. As he stared at the solicitor whom he had been shadowing that day, he could see that Danny and Pete were not joking. The beige suit trousers, illuminated by the outdoor lighting of the concert hall, were soaking wet all around the crotch and backside where Jake had evidently peed himself in a seated position. As Phil remembered the commotion and whispered remarks which he had heard from the colleagues behind him while he had been struggling to contain himself during the pianist’s encore, and then those same colleagues huddled around someone who was still seated during the final standing ovation when Phil had finally made his desperate escape to the toilets, he now put two and two together as he watched his colleague Jake standing there in sopping wet trousers and being teased by the two clients from that morning.
Danny was by now gleefully repeating some of what Jake had said to him earlier that same day as he and Pete prevented Jake from making his escape, giggling between the snippets as he recalled them. “Did you forget to go for a pee before the concert, Jake? Haven’t you been toilet trained? Didn’t your mother teach you to wait for an opportunity?…”
Phil turned away from the scene and caught Graham’s eye. “Yes, now I see what happened,” he said. “Poor Jake.”
Graham nodded. “Yes. I think he was so busy chatting up Jenny that he forgot to pee after the meal. It was obvious to me that he was dying to go to the toilet in the concert, and he couldn’t leave because we were in the middle of the row. And then when the piano player did that extra piece he just couldn’t hold it in any longer. Jenny’s very angry with him. Vishy seems to find it funny. Liz and Connie are trying to help, but there’s not much they can do really. I guess Jake’ll be leaving now and not coming back for the second half. I don’t blame him, I’d do the same.”
Two weeks later Phil, seated to one side of the courtroom, scribbled notes on his pad as his colleague Jake, dressed in a dark suit and tie, summarised and wound up his client’s case. “…So, your worship, we have here a young man who has never offended in the past, simply being caught short on the back of his brother’s motorcycle, and being forced to relieve himself at an inappropriate moment. The emotional embarrassment at being apprehended, together with his very urgent need to void his bladder, explain the insult which he delivered to the police officer, and he is truly sorry for this and extends his sincere apologies to that officer. My client also acknowledges that he should never have drunk so much beer before starting a journey like that in the first place, and he will do his utmost to learn from this experience so that it is never likely to occur again. I trust, sir, that you can understand the circumstances which caused my client Mr. Hayes to behave in the way he did, and will agree with me that neither a fine nor a community sentence is necessary in his case.”
The lead magistrate pressed his fingers thoughtfully together. “Your plea, Mr. Purnell, would cut more ice if it were not the case that Mr. Hayes is a healthy young man, who has no particular medical issues which would explain poor bladder control, and who should therefore be able to wait for a reasonable opportunity to urinate. It is especially strange, to my mind, that Mr. Hayes dismounted from his brother’s motorcycle with just two minutes or less of their journey still to go, when his natural course of action would surely have been to wait until they reached their destination and then to use his brother’s toilet in the normal fashion. When a man reaches my age the bladder issues can get trickier, but a young man like Mr. Hayes should surely be able to wait another two minutes under any circumstances.” The chairman of the court paused, then looked Jake squarely in the eye. “Mr. Purnell, as a young man yourself, and drawing from your own experience, would you say that you are ever in a situation whereby you cannot wait even another two minutes to relieve your bladder and must do so immediately whatever the consequences?”
Jake gulped, wiped his brow and replied. “Yes, your worship, I have been in exactly that situation myself, whereby I must relieve myself immediately, or if I do not I urinate directly into my clothes. If wetting your trousers is the only option, then that is indeed what happens, sir, from my own experience.”
Danny, sitting next to Jake, turned and caught Phil’s eye at this moment. Despite the serious nature of his situation, Danny’s face was breaking into a nervous grin, his teeth biting his lower lip as he attempted to stifle his amusement. Phil hastily frowned at Danny and touched his finger against his lips in warning.
But Phil, too, had a thin smile on his face as he returned his attentions to his note taking.