Jordan shouldn’t have waited until the baseball game was over. But he was an eighth grader who’d never been to a professional ball game before. He didn’t know any better.
It was the mid-1980s, and Jordan’s family had driven four hours from their small rural town to Minneapolis to finally experience a live game and to see their favorite professional players in person. The game had been a thrilling one—so much so that Jordan didn’t take a bathroom break in the eighth inning like he should have.
Now, the game had ended, and a mass of some 30,000 people was making its way toward the crowded exit doors. Unfortunately for Jordan, many of those spectators had the same idea he did: a bathroom break on the way out.
As Jordan approached the restroom area, he saw a line as long as any he’d ever seen back home. The bathroom was full, and there were at least 30 or 40 men waiting to get inside.
Jordan’s dad, who liked crowded areas even less than he liked waiting in line, became instantly cranky. “It’s going to take an hour to get in there,” he snapped. “Jordan, it’s not an emergency, is it?”
Of course, Jordan knew what his dad wanted him to say. “No, I guess not,” Jordan lied.
“Good,” his dad answered. “Let’s get out of here. We’ll stop at a gas station.”
Jordan followed his parents and his two brothers as they inched toward the exit. He probably just as well could’ve waited at the bathroom; it took them nearly 20 minutes to get outside. Another 10 minutes passed before they found their car and pulled out of the parking lot . . .
. . . and directly into a traffic jam.
Jordan had never felt so trapped before in his life. He was smashed into the backseat with his brothers. The car was stuck in the middle of a busy road. He had to pee so bad that his body physically ached. And there wasn’t a gas station anywhere in sight.
And so the whining began.
“I need to go to the bathroom.”
“I really need to go, now.”
“Hurry up. I can’t hold it much longer.”
For another 30 minutes, Jordan did the only things he could. He rocked his legs, in and out, like a giant pair of butterfly wings. And he whined and whined and whined.
At last, after an eternity of building pressure, Jordan heard his dad say the magic words. “There’s a gas station. I see one.”
With relief now in sight, Jordan’s pain intensified. He imagined himself as a cracked and breaking dam, fighting to hold back a river’s worth of water.
His insides burned from the strain, and Jordan silently admitted a terrible truth: It would be a miracle if he made it to the gas station, still dry. He began to fantasize about the moment of his relief. He would hurry into the restroom, and then everything would happen with perfect timing. Jordan would unzip his pants. Then he would clear the pants and underwear out of his way. Or, to be a little crass, he would take “it” out of his pants. Finally, he would release an unbelievable stream of pee into the toilet.
In his mind, the process became a six-beat rhythm. Unzip, take out, release.
His dad jerked into the parking lot. Unzip, take out, release. And threw the car into park. Unzip, take out, release. Jordan jumped out the door. Unzip, take out, release. And beat his mom to the bathroom door. Unzip, take out, release.
Mercifully, the room was vacant. There was no line waiting to get inside. However, luck wasn’t exactly on Jordan’s side. The door was locked. A key was required to get in.
Jordan’s mom didn’t need to be told. In a state of near panic, she raced to the cashier and demanded the key. Her shout echoed across the store. Meanwhile, Jordan stood at the door and repeated his new mantra: Unzip, take out, release. Fire burned inside his gut.
His mother returned, fumbled with the keys, and opened the door. Jordan saw into the bathroom, and he couldn’t have been more excited if he had discovered the Holy Grail. (In fact, in his memory, he swears that the walls were made of gold and that the toilet was glowing.) After all of that pain and suffering, he was actually going to make it.
The moment of truth had arrived, and the rhythm still played in Jordan’s mind. Unzip, take out, release. Unzip, take out, release. Unzip, take out, release.
He unzipped. Something went horribly wrong. His brain new it, and so did his hands. But there was a rhythm to this, a timing.
He reached into his pants to “take it out.” His hands were still blocked by his pants. Why, oh, why?
The only part of Jordan’s plan that happened on time was the release. Standing in front of the toilet, so close to success, Jordan felt warm liquid saturate his underwear and roll down his legs.
“Oh, no,” he muttered as his jeans turned a dark shade of blue, from his privates down to his socks.
His mind turned to his brothers and to the car ride home. This was a day trip; there was no change of clothes. He’d have to sit in his own wetness for the next four hours, crowded in the back of the car, stinking up the interior, and listening to the relentless teasings of his siblings—and even his dad.
What had happened? What had thwarted such a perfectly timed plan? The fault lay in what Jordan now considered a very foolish fad. Jordan’s jeans didn’t have a zipper. He was wearing his first—and last—pair of button-fly jeans.