A few days ago, my flatmate Amanda woke up with a mind-bendingly awful toothache. “It’s like someone has reached into my mouth and is tugging at one of my dental nerves, twirling it around his fingers! Oh, God, I want to die!” she moaned with uncustomary drama. An emergency session with Dr Hoe, our kindly family dentist, revealed an abscess in the back molar.
“He-th th-o adorable!” Amanda mumbled through a mouthful of blood-soaked bandages. “I would marry him in a heartbeat if he wathn’t th-o old.”
Saffy was scandalized. “Anna Nicole Smith! He’s just 52!”
“He might a-th well be th-eventy-two!”
Later, when the bandages were all removed, Amanda said it’s no joke having a toothache. “It sounds so, like whatever, a toothache! There is nothing achy about a toothache. It’s bloody painful! I swear it’s the worst feeling in the world!”
Leave it to Saffy to pipe up from the couch to say that a toothache certainly wasn’t the worst feeling in the world. “I’ll tell you what the worst feeling in the world is,” she said, pleased that the attention of the room was once again focused on her. “It’s needing to pee and there’s not a toilet in sight!”
“Oooh, that’s a good one!” I said.
“Oh, yah, hor, dat one worse than your toothache!” said Sharyn, her glasses fogging up with excitement. Amanda didn’t look pleased that her thunder was being stolen so blatantly and so suddenly. “Dat time, hor, I was on the bus and I need to pee but kena traffic jam on the PIE!”
“What happened?” I asked.
“What to do? Must hold in, lah! By the time we get to Orchard Road, I was cross-eye! But I thought, hor, if I wet myself, cannot be help. Wah, jalat, boy, hold in for so long! Worse than giving birth, I tell you!”
Which somehow led Saffy to recall the time she signed up for a seaweed-wrap in a fancy spa. By the time the therapist had applied various ointments and lotions, and then finished tucking her up between layers of cling-foil and thick towels, she needed to pee really badly.
“I guess I could have asked the therapist to unwrap me,” Saffy reflected, “but I felt so bad for her. She’d spent so much time wrapping me up, you know? She was Japanese and you know how much they love to wrap stuff. So I thought I’d hold it in. I swear to God, it was the most stressful 30 minutes in the history of spa treatments. At one stage, I seriously considered peeing inside the wrap and passing it all off as sweat!”
There’s something unbearably primal about the need to pee: This gradual build up of pressure in the bladder and – if you’re trapped on a bus or in a queue for Faye Wong concert tickets – rising panic that if you don’t find a toilet soon, you’re literally going to pee in your pants. Strange, too, that there’s no actual English word for it.
And I’ll never forget the time I was watching ‘Titanic’ – which, if memory serves, was a ten hour, fifteen minute movie – and at about the two-hour mark, all that sea sloshing about had pushed my bladder capacity to a dangerous maximum. But every time I wanted to get up from my seat to go to the loo, something exciting would happen. In the end, I just had to go. Which is how I missed the actual sinking of the ship, and why a few nights later, I sat through the whole movie all over again. But this time, I didn’t drink anything for the five hours leading up to the opening credits. It’s also why, for hours after the movie, I suffered from a blinding dehydration migraine.
“But you know what the best feeling in the world is?” Saffy asked. “It’s that split second when you’re in the loo, and you know you’re in a safe and secure environment, your knickers are off, and then you just…let…go! That feeling of relief that just washes over you.”
“Yah, yah, better than sex!” Sharyn said with unusual excitement.
“Ohmygod, you’re so right!” Saffy said, her impressive bosom rising to the occasion in sisterly solidarity. “Way better! You know, if you could bottle that feeling, you’d make a fortune. I’d call mine ‘Release, by Saffy’!”
By the defeated look on Amanda’s face, you could tell that there was no way she could now regain the upper ground in the whole toothache conversation.
“And with my first million,” Saffy went on, “I’d buy a portable loo. It’ll go everywhere I go! Even on the bus! How fab would that be?”