Land lovers making daytrips to the ocean are advised to plant umbrellas, blankets, chairs and posteriors within walking distance of public facilities. Said facilities are common at popular beaches.  Quiet beaches? Isolated areas?  Not for the weak bladdered and loose-bowelled. –Wilbur Sunami-Baker, Beach Etiquette for Tourists & Travelers, 2nd ed., 2008, p.23.

      Reggie Bing needed to pee.  He’d been sitting on the beach spending quality time with his wife Ruthie, watching waves break ad nauseam all afternoon.

      It was Monday, August 23, 2009, the afternoon of their 35th wedding anniversary, and he’d forgotten to get a card. Sitting on this sparsely populated North Carolina beach and not fussing was his penance.  In addition to boring the stew out of him, the excursion was costing him good will at the Piggly Wiggly, where, for 13 years he’d been Mr. Reliable in the produce department.  It figured that with the economy tanking, pink slips spreading like the flu, and job security a joke at the grocery store, Ruthie’d browbeat him into taking this bogus sick day.  

      The sun was shining, temperature was in the low 90s, the sky was clear and, in the wake of Hurricane Bill, a couple of surfers were the only other mammals in sight.

      Ruthie loved the ocean.  Liked hearing the wooshing of the waves and screeching of the gulls while she read Danielle Steel’s latest; enjoyed finding the occasional shark’s tooth on the occasional beach walk.

      Reggie hated it all.  And he’d been civil for nearly four hours now.

      “Time to go,” he said finally.

      Ruthie continued reading.

        “I’ve got to pee.” he explained sotto voce.

      “So, go in the ocean, Reg,” she said, head still buried in the book.  “Everybody does.”

      Reggie hadn’t expected this from Ruthie, who’d spent the last 35 years rewiring him for respectability.

      Growing up, Reggie had done more than his share of peeing in public swimming pools. As a teen he’d been more inclined to pee in a pool than swim in it.  During a week of heavy drinking and debauchery celebrating high school graduation, he’d stood drunk at water’s edge three nights in a row, dropping his trunks in unison with his two best buds and peeing proudly into this very ocean.  He was 18 and clueless then. Convinced the world was his urinal and that his future was flush with women, adventure and unlimited prospects of fame and fortune.

      Somehow, he’d evolved into a pudgy, myopic 58 year old – bald on top, dark hair growing like kudzu from his ears, jobhate eating away at him like a cancer.  He expected to be laid off from the Piggly Wiggly by week’s end.  Would lose the house shortly thereafter.

      The only thing he’d have left would be the only woman who’d ever allowed him to reach second base. Ruthie, who had molded him from clueless 18-year-old into the middle-aged drone he was today – stumbling though an unremarkable existence, mortified at the notion of peeing into an ocean all but devoid of potential human witnesses.  Would Jimmy Stewart call this a wonderful life?

      Reggie stood up, took off his hat and glasses, dropped both items on the beach blanket, and headed towards the ocean.


Visitors ignoring suggestions about proximity to public facilities should be admonished and then made aware that there is an art to urinating in the Atlantic.
        First and foremost, be discreet.
        Face away from the shore.
        Walk purposefully to where the water does not dip below waist-level.
        Depending on weather conditions and time of day, this may require familiarity with the        
        contents of Chapter 5
, “Drowning is Frowned Upon” (Sunami-Baker, ditto, p. 24).


      It was low tide and Reggie found himself stepping into areas alternately waist, and ankle deep. He surprised himself by jumping a wave which might otherwise have knocked him over.  He jumped a couple more waves enjoying the sensation, but noticing the waves seemed to be slowing his progress, not letting him reach a post- wave depth conducive to a discreet pee.  He began diving through, as opposed to jumping over every other wave.  And then, standing not quite in waist-deep water on what must have been a sandbar, he spotted what he took to be two waves coming in, one right behind the other. He thought diving through both simultaneously would take him where he needed to be:  a spot where, even as the tide rolled out, he’d be able to stand in waste-deep water and pee casually without attracting the suspicion and ire of unseen onlookers.


Once properly situated, avoid tipping your hand to casual observers.
        Do not stand with legs slightly parted and belly protruding.
        Do not place hands on hips or clasp behind back
        Do not lower trunks, or, by any means extract private parts from swimsuit.
        Urinate directly through the suit.
        Do not whistle.
        Upon completion, turn around slowly as if looking for a bird.
        Walk three paces parallel to the shore.
        Return to the shore and exit the ocean at your own pace.  (Ibid, p.25).

      Reggie Bing swallowed water attempting to stand on what he’d assumed was the far side of the second wave. He coughed, took a couple awkward strokes toward shore but was moving in reverse, losing ground with every stroke.  His heart was pounding wildly.  He tried to calm down, told himself he could tread water until the next wave came to push him back towards land. But the waves, he soon realized, were forming and breaking closer to the shore than where he was treading.  The shore was fading from view.  “Fuck,” he gasped and took in more water.


Tourists and travelers unable or unwilling to follow basic rules of civility, should keep in mind that the mountains of North Carolina are lovely year round. (Ibid, p. 58).

Bob Shar is a former journalist, burned out little magazine editor (The Crescent Review, 1983-1988) and recently retired librarian living in Winston-Salem, NC.  His fiction has appeared in a number of print journals (e.g.,The Greensboro Review, South Carolina Review, Cold Mountain Review) and online at BartlebySnopes.

Last August, while performing a certain bodily function in the Atlantic, I was carried away from shore and well out of my comfort zone by a rip current.  My wife, who doesn’t trust me in a bathtub without water wings, saw me swimming backwards, fading from view, etc., and managed to flag down help. I promised myself I’d milk the adventure for a story, but was having trouble writing it straight.  Months later, under deadline to produce an “instructional” story for a flash fiction class, I found myself channeling the voice of Wilbur Sunami-Baker, and before I knew it, the Bings were on the beach. 




Copyright 2009