Saturday, June 10, 2006

Little Brown Jug

There's an old kids' song called "Little Brown Jug", I'd never heard of the song before it popped up a few years ago on a TV commercial for a CD set of songs for children. As it turns out, the song's about drinking. Here are a couple verses:

And when I die don't bury me at all,
Just pickle my bones in alcohol;
Put a bottle o' booze at my head and feet
And then I know that I will keep.

Ha, ha, ha, you and me,
Little brown jug, don't I love thee!
Ha, ha, ha, you and me,
Little brown jug, don't I love thee!

Although the lyrics are new to me, I knew the tune when I was a kid. The commercials for Dynamo laundry detergent bastardized it into a jingle, which went "Ho, ho, ho, now you know / The little blue jug is Dynamo." (Did that get the tune earwormed into your brain? No? Then be sure to click on the link above so you can hear the tune.)

There are a slew of classic songs that I learned the jingle versions of years before discovering there was an actual song. Remember the rousing wartime tune, "Over there! Over there! All the chips—the Nabisco chips—are over there!"?

Wait, I've drifted off topic. The topic today is Little Brown Jug. In this household, Little Brown Jug is a not-so-little plastic amber-brown container with a capacity of three liters. Its purpose, as indicated by that last link, is to hold a day's pee so said pee can be taken to a medical laboratory for analysis. If you need details on how your kidneys are doing, the 24-hour urine collection is your #1 tool.

So once a year, in the spring, I spend the day making the potty a hassle. It's easier for men—they can just pee directly into a jug or portable urinal bottle. Women have to use what I like to call the "pee hat." It's plastic, marked with graduated volume measurements, and shaped roughly like an upside-down cowboy hat. The pee hat's brim rests on the toilet seat, so you just park yourself on the seat and pee into the hat (much quieter than when you pee into the toilet water). Then you decant the pee into Little Brown Jug and, ideally, stow the jug in the fridge between rounds. You start doing this after your first morning pee, and collect your last whiz when you pee for the first time the following morning, pooling 24 hours' worth of urinary output in the jug. If you are very unlucky, your kidneys will not concentrate your pee so well, and you'll need a second damn jug—but three liters suffices for most people.

Then you schlep your jug o' piss to the lab so the lab employees can have their way with it, measuring what your doctor has instructed them to measure. It's this last step that is the most vexing, I have found. You want to have that jug tightly sealed before you transport it out of the house, of course. And it's just good manners to hide the contents from the eyes of unwitting witnesses. I like to tie it inside a small plastic grocery bag and then tote it in the fancy grocery bag—a brown paper bag (in keeping with the brown packaging color scheme) inside a sturdy plastic shopping bag. It looks like I'm carrying some groceries or maybe a potato salad.

I have never taken the jug on the bus or train, but I've had it on the taxi floor. More often, I drive it downtown and try to minimize the distance I'm carrying it. This week, the pee transportation process was a comedy of goddamn errors. It was only after parking in the Northwestern parking garage (in a fantastic parking spot on level 1—that's the Neil Diamond level, I'll have you know. Usually, I have to circle up to at least level 5, which features "Stand By Your Man," I think. On the worst days, I don't find a wide-enough parking spot until level 9 or 10, which at least offers better music, like Louis Armstrong. I think that's their way of making amends if you're stuck parking on the roof after driving upwards for 10 minutes.) that I realize I've left the doctor's lab orders in my other purse, and nobody's going to accept a jug of pee from me without a doctor's say-so (and if I leave without getting my parking card validated, it'll cost me about $20). The first time I call my doctor's office, I reach their voicemail. Ack! Freaking out. There was an additional hitch that required me to walk to a Walgreen's drugstore several blocks away on Michigan Avenue before calling the doctor's office again—so I took my jug o' pee (still well-chilled from the fridge) on a brief tour of the Magnificent Mile. Alas, I hadn't known I'd be walking farther than across the street, so I was wearing new sandals and blistered my feet during the pee tourism. Life was stressing me out this week, and the 24-hour collection always ramps up my stress level, too—so my coping skills were at negative 50 (plus I was incredibly hangry—that cross between hungry and angry) and I was wiping away tears of frustration as I limped through the city, carrying the jug.

Eventually, I did get through to the doctor's office, and the receptionist became so much more helpful when I cried. (I didn't do it deliberately to manipulate her, but hey, I'm glad it worked.) They faxed the orders right over, and I was able to jettison the jug without further ado. But...several other hitches cropped up during the whole misadventure. While I should have been back home long before Ben was out of school, I was a few minutes late in picking him up. If I'd parked above the Neil Diamond level, I'd have been The Bad Mom whose kid is the only one left.

I'll be seeing the doctor on Tuesday. Here's hoping the lab results are stable enough that I don't have to go through these shenanigans again any sooner than a year from now.


Feral Mom said...

Nothing like carrying around a jug of your own urine around Chicago, is there? Oh, the humanity! Hope your results are good.

Orange said...

FM, I had meant to add that you and Charlie inspired me with your accounts of medical indignities. You guys have covered colonoscopies and rectal exams so well, I had to carve out my own path, my own pee-yellow brick road.

DoctorMama said...

This makes me think of that poorly thought out GM alternative fuel campaign, "Live Green, Go Yellow."

I love "hangry." My husband has suffered from my hangry wrath more times than he'd like.

"Or maybe a potato salad" -- ha!

I hope the word is good.

I wish I could cry more. It does help sometimes.

Orange said...

Giving credit where it's due, I learned the word "hangry" from an NYT article last year. Doctor, what's the physiological reason that women experience hangry, while men seem to only witness it?