How much can an elephant pee? I imagine that’s something most people never think about. Unfortunately for me I did— at four o’clock this morning actually. The problem is that I’m the kind of person who just can’t leave a thought alone once it gets into my head. I knew I wouldn’t sleep until I had an answer. “Somebody must know this.” I thought. Actually, somebody did. Typing away as quietly as humanly possible while Rolly, on the couch just a few feet away, snored away as loudly as humanly possible, I Googled hither and yawn. (Did I mention yet that it was 4 a.m.?) Finally I just typed in “How much can an elephant pee?” and the answers came in like a flood. It was a virtual deluge!
If Rolly had not just had knee surgery and decided to sleep on the couch with his leg propped up on the pillow-draped sofa arm in order to stay safely out of my bed-hogging, blanket tugging way, then my tap-tap tapping away in the middle of night would not have mattered an iota. Had I a bladder the size of an elephant’s I would not have wakened at such a ridiculous hour to ponder such a piddling question either. I think I may have been dreaming too and the thought likely arose from my subconscious, from that same place that a nightmare I recently had emerged. That night I woke with an aching pain in my jaw, from clenching my teeth for all they were worth. I was in the midst of a battle worthy of a Wild Kingdom episode, a mother wolf fighting all the other wolves over a Swiss Chalet Chicken dinner for my hungry babies. So? Was the dream the cause or the consequence of the teeth clenching? I’ll never know. And was my contemplation on the capacity of a pachyderm bladder a mere coincidence? Hardly likely.
There is, in fact, one memorable occasion filed away in the recesses of my mind, which may have triggered my early morning thoughts upon waking. It was the occasion of our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary many years ago. Rolly and I had decided to take a trip to Las Vegas, which would seem a rather odd choice for two non gambling, non smoking teetotalers celebrating twenty-five years of marital fidelity. It would seem out of character altogether except for the fact that it was cheap, ahem, I mean economical. It was the best way to be able to see the Grand Canyon, a dream destination for both of us.
On the evening that we decided to celebrate, by going out to a special dinner and then off to the Mirage to see Siegfried and Roy perform their magic show the theatre was packed. Rolly discretely passed some bills to the waiter who seated us at a table way back from the “catwalk’’. This projected out into the audience above the area where the most privileged of the Vegas high rollers were seated on either side. There was a lot of Liberace style glitz, and over the top behaviour going on— both on stage and also in the audience pits below. Heavy gold chains overflowed like booty from pirate’s chests. These guys looked like pirates anyway, with their shirts half unbuttoned to display their loot amidst overly bountiful chest hair, and they were talking as loudly as rowdy deck hands in a rising storm. (Of course I don’t mean Siegfried and Roy. They appeared to be meticulously manscaped and behaved with as much dignity as could be mustered while wearing bedazzled spandex jumpsuits.)
Many of the women in the area of the catwalk were dressed in evening gowns that looked like two silk drapes hanging from their shoulders but closed for the evening from their navel on down. The drapes were complimented by the glittering chandeliers that hung from their ear lobes and the larger matching ones that lit up their amplified bosoms. A few of the women hid their assets behind leopard or tiger printed throw pillows (or rather, just enough fabric to make one from if they were ever so inclined.)
Perhaps I sound a bit harsh here, but we also were dressed in our finest attire— it just didn’t resemble the Vegas version of what that was, any more than a hill does a haystack. Besides that, it seemed to me that my husband, in his attempt at influencing the waiter, had given him a very generous tip. That was in advance of our being given less than optimum seating. “Wow! It sure would be nice to be down there a little closer to the excitement…” I moped.
As the show proceeded, we got caught up in the performance, amid all the smoke and mirrors— and some really spectacular illusions. The beautiful white tigers appeared and disappeared and magically changed places with people in what appeared to be time and space defying switches. There were pyrotechnics, a mechanical dragon and music and dance performances to amuse even the most jaded. But the most memorable of all was when a 6000 pound elephant was brought out to the centre of the stage and made to disappear. After a suitable amount of time for us all to be awestruck had passed and we finally closed our mouths to sip our complimentary drinks again it suddenly reappeared.
Then, as Roy rode out into the middle of the catwalk astride the elephant— presumably so that she could take her final bow she paused only half way out to the end. She slowly backed her rear end toward the audience members sitting in the lower area to the right of the catwalk. They perhaps anticipated, as I did, that she was preparing to do a tricky choreographed move, a special curtsy — perhaps to leave a more lasting impression. Maybe it only seems so in my gleeful memory of that moment, but all of them seemed to lean forward a bit in their seats just as she let loose with the full contents of her bladder. It was as if someone had turned on a fire hydrant full blast for nearly half a minute.
People to the right of the cat walk screamed and fell backwards over their chairs as they attempted to escape from the splash zone. Women screeched as they threw their hands up to their faces and men knocked one another out of the way in the panic that ensued. Siegfried looked horror struck as he reprimanded the elephant in his thick German accent. “Bad elephant! Bad elephant! Zeese eez not ni-eese! Not ni-eese!’ Quickly the costumed handler led the insolent elephant away, with a humiliated Siegfried on board— off the catwalk, across the stage and out of sight. “Vere eez dere a disappearing trick ven you really need vun?” he must have been thinking.
Simultaneously a throng of uniformed theatre attendants rushed to the assistance of the urine soaked patrons, no doubt with stacks of tickets to other shows, coupons for free dinners and maybe even wads of cash to assuage their anger. Meanwhile as the house lights began to dim, someone said over the microphone. “Don’t worry now folks. Don’t worry. We’re going to take care of all your dry cleaning for you.” I remember thinking at the time “Dry cleaning! That’s never going to do it for them fella! Just what does elephant urine do to your hair? And who is going to clean all those ladies’ glittering chandeliers?”
So whether it was a dream that roused me or not this morning I can not say, but the memory of that twenty-fifth anniversary when the elephant toasted a momentous occasion in our lives in a most unique way has never been forgotten. The thought set my brain in motion, luring me to my computer before dawn. I have sometimes wondered since then, “What if it had been Rolly and I sitting in those seats that I had wanted so badly that night?”
This morning I learned that a full grown elephant’s bladder is the size of three large trash bags and that it holds over forty-two gallons of urine. This it usually releases in a mere twenty seconds!
So what is the moral of my story? After all that, shouldn’t there be a moral? Well, maybe it could be that if the other guy seems to be getting all of the advantages in life don’t envy him. After all. you will probably never know what it is like to walk a mile in his shoes—his soggy elephant urine soaked rhinestone studded alligator shoes on the long long walk of shame down the lonely Vegas strip.
“Sorry Buddy! Not taking anymore fares tonight. Business stinks.”