That Time I Urinated on Myself at an HR Conference

wc-265278_1280-1-1For years, I resisted getting a cell phone. Until peer pressure eventually caught up to me. So by the time nearly everyone else on the planet was sending emojis, GIFs, and dick pics on fancy devices, I finally got a flip phone.

People, we aren’t talking the ’90s here. Not even the early aughts.

I didn’t start T9ing on my iPhone 0.5 until some time after 2010. And for a while, that sufficed. I shuddered and shunned at the idea of owning a smartphone. I saw what having one did to my friends, how the growth of a third appendage that promised greater connection spurred persistent disconnection, how something that was supposed to be a tool ended up making you a tool. No thanks.

Besides, word on the streets of Newark was that the CEO of Prudential (my employer for a couple of years starting in 2014) used a flip phone. Maybe this was an urban legend, but I figured, hey, if such a device was good enough for John Strangfeld, then I was obviously on the path toward becoming chief executive of a Fortune 50 company.

In 2016, peer pressure caught up to me again. I got my first smartphone — the iPhone 5s, originally released in 2013. Baby steps, OK?

Flash-forward to today. I still have that same 5s. I am afflicted with a third appendage. I am connected but disconnected. I am the tool I feared and predicted I’d become.

This was really clear a few months ago when I attended DisruptHR Long Island. During a break between speakers, I went to the bathroom. Even though I needed only to urinate, I decided to sit in a stall to multitask by checking texts and emails.

Quick aside: I’m no amateur at this. I’m often on the toilet at home with my laptop, pretending to pay attention to my workplace’s daily morning meetings. “Sorry, peeps. I was on mute. Oh, and yeah, my camera is kind of glitchy right now.”

Back to DisruptHR: It wasn’t until I finished answering a couple of texts and deleting some CVS and Seamless crap that I realized a national tragedy had just happened: Having paid more attention to my phone than the direction of my urine stream, I ended up drenching parts of my jeans.

OMG, OMG, OMG! I thought. I have to walk out of this restroom and through the crowd sporting pee-soaked pants. Worse, I have to take the stage as a speaker in about 20 minutes — and you know that denim takes about 55 years to fully dry! Granted, my shirt was able to conceal some spots, but only some spots.

I rushed to my seat and texted my friend Mary Faulkner, who coincidentally organizes DisruptHR Denver. Something terrible happened, I told her. “I spilled a drink all over my jeans.”

“Just tell the crowd you peed on yourself,” she joked.

So I did. I also followed up by explaining that I was kidding. It was clearly just some spilled water. Clearly!

I nailed my presentation because, you know, I’m a professional (something that you might be doubting right now). Nonetheless, the moral here is probably evident. I let my addiction to technology take over. I couldn’t even allow a few moments to relieve myself because of my compulsion to what? I don’t know. Get a dopamine rush by clearing junk email and answering some dumb texts? (The irony that I messaged Mary about pee-gate almost immediately after pee-gate is not lost on me.)

Look, I recognize that technology isn’t the problem. The problem is me. It’s probably you, too. So let’s all do better in 2019. Let’s do our bathroom business without mixing in other business. Let’s not check our phones 8 billion times a day. This is one of my resolutions this year. Maybe it can be yours — if for no other reason than because pee pants are not a cute look for 2019. Urine is never in.

By the way, here’s my DisruptHR Long Island presentation, “Shut Up About Authenticity”:

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