Hey, Matt: When I turn on the faucet, the rush of water makes me have a painful urge to urinate, and I mean physically. It feels as if I’m going to wet my pants if I don’t run to the bathroom fast. I suppose it just happens to some people: it happened to my mother, but it doesn’t happen to my wife. What causes that? — Bob, via email
Ya know when you go into the doctor’s office and you ask a question that’s been boring into your brain and keeping you up nights, and you really, really need an answer, and you go into big detail when you ask it so doc has all the info she needs, and you finish asking and look expectantly into her eyes, and all she does is look out the window and hem and haw and blow you off and gradually change the subject? Well, if you haven’t had it happen to you before, Bob, you have now. Staff quack Dr. Doctor, our consultant, can be his own personal trauma case when he wants to be. We didn’t bother to resuscitate him. We’ll just try to patch up the wounds and do our best.
So, Bob, you have what urologists would call urge incontinence, the sudden onset of a mean urge to pee. Lotsa, lotsa triggers for it, including hearing/drinking water, putting a key in your front door lock, plus some true medical problems. We’ll stick with the behavioral ones.
After extracting a couple of Dr. Doctor’s eyeteeth, we got him to guess that your pee attack is learned. Mebby the sound of tinkling water sounds like the sound of tinkling. Or could be that Mother Bob taught little Bobby to pee in the pot, not in the diaper, by running tap water. A common Mom trick. (Key-in-the-lock urgency might come from a built-up habit of going to the bathroom as soon as you go in the front door.) Of course, if you don’t have a diagnosable medical explanation for the source of your pee panic, most doctors will hem and haw and look out the window and change the subject. I hope you appreciated our going out on a diagnostic limb for you.
So, if your situation is behavioral, not medical, then we need a behavioral solution. Nine out of ten doctors recommend biofeedback conditioning to regain bladder control. Deconditioning you to the running-water trigger might take a while, but if this pee predicament is embarrassing or a pain in the — um — well, check in with a urologist, who can probably fix you right up.
Hey, Matthew: Ducks in a row. My boss said we need to have all our ducks in a row on this new project. There ain’t no ducks in our new project. So, why would he say this? Where did he get this “ducks in a row” idea? We can’t ask him, since that will make him think we’re not as smart as he thinks we are, and that might get us sent down to the mailroom. And what else can we put in a row that will make our boss happy so we don’t have to go out and buy ducks? — The Office, via email
Good thinking on that no-ducks business. We sent the elves out back to see if they could line up some ducks, and it was pretty much a failure. Lotsa flapping and quacking and ducks breaking ranks. We even tried to lure them to line up with a row of corn kernels, but apparently they aren’t as dumb as they look. Or as hungry. Whatever.
Unfortunately, we can put all our word wizards in the same cubicle as you guys. They’re pantsing and dope slapping each other to see which speculative answer to this question is the winner. They all agree that the first print reference located so far is from a Virginia newspaper in 1910. But that means the expression was probably well known in conversation by the general populace long before.
One wizard squadron is sure it’s from the game of pool; a “duck” is a ball sitting right at the edge of a pocket, ready to be drained. “Ducks in a row” are more than one duck ready for dunking. Squad deux is sure it’s from the carnival shooting game in which ducks neatly in a row are the targets. Group tres will go to the mat for the idea that it’s from mom duck leading a row of babies. This doesn’t sound bad, since having one’s ducks in a row means having all your facts squared away and organized in a logical, convincing order. While the wizards thumb-wrestle for supremacy, we’ll leave you with those choices. As for what you can line up for your boss instead of ducks, try stacks of cash.