Dear M.A.: When I really have to pee bad, why do I do that little pee dance? I’m squeezing muscles and shifting my weight back and forth on my feet and sometimes bending over. It always seems to happen when my roommate is hogging the bathroom. I guess it gives me time to try to figure out why wiggling around would be something I’d do automatically. I didn’t make up the pee dance. It’s something my body seems to do on its own. So what’s the deal? — Marissa, outside the bathroom
The pee dance is sort of like a variation on the cha-cha, dontcha think? Step together, wiggle wiggle, step together, squeeze those muscles. Add a sparkly little skating costume, and you’re ready for Dancing With the Pee-ers. Doctors’ comments on the situation say, all that wiggling and clenching is displacement activity. Displacement is stuff we do to distract ourselves from an uncomfortable situation we can’t control. We gotta go, no place to go, bladders screaming, so our brains take all that stressful energy and funnel it into hopping or humming or clenching or deep breathing — anything to distract us from the real problem. Everybody does it. It’s more popular than the Macarena.
Matt: How long are fortune cookies valid? Does your fortune expire after a certain amount of days or upon receipt of a new fortune cookie? — Tim, via email
We dug around looking for a fortune-cookie expert to figure this one out for us, but nobody seems to have thought ahead like that. Does it last until you pay the bill and leave the restaurant? Until you’re hungry again after a Chinese meal? Until you figure out exactly what the heck your fortune actually means? Fortune cookies aren’t even Chinese to begin with. They’re Japanese. But when Japanese were interned in POW camps here in the U.S., Chinese restaurateurs grabbed the idea and made it their own. Apparently they didn’t know what they were taking on, though. Today, the largest manufacturer of the tidbits claims a library of 10,000 philosophical musings that they rotate in groups in their cookies. Their head fortune writer finally ran out of ideas and actually hired some freelance writers to provide more. So, consider that your next message was probably written by some ink-stained wretch with no deep well of spiritual knowledge, just a desperate desire to hang on to his freelance life long enough to pay his rent. No wonder we get stuff that sounds as if it was written by some old hippie still on a bad acid trip.
So, is there any indication that a cookie fortune will change your life if you take it to heart? Yes, actually. One San Francisco manufacturer prints fortunes with “good luck” numbers on them. One week, 110 people split a $19 million Power Ball jackpot. Smelling some kind of rat, the Power Ball people investigated and found that all 110 had bet the number that appeared on their cookie fortune. The largest cookie manufacturer claims to get angry letters from diners who don’t like the fortunes they’ve gotten. “Too vague” is a common complaint. Predictions are the most popular types.
So, what have we learned from all this? Well, about as much as we learn from the average fortune cookie. If we get a nasty fortune, we can crumple it up and throw it on the uneaten chow mein. A good fortune? Makes us feel perky for, oh, 15 minutes or so, until we forget we even got it. Fortunes are made up by overworked, brain-fried writers or cookie makers, not gurus, so I’d say they fall somewhere between the nonsense of a Ouija board and the solid, trustworthy predictive ability of the Magic 8 Ball.
Hey, Matt: I’ve noticed that if I have a cut or something, if I go in the ocean, it will heal really fast. Am I right? Does the ocean somehow help cuts heal? — Anonymous, via email
You bet it does. A nice refreshing dip will cure what ails you, skin-wise. Saltwater (even homemade) actually sucks the life out of any bacteria in the wound and helps things heal up really well. Think back to biology class — membranes, osmosis, that kind of stuff. Saltwater is a more concentrated solution than the bacteria innards, so just as they told you in class, the watery bacteria insides seep out through the cell walls into the saltwater, and the bacteria bite it. Fewer bacteria, faster healing. Better a trip to the beach than a trip to the doctor’s.