Preventing an embarrassing accident

Annie Lane

Dear Annie: I am a woman in my mid-60s with multiple sclerosis, which is under control. Although a trip out to an appointment and a couple of stores is no problem, I am very limited in how far I can walk, and with my neurogenic bladder, I must make frequent restroom stops.

My concern is what I would do if my car broke down. We are automobile club members, but I know I would need a bathroom before help arrived. I don’t know whether it would be OK for me just to call the police and notify them that I am having an emergency and temporarily leaving my car to take a taxi to a fast-food place and promptly return to the car afterward.

My neuropsychologist responded to this question by advising that I take a change of clothing with me at all times. She said I would have to change under a blanket in the car. That sounds difficult and unpleasant to me and might need to happen more than once if I were waiting for help. I make regular use of incontinence pads, although under normal circumstances, I almost invariably make it to a bathroom without any accident. I also know about adult diapers. The problem would be to know what day my car is going to break down so I could be sure to wear a diaper that day!

Although we are retired, my husband has a very busy schedule and is often not available. Many of my friends still work and would also be unavailable.

Do you have any other ideas? — Afraid to Be Humiliated

Dear Afraid: First off, know that you’re not alone, and you should not feel humiliated if something like that ever were to happen. However, I completely sympathize with your wanting to have a plan in place to prevent it.

Your tentative solutions are good ones. Have a list of taxi companies and their phone numbers in your car, along with an emergency cellphone (you can buy one at Walgreens, Target or a similar store) loaded with minutes from a calling card. Depending on how vigilant you want to be and how much space you have in your vehicle, you might consider buying a portable toilet or building one. (There are tutorials online.) For privacy, you could have makeshift curtains that stick to the windows via suction cups while you’re pulled over on the side of the road.

Finally, get your car inspected and serviced regularly. The best defense is a good offense.

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