In January 2016, a few weeks after this Blog was set up, I wrote this piece, “You always have time to pee”. It brought together two things (a story that was in the news and a personal memory) to illustrate what we have tried to teach our children throughout their young lives: there is always time to use the lavatory. If you need to go, go.
I was reminded of this advice while reading this article in the Guardian recently. It is titled “Flicky leaks: when should you pee during long films?” The latest Marvel release, “Avengers: Endgame”, has a three-hour running time, and the Guardian piece quotes Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, announcing that it would be one of those movies in which “you just don’t ever find a good time to run out to the bathroom”.
The piece describes RunPee, “an app that has become indispensable for anyone caught short during a long film”, and its creator Dan Gardner’s response to Feige’s claims echoes my own advice: “There is always time to pee”. Subscribers to RunPee can “select a title from the app’s database at the start of the movie, then set the timer and wait for their smartphone to vibrate at those two or three instances when it’s safe to leave the room without missing anything important; a mini-summary of the scene is available for users to catch up on as they return to their seat.”
We have no immediate need for this app. As a family we rarely go to the cinema. My daughter was taken to see “Wonder Woman” in the summer of 2017, when she was still 10. When she got home and I asked her what she thought of it, the first thing she told me was, “It was long”. On the two occasions that we have been to the Olympic Cinema in Barnes, my son (aged 10 or 11) needed to use the loo. I accompanied him both times and can report that there are speakers in the Gents so that you continue to hear the film soundtrack even while you’re away from your seat.
My son was also caught short the first time I took him to the cinema, in 2008, to see “WALL-E”. He was three at the time. I was already out of the cinema-going habit and hadn’t checked the film’s running time. Back in the 1980s, when I spent a lot of time at picture houses, preview screenings and film festivals, I always knew how long each presentation was, often because I would try and catch another film immediately afterwards. This IMDb page tells me that “WALL-E” clocks in at 98 minutes, slightly longer than I would expect. Most of the animated features that we saw as children were under 90 minutes. My son needed to pee during the screening and I didn’t know whether we had three minutes left or twenty. It was the former. We returned to our seats just as the closing credits came up.
I don’t recall ever being caught short during a movie screening. All the long films that we saw as children had intermissions. “The Sound of Music”, “Gone with the wind” and “My Fair Lady” all returned to local cinemas here in West London during the 1970s, for at least a brief re-release. They were all shown in two parts. As an adult I have attended many double- and triple-bills, so the comfort breaks were at obvious times. But if you’ve ever had to nip out during a lull in proceedings maybe RunPee is the app for you. As its creator says, “There is always time to pee.” Even during “Avengers: Endgame”.