Monday, July 17, 2006

War on Drugs

We returned from our annual mid-summer excursion to the Jersey Shore with a sore throat and a touch of sinusitis, perhaps brought on by our compulsion to jump into the 57-degree waters of the Atlantic Ocean at the crack of dawn (dawn cracking briskly at 5 a.m. or so thereabouts) and then pass the coolish nights in our underdrawers beneath a whirring fan and next to a bank of open windows ushering in the damp sea breezes (our in-laws’ refusal to install unneeded air conditioning being one of their many endearing traits).

Whatever brought it on, by Sunday we felt the need for minor medication, so we made our way to the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market in search of Advil Cold and Sinus pills, which we recall from previous usage as having taken away our headache, opened-up our cruddy nasal passages and left us with a mild, uplifting buzz that did not unduly interfere with our sleep. But when we bent down to the accustomed place to retrieve a box, all we found was a stack of colorful laminated cards bearing a picture of the box and instructions directing us to take the card to the pharmacy counter to obtain the “product.”

We noticed the word “pseudoephedrine” on the card and quickly surmised that this strange new requirement had something to do with the state of Texas’ efforts to stem the supposed epidemic of methamphetamine manufacture by amateur backwoods chemists (we’re not sure what “pseudoephedrine” is, but we do recall something from the late 1970s that was called “ephedrine,” which contributed mightily to our success in grad school, along with 2-for-1 coupons for Roy Rogers roast beef sandwiches and a teaching assistantship that required us to do no work whatsoever).

The pharmacist, a Muslim native of the Subcontinent, appeared to be busy rearranging prescription sacks and studiously ignored our presence, compelling us to begin tapping our little laminated car loudly on the counter. Finally he ambled over, looking bored and projecting all the warmth and charm peculiar to his native “culture.” (Note: This is the writer’s clumsy stab at updated vaudevillian “ethnic humor,” for which we at Slampo’s Place apologize – Hidalgo Hidalgo, executive editor)

We handed him our card. “I need to see your driver’s license,” he said.
“Why?” we asked whiningly. “Because I have to,” he replied. “Oh,” said we, (not a people-pleaser by nature) and dug into our wallet with a great show of weariness and disgust. The dour pharmacist took our license, looked us over quickly, then tapped something into a computer.

“What is your phone number?” he asked. “Why?” we asked again, even more whiningly. “Because I have to get it,” he said, bridling a bit.

“Have to get it … wha?”

Our head was really starting to hurt, most likely because of the loud voice in it screaming, “Why don’t you just give him your phone number, asshole?” Instead, we resorted to the patently stupidest thing we could say: “Uh, I don’t have a phone number.”

“You have no phone number?” he shot back, sounding as if we’d confided that we had no dick.

“No,” said we. “Is there some rule that says I have to have a phone number to get a pill for a headache?”

The dour pharmacist from the Subcontinent turned away quickly and began tapping vigorously on his keyboard. We imagined our name and license number going straight to DEA headquarters, to be cross-referenced against our consumer profile and ACT scores. Our head was pounding. We gave it another shot: “Listen, why do you need a phone number? Isn’t there some judicially sanctioned penumbra of rights emanating from our Constitution that allows me to buy Advil without giving away my phone number?” (We didn’t actually pose that last question, but we thunked it, sort of.)

The medicine-mixing man gave no reply. He stared intently at his computer. Our head throbbed. It appeared we would have to traipse to another drug store for our pills, where our second attempt to procure pseudoephedrine would no doubt arouse serious suspicion, or turn tail for home and settle for the Bayer in the cabinet.

“Hey, uh, can I give you a number that I use, where I can be found, I mean, in case somebody needs to get in touch with me?” No answer. We slowly enunciated a number with an out-of-town area code that came to mind. “How about that---is that OK?” we asked. He tapped. Time passed. More tapping. Then he reached behind him, grabbed a box of Advil Cold and Sinus pills, and without a word or a smile handed us our dope.

We sighed louder and longer than Al Gore after a two-hour rubdown at Mimi’s Spa and Nail Emporium.

But when we finally got to the self-checkout register (“Don’t forget your bills below the scanner!”) and swiped the Advil box, the display flashed something about purchase of the product being limited to adults, thus requiring a Wal-Mart worker to stroll over and give it a sanctioned swipe. Our head was about to blow right off, and we hadn’t even popped any pills.

But now we’re home, and our headache has greatly subsided. The sore throat’s gone, too, to somewhere, at least temporarily, and we’re breathing freely. We were able to perform all our chores and duties, to the best of our limited abilities, and even found a little time to write down this song and sing it to you.

Soon, though, we’ll retire to the bathroom to cook up a tub of crank and run that shit up any way we can.

See ya on the police blotter!

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