So Many Pills and Now with MORE Time!
by Traci Foust
I’d like to congratulate everyone for making it through Mental Health month. Those of you whose court dates have been pushed up another week, you know who you are. Besides forgetting all that admittance-is-the-first-step nonsense just in time for Cinco De Mayo, it seems we now have our very own thirty-one days to celebrate the inability to make healthy decisions and produce serotonin. So let’s take a moment to back away from the thrill of marking the night the condom broke with another Mother’s Day card and honor one of the most exalted days of Spring.
I’m talking of course about May 4th: National Renewal Day.
Snopes it if you must, this jubilee of all things expiring is a real holiday. We’re talking about an entire day to not only remember your risk-free trial of the Shake Weight is about to expire— along with your hopes of cougaring your way back into your old high school tank tops—but a legitimate excuse to run to the pharmacy for a medication refill.
As if we needed any.
Which brings me to the reason I’m late finishing this essay. Why I’ve never been assigned a designated parking spot at the CVS I have no idea, but it’s not in my nature to get upset about long lines (especially when obsessing about the rise in Botox fatalities is much more satisfying.) On the contrary, half an hour with OK Magazine and some rude people allows me plenty of time to play Which Olsen Twin Wears the Most Eclectic Scarves while providing enough material for a full day’s worth of Facebook status updates: OMG. Someone needs to tell the Whole Foods produce guy that wearing deodorant and keeping Pandas safe doesn’t have to be an either-or situation.
But here’s the thing: Last week I was almost arrested for being nice to the woman in front of me. I consider that to be kind of upsetting.
Apparently there was a problem with her insurance not giving the green light regarding a very special type of antibiotic for her very special cough which was both as special and important as she was; a fact made clear by the way she tapped her French manicured nails against the counter while her diamond tennis bracelet dazzled against the white sunspots of her dark orange skin (An SPF trademark among Southern California women who have not yet hit on the idea that a ten dollar bottle of sunscreen is much more cost effective than a two hundred dollar chemical peel). Or perhaps it was the way she emphasized how badly she needed her medication due to the fact that her plane was taking off in the next hour. Not her flight, you understand, her actual airplane.
Something else that was plain to see was this woman had a serious case of bronchitis. She was sweating profusely and making lung noises as hard on the ear as Whitney Houston’s last concert. I couldn’t not feel sorry for her. Sometimes, I’m nice like that. Really, when I can get my germaphobia under control long enough to forget that a doorknob without hand sanitizer is the same as a Tokyo subway full of SARS carriers, you can almost mistake me for someone who cares. Plus, I’m kind of an opportunist when it comes to meeting folks whom I may need to keep under Special Contacts in my phone. Isn’t it awesome how we’re total besties just from that chance meeting in the emergency room? Say, remember all those Percocet you said you’d never be able to finish…
After fifteen or so minutes of the girl in back of me sighing into her cell phone about what a nightmare her whole pharmacy experience was turning into—folks in Southern California consider wars in the Middle East and world hunger minor inconveniences next to the horrors of having to get out of your car to pick something up— was that this particular type of antibiotic happened to be a sulfa drug, something I quickly became familiar with when just days before, an allergic reaction plumped up my entire body to proportions of what one would find on The Learning Channel. I awoke in the night after taking an Erythromycin before bedtime looking like one of those women in the 99 cent store whose love of Little Debbie snack cakes makes it impossible to tell if all that bloating is something she should worry about until her stomach cramps fall to the floor crying and a serious maintenance call has to made in isle five. From what I could gather, the woman’s drug was not available at this particular CVS but they could order it or call into another pharmacy. That’s how special her cough was. But when she mentioned having to pick up her children before catching her plane, I folded. I’m a mother of four boys so traveling with children ranks next to being robbed at gunpoint on my list of things I try to avoid. Also, I’m sort of known in controlled substance circles as a softie. I hate to see anyone in pain, or worse, cross me off their lists of folks who are owed a pharmaceutical favor. And I know all too well the hardship of being denied meds. More than once I’ve turned into a character right out of a Bret Easton Ellis novel waiting for an approval on my Xanax. You’d be surprised how quickly the lie of having to fly to Phoenix for your grandmother’s funeral stops being credible.
“Mam, I think I can help you,” I whispered, then trying not to look like the wolf who distracted Pinocchio from the opportunities Italy can offer a wooden boy, I asked if she wanted my pills.
She stepped towards me then put her sunglasses on and stepped away. My commonness and the coffee stain on my Emos for Obama t-shirt being too dangerous to view without protective eye wear. Perhaps I’m not the personal jet type, but I sure as hell do not think my offer warranted a call to the police.
“I bet the pharmacists would like to know your peddling drugs to their customers,” she said. She pressed buttons on her cell phone. “Or maybe the cops want in on this deal.”
From an all-inclusive trip I once took to Jamaica I am well aware of how ridiculous I look in corn rows. Plus, orange is a color really no one should be involved with. So without further adieu, I decided my own refill of Ambien could wait until the next day, and got the fuck out of there fast. The flashing red lights of San Diego’s Finest as I rounded the corner toward my street solidified a hard lesson learned that night: I will never again pay it forward when it comes to pills.
The next time I run into someone down on their drug luck, I’ll just point them in the direction many of us in Southern California take during our own medical emergencies. A place where the phrase Donde esta pharmacita clears the celebration path for both a happy Cinco De Mayo and National Renewal Day.
Traci Foust is the Author of the newly released book Nowhere Near Normal- a Memoir of OCD (Simon and Schuster/Gallery) acclaimed by National Public Radio, the San Diego Union Tribune and Marie Claire. Her work has appeared in several journals including The Nervous Breakdown and the Southern Review. She is currently working on her second book We’re Taking you to a Place Where you can Get Some Rest, A cautionary collection of essays on mixing Vicodin with Vodka and why dating your psychiatrist isn’t always the best way to get your own prescription pad. She lives in a place where her love of cigarettes and bacon is frowned upon.