Pharma Chameleon

I have it all, from common afflictions (rashes, allergies, Sasquatch-like body hair) to those seldom mentioned in polite company (other types of rashes, irritable bowels, acid reflux, nighttime hog snore) to the just plain gross (dog breath, compacted sinuses). Thanks to modern medicine, I am generally successful in masking or suppressing the worst symptoms of these conditions—from public view, at least.

That changed last month, however. In a perfect storm of embarrassment, my wide-ranging array of personal hygiene supplies and prescriptions all ran out at the same time. I was forced to go to the pharmacy at the newly remodeled Edina Super Target on a Saturday. It was buzzing with action. I took small comfort in hiding behind my oversized Bono-ish sunglasses, worn partly in an attempt at coolness, but mainly because one eye has a growth that eventually will blind me. (Sweet! I’m bringing back the eye patch!)

First, I hoisted a keg of Metamucil into my cart, where it sat like a giant orange beacon signaling “middle age.” Next up: Tums (I keep them in a pretty dish and eat them like holiday mints), Imodium Plus (now with Gas-X!), Prilosec (for the heartburn), and Gold Bond Medicated Powder. Then it was time for my “wookie” products: new razors (my wife feels she’s married to Chaka from Land of the Lost), ingrown hair treatment (that’s a don’t ask/don’t tell situation), and smoothing gel for my hair (which otherwise resembles a Chia Pet). Moving on, I went for my dog-breath eliminator, a mouthwash strong enough to double as paint stripper; Secret women’s deodorant (my armpits break out like a hornet’s nest if I wear men’s); a jug of Purell hand sanitizer; Alavert decongestant (otherwise I sound like Snuffleupagus), and eucalyptus mint bathroom spray (a nice gesture for my wife, since I had used so much “gingerbread spice” the previous week; she now hates Christmas).

Hanging around the pharmacy counter was the usual gathering of wintry ghouls: Minnesotans of all ages burdened with hacking coughs, honking noses, and general snot-encrusted misery. Retrieving my order, a cranky pharmacist noticed that the entire plastic tub for “S” names was filled with my prescriptions. She plunked it down at the cash register, sighed dramatically, and proceeded to loudly name-check each item as she rang it up: “Anti-inflammatory for the colon, anti-fungal powder, allergy nasal spray, asthma inhaler, steroid cream for eczema …”

When I got home, I set out all my purchases on the kitchen table and wondered, When did I become Beetlejuice?

My wife walked in, took one look at the bounty, and spotting an opportunity, seized it. “Murphy is constipated and he needs an enema!” she announced, referring to our three-year-old son. “I’m too embarrassed to buy the kit. Can you do it?” It was as if she were summoning some bastard superhero.

“No problem,” I replied. I have become immune to humiliation. In fact, my myriad ailments have given me great strength. My son’s overfull bowels only filled me with compassion. I drove back to the pharmacy beaming with pride. For the first time in my life, I felt healthy as a horse.