Thursday, July 25, 2013

Life on cough syrup

Over the course of the week, I became sick – real sick, not grand malaise or headache or allergies but actual deep chest congestion and nasal drippage and violent cough. It started with laryngitis and evolved into thoughts of making an appointment to see a doctor. That’s when you know it’s bad. (Despite my cadillac health insurance plan, doctors are still a last resort.) A couple of nights ago – let’s see, today is Thursday so that would have been Tuesday – the coughing had become bad enough that I went to CVS to get some medicine. I would have gone to the independently-owned pharmacy but it was closed, so I had to make a dreaded trip to a store that normally is a headache to go to.

As I stood in the cold medicine aisle wondering what the heck to buy, a CVS pharmacist came up to me and asked if I was finding everything ok. I said I had no idea what to get, so he asked what my symptoms were. Sinus pressure. Chest Congestion. Cough. He recommended a combination of meds. At first he picked out a $50 pack of Mucinex and I told him, “I’m not going to pay that.” He laughed and said, “I get you,” then proceeded to hand me the CVS brand of basically the same cough syrup and a box of CVS brand sinus tablets. I was floored by the service.

I rarely take medicines. The human body’s immune system is a natural healer and most of the time you’re throwing your money down the drain buying pills when you would have gotten better on your own in the same amount of time. But the chest congestion was getting worse, and I was afraid it would develop into an upper respiratory infection requiring antibiotics. I waited until I was ready to go to bed before taking one sinus tablet and a dose of the cough syrup.

A funny thing happens when you take medicine when you’re not used to taking it. I was on drugs.

I woke up in the morning incapable of forming a coherent thought. The sinus pill was supposed to last six hours and the cough syrup four. I said I’d be late for work, but two extra hours didn’t help, either. I was out of it. I went to work anyway and somehow made it through the day.

Later on in the day, well, let’s see, I can’t remember what I was going to say. The past two days have been like that. It’s put my hand on the mouse to go to a page and poof! Forget what I was doing. I guess that’s to be expected when the main ingredient in your cough syrup is the same one they use to make meth.

So this morning some tourists got onto Metro from one of the places in American where the people are large and the brains, well, they’re not so large. When we arrived at the U Street stop, the woman got excited for a minute, saying, “Oh look, we can go to the American Civil War Museum.” From her vantage point, she could not see the “African” in front of it. Her husband did. His face soured, and he grunted and said nothing, but it was easy to see what he was thinking. She, too, quickly saw her error and said “Oh” under her breath.

I’ve lived in Washington for most of the last ten years; tourists are part of the city. There’s always a readjustment period when the high season starts up again, but by May you get used to them again. But there’s a particular breed that I can never get used to, and that is the bigot. There are plenty of them. I commend parents for taking their children to Washington instead of Disneyworld and wish more parents would spend their vacations doing something educational rather than consumer-oriented. I suppose I’m even glad the bigots bring their children here and expose them to another part of America to get them out of their bubble. But I wonder if it is just giving the parents a platform to teach their racism. Some examples I’ve heard:

“I didn’t know there were so many [leans in, lowers voice to a loud whisper] black people in this city.” (Mother overheard at a restaurant.)

“I don’t think we want to be in this neighborhood.” (Said about my neighborhood, a gentrified, mixed-race neighborhood, after seeing a lot of African-Americans around the Metro station.)

“Get out of the way, N___.” (Said by a very large white man in front of his wife and kids, all four wearing backpacks, while going into a restaurant.)

These are just a few memorable examples.

Well, this morning, being doped up on cough medicine and all, I began to prepare a speech for the man if he dared speak his racist thoughts aloud. I imagined people applauding me on the train for speaking up. It was something about how America is made up of all races, religions, ethnicities, and creeds. The man apologized and told his kids that all are created equal. Then my stop came and I realized that the man had not said anything and I needed to change trains.

The cough is getting better. Hope I can stop taking this stuff tomorrow. I had something else to write about in this post, but I forget what it was...

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