The Broad is Back!

April 28, 2007

I Want my CVS

Filed under: Old Broads — by maggiec @ 4:12 pm

Originally published Nov 21, 2002

It was the middle of the night. I woke up with a throat on fire. Not scratchy; not tickley; not even sore. A flat out fire was raging in there. And I would have killed for a Sucrets. Or a Cepecol.

Coming awake, I I realized that the fire wasn’t the only problem. Stuffy nose, headache, cough, the throat, aches, pains. I felt like the living copy for a cold medicine ad. Where was my Ny-Quil when I needed it? Thousands of miles away in America, that’s where. Along with the Sucrets.

Groaning, I dragged myself out to the kitchen where I doctored myself with my cache of imported Sudafed and added some aspirin for the other problems. A little thyme tea with a dash of cayenne for the throat, and viola, I was as good as I was gonna get. Sitting at the table, sipping my tea, I proceeded to feel sorry for myself (but hey, under the circumstances, I think that’s okay), and think about home.

I had some middle of the night waking dreams of hitting a CVS and having an entire aisle of cold remedies to soothe me. I know they don’t cure colds, but they make the having a lot more comfortable. Then I got the treacherous thought, “If I were home, I could go to the Shop Rite right now! It would still be open!” Even the grocery stores at home offer up a plethora of cold medicine.

Now I don’t mean to malign poor Sweden or even Switzerland. There are cold remedies available here, too. Just not at the grocery store. No, health aids are sold at the drug store, which for the most part sells only health-related objects, or at the very most, health and beauty aids. So no going into the drug store for my Cepecol and also coming out with a book, two magazines, a gallon of milk, anti-freeze for the car, some cat food and a box of cookies, which I have been known to do at my beloved CVS (and Rite Aid and Duane Reed and Fay’s – oh, how I miss them all).

No, over here, a drug store is a drug store. Before I caught my cold, I had just been in one, buying cold medicine for my husband. It was a Saturday, and he was really miserable, so I volunteered to get him something for his cold and cough. That was at noon, and he wasn’t sure I would make it on time. They close early on Saturday. Now in Geneva, our pharmacy had closed at noon on Saturday, but here in Sweden, things are more liberal, so I thought, “no, it couldn’t”. But I drove into town right away, and while they were still open, they were closing at two.

But I’d made it, so I started searching the shelves. In Switzerland, my husband had discovered a cold medicine that one mixes with hot water. It’s got a lemony flavor and has pain killers and decongestants in it. I think we have something similar in the States. So I look on the shelves. Although I don’t speak Swedish, medicines are pretty easy to figure out. Pain killer, pain killer, pain killer, a decongestant. That was it. Not a lot of choice, and not a lot of variety. Hm. I went and asked. Seems that what I thought was one of the pain killers was something to mix with hot water, but it was black currant flavor. And the cough medicine, instead of being a nice soothing syrup, was a pill. I grabbed them both and went home with my booty, augmented by a big bottle of whiskey and some lemons for hot toddies. Be prepared.

My experiences in Switzerland were similar, if not a bit more “out there”. The first time my son got a cold, I went to the pharmacy and asked for something I could give a child. I’m thinking Children’s Tylenol Cold Formula, something like that. The pharmacist hands me a bottle of homeopathic cold tablets and tells me how to use them. Now I’ve used homeopathic stuff before, but there are times I want the “big guns”. What the heck, I figured. I’d try it. And I still had my “brought from home” bottle of children’s Tylenol. And you know what? The homeopathic stuff worked fine. My pediatrician in Switzerland used a combination of traditional and homeopathic remedies, as did all other doctors I’ve met in Switzerland. Like they say, when in Rome, but there are times I psychologically have to have American stuff.

Hence, the suitcase. Every trip to America I bring a suitcase full of gifts. When living in Switzerland, it was always chocolates, of course. Let me tell you, I’m glad I’ve moved, because that stuff is heavy. But I digress. As the chocolates are doled out, they are replaced by my CVS horde. I make frequent stops (not all at once, since I always balance out-going with in-coming stuff) and load up on giant bottles of aspirin, ibuprofin, Tums, Maalox, children’s over the counter stuff, vitamins, minerals and a small assortment of “just in case” stuff – back ache pills, Ben Gay, Bactine, things like that.

Of course we can get aspirin and ibuprofin here, but it comes in boxes of 10 or 20. Can you imagine? I like mine in the hefty 1000 capsule size! And if it were just the small boxes, I could cope. It’s also much more expensive over here than in the US (which is the story for many things). And there are local equivalents for most things, but when I’m sick, I want the tried and true. It’s a comfort thing. If I can’t get Mom and ginger ale, I at least want Sudafed.

Americans don’t know how good they have it when it comes to cold medicines. Much better selection. We can get a drug to fight every cold symptom there is. We have to, since we have to drag our sick butts out of bed and go to work. Over here, though, people take these things called “sick days”. What a concept! I remember once reading an article in an American women’s magazine on what kind of clothes and make-up to wear to not look like you have a cold. All I remember is to avoid eye-liner and wear green as it balances the red. You wouldn’t find that article over here. If you’re sick, go to bed. I have to admit I have a nasty little voice in the back of my head that says “wimps”. But they aren’t. Most people don’t miss much work at all, and of course, many come to work with colds. But when they do take a day to rest in bed, which of course is the sensible and medically recommended thing to do, no one looks at them like they are slackers.

Living in Taiwan was an entirely different situation for me, though. I got lost in the “American style” drug store. Most of the labels were in Chinese, so who wants to search for the few English labels when sick? So I would go to the small drug store across the street from where I taught. I’d tell the pharmacist my symptoms (he’d gone to school in the US, thank God), and he’d make up these little bags of pills, all sorted for me. I just took one envelope at the time he’d written on it. Never knew what I was taking, but I felt good. It’s a Chinese thing to not ask, just take the pills.

Once I had to fly back to Taiwan with a cold, and it did something nasty to my ear. It hurt a lot and I couldn’t hear, so coming home from a night class, I stopped at the local guy at 11 at night. Told him what happened, and here came those magic bags again. Sometimes I miss Taiwan. Things like antibiotics were prescription only, of course, but I could get some great over-the-counter headache pills with codeine. In fact, many of the over the counter drugs I used in Taiwan I discovered were prescription meds in Europe. Had I have known that..

Thing is, who thinks about this stuff before we go overseas? Some super-efficient people, do, I know, but not me. And it’s amazing how homesick having a bad cold can make me. I spent a week in bed reciting cold medicine commercials. Pathetic, I know. I’m better now, and planning my next trip through the aisles of CVS. Hm, maybe I’m not as well as I thought.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] lived in Sweden and wrote the original “A Broad Abroad” I wrote a column called “I Want My CVS,” an ode to the drug store chain prompted by a bad cold.  In it, I lamented the […]

    Pingback by Cold Irony « The Broad is Back! — January 30, 2009 @ 6:12 pm |Reply


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