Old age has as many side effects as pills

by Bob Huber: CNJ columnist

I’ve been out of focus the last few days — a flu bug bit me — but I’ve kept busy wallowing in self pity and researching the bad side effects of medicines I saw advertised on television. When you have the flu, you do silly stuff like that.

What I really wanted was a summer day on a grassy knoll in Akron. There I’d sit with a long-legged blonde who would pat my hand and softly murmur, “Poor, poor boy.”

But instead, into my fogged brain popped memories of old-time pharmacists who were all called “Doc” in those days, because they were everything we wanted a doctor to be — trustworthy, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind and a Boy Scout leader.

Real live doctors, you understand, were busy clipping coupons in their offices up on the second floors of bank buildings. Theirs was a higher calling like removing tonsils, mending high school athletes, and parlaying local elections.
Anyway, drugstore docs in those days doled out only three medicines in most cases — aspirin, Milk of Magnesia, and Old Granddad, not necessarily in that order. That’s because their patients usually had only three problems — headaches, lower tract miseries, and nagging mortgages.
But today we have pills for everything ranging from toenail fungus to late car payments, and with each pill come worrisome side effects. Some warnings say you could get palpitations, dropsy, or both, complicated by late night phone solicitations.

To show what I mean, let’s pretend that someone discovers the Fountain of Youth and sells the product on television. Keep in mind that even this great elixir has its drawbacks. I can see the ad now:

“Hi, I’m Dr. Greg Cyanide. I have a PhD in Dull Stuff from the North Dakota Branch of the University of Nicaragua. No offense, but if you haven’t drunk from the Fountain of Youth yet, you may not live to see the sunset.”

This guy goes on to say there could be side effects, but they aren’t as bad as being old. Ask anyone over 70, he says, and they’ll tell you that old age ain’t for sissies.

Anyway, he says if you partake of the fountain’s waters, you’ll become an overnight teenager, but side effects might tag along such as hyperactivity, acne, warped thinking, sexual fantasies, total selfishness, and a nagging concern about where to part your hair.

What’s more, you may get an uncontrollable urge to participate in sports and hold up convenience stores, and that may lead to bad knees, brain damage, runny nose, and an unremitting addiction to pizza and cheerleaders.

You may also develop an inability to handle a car while kissing a girl as you drive 80 miles an hour through town.
And you may also talk too loud, drink enormous quantities of fluids straight from cans, and have an endless craving for fast food as well as the numbers on your parents’ credit cards. In rare cases you may even resign Rotary Club and join a street gang.

Well, I could go on, but you get the picture. It’s a case of a cure being worse than an illness, or as they say in medical circles, “Which came first, the pill or the pain?”

So when the flu bug chomped down on me, I decided to let viruses fall where they may. I didn’t want to worry about some remedy causing warts or excessive nasal hair.

Besides, everyone knows that the only sure cure for flu is a couple fingers of sour mash, a big black cigar, and a steaming bath. They don’t really cure, but who cares?

To bolster my resolution, I remembered the time I tried to stop smoking and went to my hometown pharmacist, old Doc Kronke at Alpine Drug. I was all strung out and hard to get along with.

He gave me a Valium and said, “When you find yourself digging through the trash for a butt, just pop this pill. You’ll relax right away.”

So the next day, after several hours of raging twitches coupled with the attitude of a Zulu warrior, I popped the tranquilizer. A few minutes later my cloudy brain said, “What the heck, while I’m waiting for this pill to take effect, I may as well have a cigar.”

At the same time I told Doc I always felt tired when I quit smoking, so he gave me some pep pills. What happened? I smoked faster.

As Doc always said, “Old folks shouldn’t rely on pills anyway. What they need are preservatives.”

Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales. He can be contacted at 356-3674.