I’ve been travelling a lot lately. Different countries, different continents and therefore different time zones, different foods, poor sleep patterns, a little extra stress, and as a result I suffered with what I can only politely describe as ‘constipation’.
I know I am straying off the conventional blog path here, but with a fully signed up blog membership of 1, I hardly risk losing many punters.
I think it’s all part of getting old, one of those annoying conditions that as a younger person you only ever heard about from your grandparents, or read about in the back of newspapers. It’s the stuff of jokes. I wonder what’s next – uncontrolled flatulence? acid reflux? incontinence?
So there I was in Texas, feeling a little, shall we say, backed up. And it isn’t trivial younger readers, it becomes quite demoralising after a while, and when mixed in with jet lag and solitude, it can make you feel quite down in the dumps. So I was feeling a little moribund, it was Saturday morning and I was scanning the 76 channels on my Hyatt TV, when I chanced upon an advert. Here’s how it played out …
Attractive looking lady, mid 30s, rather dowdily dressed with dull hair, sat in an aeroplane seat with a real frown on her face. She’s not happy, and then when a man tries to squeeze past her she frowns even more as he rudely pushes by, rocking her chair quite violently. She has one hand gently clasping her stomach.
Now I’m no media ad expert, but I think the man squeezing past was a metaphor for a ‘blockage’. What I did know was that I recognised that frown on her face, for I shared that frown.
Cut to the same attractive lady, this time now dressed in bright colours, with beautifully conditioned hair, drinking a glass of water and taking some DULCOLAX, beaming a radiant smile, so brightly that it made me smile too. I wanted to wear a smile like that. Cut back to lady sat in aeroplane seat with NO-ONE sitting beside her and she wears that same disarming smile.
“DULCOLAX, gentle, predictable, overnight relief”.
That sounded beautiful, I muttered the phrase again “gentle, predictable, overnight relief”. It was like a sign from above. Here I was, bored, time to kill, dollars in my pocket, and constipated. There was only one thing for it.
Google -> CVS Pharmacy, Richardson, Texas -> DULCOLAX -> AVAILABLE IN STORE!!
And before I knew it I was haring down North Central Expressway 75 faster than a speeding bullet.
Pharmacies in Texas are big. In my local Co-op in England there is a small corner of the store that does medicines. It’s tucked away at the back, but what’s good is that you can stand in front of the entire range of medicines, and without making it obvious that you are looking at BOTTOM REMEDIES, for example, you can casually stare, feigning interest at the Aspirin/Ibuprofen in case someone you know passes by, and then slowly look down to your left at the 2-3 medicines of shame which are of real interest.
The CVS Pharmacy, Richardson, Texas is the size of a football field. It makes a Tesco Extra/Superstore look like a corner shop. There must have been 20 rows, each the length of a cricket strip, each specialising in a different “condition” or “genre’. So that’s good, should be plenty of choice, I thought to myself as I entered.
In I walked, looking all casual. I knew I couldn’t meet anyone I knew which was good. In situations like this I craved anonymity, but being in the USA you just never know when a stranger might come up to you and chat, the one thing any Brit fears above anything else, anywhere, at anytime, but when you’re in a pharmacy looking for BOTTOM tablets you definitely do not need that, and I was becoming anxious at the prospect.
Aisle 1 – baby stuff, Aisle 2 – more baby stuff, Aisle 3 – shampoos, Aisle 4 – teeth, Aisle 5 – cold/flu, … I walked on, …. , Aisle 19 – ARSE PROBLEM RELATED MEDICINES
And then it dawned on me that there is no hiding here. You can’t use the old Co-op trick and pretend to be reading the back of the Lemsip packet whilst casually looking down at the BOTTY tablets. In CVS Texas, once you enter Aisle 19 you are committed, you can’t be there for any other possible reason than for ***ARSE MEDICINE***!
DING! DING!!! HELLO EVERYONE! I’M ANDY AND I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH MY ARSE FOR I AM IN AISLE 19!!! YES THE ARSE AISLE!
And there was so much choice – active bacteria for the gut, haemorrhoid creams, suppositories, embarrassing itching. I was beginning to feel stressed, my back was starting to feel sweaty and I was suffering uncontrollable hot flushes like a menopausal fish wife (Aisle 13 as I recall).
The back of my neck was prickly with sweat, a sure sign I was feeling pressurised, as I scanned the aisles trying to make sense of the cornucopia of choices laid open to me. Finally, I saw the word DULCOLAX and zoomed in on Aisle 19, sectors 37-63, rows 4-28. They were located next to suppositories. Nice move CVS Pharmacy shelf stacker. You bastard.
At that moment a woman walked past with her two children. She was using Aisle 19 as a cut through, her ARSE was just fine, in tip-top condition, but as she passed by me she held tightly onto the hands of her two children who were staring boggle eyed, and in awe, at the awesome array of chattles on offer in Aisle 19.
“Come on Zach, Cory, stay close to Momma, that man has ARSE PROBLEMS!” I heard her think to herself …
By now I had a decidedly waxy pallour, this was very traumatic, but I managed to focus – DULCOLAX 20, DULCOLAX 50, DULCOLAX 100. Never wanting to go through this appalling experience ever again in my entire life, I calculated that, aged 47, a packet of 100 would hopefully see me through to death, meaning I would never have to experience such trauma in the few years I had left.
To give me strength, I closed my eyes briefly and tried to conjure up the image of the attractive lady on the plane and that beautifully relaxed smile. I wanted that smile, this would all be worth it.
A bolt of electricity shot through me as I picked up the rather large box of DULCOLAX 100. It was at this point that I thought about the unfortunate name.
The ‘…LAX’ part obviously screamed LAXATIVE!!! Why make it so obvious? I might as well have been wearing a t-shirt with ARSE PROBLEM written on it. It’s embarrassing enough buying this stuff without plastering it all over the box. Why not call them SOFTABS, or at least put RE on the front of LAX to make them RELAX-TABS? I didn’t want anything to do with the word LAXATIVE, I wanted gentle, predictable, overnight relief, that was far less scary and certainly way less embarrassing than buying something so forthright as LAXATIVES.
It’s a slight diversion to the story, but the only time I had ever heard of people I knew using laxatives was at university. A girlfriend of mine shared a flat with another girl who was trying to lose weight, and I once had the misfortune of walking past the bathroom door when she was in there ‘evacuating avec laxative’. The sounds I heard that day still haunt me 30 years on.
Back in Texas I recalled that story as I looked at my mega-pack of DULCOLAX 100. I didn’t want that, I wanted the gentle predictable relief, I wanted to be like that pretty lady on the plane.
I was now getting in a bit of a state as I realised I had no choice and I still had to negotiate the checkout. I could see it far ahead in the distance, the happy go lucky, oh-so-fucking cheery bloke on the checkout was CHATTING to the customer checking out. WTF? You aren’t paid to chat, you are paid to take the money, issue a receipt and move on to the next customer!
I contemplated the old chemist ‘condoms’ trick of buying other things, so the offending article would blend in, but I didn’t want to carry loads of stuff back to the UK with me, and I didn’t have many dollars, and I didn’t want to extend the checkout time by paying with a card that probably wouldn’t be accepted on account of it being ‘foreign’ and risk the chatty checkout bloke asking me where I’m from, etc.
So I headed to the checkout, just one in service, please, no queues. But what if there’s a queue when I get there and the person behind me sees my LAXATIVES? I might have to kill him in the car park, yes I’ll do that.
100 yards from the checkout and it looked like the customer was finishing up and no-one else was in line … 75 yards, no queue … 50 yards, still no queue … 20 yards, no queue, chatty checkout bloke looking at me, no turning back now, heart rate quickening, throat drier than an Iraqi’s sandal …. 10 yards, look into his eyes, not around the eyes … don’t be afraid, think pretty plane lady, remember that smile …
“Hi there Sir! And how are you today!!?”
“Hi … fine thanks … just this *cough*” I couldn’t bring myself to look in his eyes. I could hear someone approaching behind me … this was just awful, I wanted to cry.
“Is that all or do you need anything else today Sir?”
“No … that’s all …” WHY DID YOU ASK THAT? WOULD I NOT HAVE BROUGHT ‘ANYTHING ELSE’ WITH ME HAD I NEEDED ‘ANYTHING ELSE’? ARE YOU DOING THIS ON PURPOSE???
“Do you need a bag for that Sir?”
“Yes please” NO THANKS, OH BUT DO YOU HAVE SOME BLU-TAC THOUGH SO I CAN STICK THE BOX TO MY FOREHEAD AS I WALK OUT INTO THE CAR PARK? OF COURSE I WANT A FUCKING BAG!!!
I paid, I left, I got into my car, I locked the doors, closed my eyes, sat back and breathed an immense sigh of relief.
I had done it! It was a traumatic experience but I had done it. Yay for me!
I got back to the hotel and excitedly opened the packet.
INSTRUCTIONS: Blah, blah, blah … “12 yrs and over – 1 to 3 tablets to be taken once a day just before bedtime”.
Hmm 1 to 3. 12 yrs old and over. I reasoned thus – if a 12 yr old girl can take 1 tablet then a 47yr portly old bloke who weighs approx 3 x times what a 12 yr old girl weighs must need at least 2, probably 3, but what was it to be, 2 or 3? The USA is famed for lawsuits, especially where medicines are concerned, so they must always err on the side of caution, so 3 must still be safe. I bet you could take 4 or 5 but I’m not going to be silly, I will stay within the guidelines and take 3. I mean what’s the point of taking 2 only to find it doesn’t work?
So that night, after I brushed my teeth, I popped 3 tablets and tucked myself in for the night, dreaming of the beautiful aeroplane lady with the relaxed smile.
The clock was showing 04:17am when I awoke with stabbing pains in my stomach. WTF? Food poisoning? Then there was the gurgle. Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble, something was going on downstairs and no mistake. And then that twitch of the arse that accompanies every bout of diarrhoea. That subtle but unforgettable twitch of the sphincter that shoots an instantaneous message to the brain saying DO NOT FART.
What was going on? What had I had for dinner? Chicken salad, can’t be that can it? I ran to the bathroom and glanced across at the 97 pack of DULCOLAX and the penny dropped.
I will spare you the detail of the next few minutes, suffice to say I was anchored to that piece of porcelain for 20 minutes, wailing like a deranged Banshee on acid as my life flashed, nay flushed, before my eyes.
The clock showed 04:39 when I staggered back into bed, shivering and sweating.
The thought of the smiley lady on the aeroplane made me feel rather cross.