“I have a code in my doze.”
My head feels like it’s the size of a watermelon. My nose is running and my trash can is overflowing with used Kleenex. I feel miserable.
I had run out of Sudafed, so I drove down to my local Drugs-R-Us to find some relief.
The unsmiling man behind the counter wore a white lab coat sporting a name tag that said “Your Personal Pharmacist: Dimitri.”
“I have a code,” I sniffed. “I need some Sudafed.”
Dimitri’s black eyes narrowed and his body tensed.
“What for you need Sudafed? You are meth addict, no?”
“No,” I protested. “I have a head code. I’m dizzy and my head is clogged up. I just need some relief.”
“Drubnyc apravda,” Dimitri muttered. “Tell me, Mr. Sick Person: If you have cold, why you no have Kleenex?”
“I do!” I cried, as I pulled wads of ragged tissues from my pockets as proof. “See, I really do have a code. I can’t sleep. I can barely breathe. I just need some Sudafed.”
“Nyet, nyet. You get Kleenex from wino on street. Dimitri knows this trick. Wino sells you old Kleenex so you buy Sudafed for meth lab. Bravruchec procuda!”
“No, that’s not true! I don’t know any winos. My head is all stopped up. I’m sick. See, my doze is dripping!”
“Nyet! You are meth head and snort coke. In Russia, KGB cure many addicts like you.” He smiled knowingly as he drew his finger across his throat.
I felt myself fading fast. “Please, there must be some way that I can get a few Sudafed tablets. I’m dying.”
“Da. You want Sudafed, you fill out form.” He shoved a clipboard into my hands. The words were fuzzy and the questions seemed to go on forever.
“All of this for some Sudafed?”
“Da. You want Sudafed, you fill out form. But remember, Mr. Drug Addict, if you tell lie on government form, we find you in middle of night and take you away. You never see meth lab or children again.”
Thirty minutes later, I returned the clipboard. Dimitri carefully scrutinized my answers and demanded to see my driver’s license and my American Express card. He swabbed my mouth with a Q-Tip and carefully placed the swab in a plastic evidence bag, “for DNA test,” he snorted.
Finally, he handed me a small, white box. I eagerly tore it open and found the familiar blister pack with the little red wonders sealed in their tiny cocoons.
I don’t know why, but I flipped the package over and read the ingredients: “sucrose.” Nothing else.
“There’s been a mistake,” I offered. “These are sugar pills.”
“Da,” said Dimitri, indifferently. “They are placebo. They look like real thing, they taste like real thing. You try. You feel better. Placebo effect very strong medicine. You try.”
“But I don’t want sugar pills! I want Sudafed!”
“Nyet! Government do background check first. Takes time. You come back, three weeks, maybe four. Then, if you not meth addict, you get Sudafed. For now, placebo work plenty good. You see.”
He’d beaten me. I staggered out of the store, went home and downed the entire package.
But let me tell you something remarkable. I fell asleep that afternoon and slept like a baby all through the night. Dimitri had been right.
I’m feeling great again! Thanks to the war on drugs, I’ve kicked my Sudafed habit and learned to love placebos.