Saturday, October 6, 2012

To chew or not to chew?

According to experts (and I found them on the Internet, so they must be experts), you can determine the age of a tree by counting its "growth rings."

Similarly (and I didn't find this on the Internet, but you can trust me, right?) you can often determine the age of a human being by counting the number of pill bottles in his or her bathroom.

I'm not going to tell you how many bottles I have -- prescriptions plus vitamins -- but it's quite enough, thank you.

For many years I chewed all my pills before swallowing them -- even the tiniest aspirin.

Occasional gagging is a trait I share with one of my brothers, who, when making his First Communion, choked at the communion rail, prompting one of my mother's friends, who idolized Joe McCarthy, to speculate kiddingly that my brother might be a communist.

Which might well have prompted my mother to speculate silently but not at all kiddingly about her alleged friend's parentage.

In recent years I've had to man up because a couple of my prescriptions are time-released and have to be swallowed whole.

And, of course, one of these pills is rather big.

With the help of the Internet, I finally found a way to do this. I place the pill in my mouth, at the edge of my tongue, moisten it, then take in some water and bow my head, and darned if the thing doesn't obligingly float up to the back of my mouth and then head downward when I swallow.

At least that's the way it usually works.

Once in a while I get the timing wrong and the pill heads for what I once heard a TV doctor call the "Sunday throat." A quick cough averts this, and the pill changes course.

But every time this happens, I think of how ironic it is that something that's meant to keep me alive and well could so easily kill me.

And I can't escape the feeling that even now, some pharmaceutical company is rubbing its hands and licking its lips in anticipation as one of its flunkies works long into the night to develop the next pill I'll have to swallow. I fear to speculate about how big this pill will be, but it's a good bet that if they try it out on the nearest horse, and said horse -- communist or not -- can't get it down, it will be coming soon to a medicine cabinet near me.

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