My mother sent me an urgent email today.
Terrible news. Everybody in her household is constipated all at once.
My mom, my sisters, my brother-in-law, and all the kids, and all the dogs, have been constipated for almost four days now. It seems as if it will continue indefinitely, because they are all too embarrassed to ask a pharmacist for laxative suppositories.
Refusing to eat roughage, and having no friends in a 1200 mile radius willing to risk the shame of asking a pharmacist for suppositories, my mother reached out to me. She had no other option. The problem was getting worse. Each day, the family ate their regular meals, while expelling…nothing.
My mother was giving me a mission. She wanted me to cast aside my own feelings about suppositories, and buy some at the pharmacy, and express mail it to her as soon as possible.
So, I put on my sunglasses, my Boston Red Sox hat, my loud scarf, and my bright suede jacket, and shod in my trusty Birkenstocks, I made my stealthy way along a rainy winter sidewalk at lunchtime.
My biggest fear was that one of my readers would recognize me if I weren’t dressed so hip and urban. I didn’t want them to know about the horrid, but necessary task I faced. My mother, sisters, brother-in-law, and nephews and niece and their dogs were counting on my discretion in the matter.
It was nice to be among people in action, for the moment at least. About a dozen people were passing to and fro, as two EMTs hopped out of their ambulance, parked at the curb on Parnell Road, between Garfield and Windsor streets.
It was then I first noticed at least three pedestrians that seemed in need of immediate intervention from the health care sector. There was an obvious drunk, a guy shouting at a fire hydrant, and a guy hunched over, with his knees bent together, hobbling down the road.
I wondered how the EMTs knew which one they’d been dispatched to pick up. Or did they conduct regular sweeps and force every sick-looking person into their ambulance. The thought scared me because I am certain that I look like someone in need of immediate physical and/or psychological intervention. Was I going to be caught in the dragnet as well? Almost one millisecond later, I realized I had it all wrong when I saw the EMTs popped into the Subway for their lunch. Maybe they figured, you know, the deformed guy walking with his knees together, he can’t get too far, too fast. Why not pop in for a sandwich first?
Then I looked at this guy and the way he was walking, and I thought, maybe that’s what happens when you’re constipated but too embarrassed to buy laxative suppositories at the pharmacy.
I had to hurry. My family needed me.
I got to the pharmacy. I wasn’t sure where to look for this product. Was there an aisle for things that you put up your ass? I’ve never had to think about this kind of stuff before.
A sales clerk finally decided to do something about the dumbfounded look on my face.
“Can I help you?” the sales clerk said.
This was the moment I dreaded. The first encounter with the chemist in regard to something you put up your bum. It’s a delicate situation. You never know how they’ll react. And this one was young, with a first-generation Chinese retailer’s concept of friendly customer service. Lots of smiles and boisterous hellos. I thought the best tack to take was to be direct. “I’m looking for Dulcolax suppositories.”
The clerk didn’t know the brand and made me spell it out. She didn’t find it on the computer. I had to explain to her in detail what it was for. She repeated everything I said, in a very loud voice.
Then she said maybe they had a similar product and she looked in a drawer and screamed, “Oh, we do have Dulcolax suppositories after all.”
While I waited to be rung up by the cashiere, the sales clerk went to another customer who whispered something.
“FOR BLISTERS?” the sales clerk screamed. “LET ME SEE…”
I walked quickly out of the store, and ran all the way home, covered in shame.
But I got home in time to send off the care package.
And in a few days, way back home in the US, an entire household of constipated loved-ones with finally have their relief.