Friday, August 7, 2009

A Bitter Pill

This was first published in First Call Magazine.

I'll never forget the good times that my wisdom teeth and I had together. But I can't deny the fact that we had some disagreements too. Like the time that they decided to start growing in sideways and impacted, and my dentist had to extract them. I don't think we ever discussed that. Still, I probably should have seen it coming: they had been freeloading in my mouth for years, never contributing to chewing or biting like the rest of my hardworking teeth. So good riddance.

The extraction itself wasn't so bad. But I woke up from the anesthesia to face a new horror, as the dentist offered me two different bottles of pills. I'd have to take a handful of each, every day for the next week. Which would be a huge challenge for me, because I'm terrible at swallowing things. I could almost hear my wisdom teeth laughing from beyond the grave. "Haha," the four of them would shout in unison, "You thought we were lazy because we never helped chew your food? Well those other teeth of yours can't help you now!"

I have a gag-reflex, but I think my bigger issue is that there are so many choices to make: Do you lean forward or back? Do you have to swallow in one gulp, or can you keep trying multiple times? How much water should you drink? Is it okay to break the pill into smaller pieces? Where do you place it on your tongue? How long should you stare at the pill while it sits on the kitchen counter, psyching you out? Should you actually swallow the pill, or go hide it with the rest of the pills in your secret pill-shrine under the medicine cabinet in the bathroom? Are there any side-effects if you take the wrong dose? Are there are any side-effects if one of your roommates discovers your secret pill-shrine? This is a medical issue, so decisions shouldn't be made lightly.

Some people can swallow multiple pills at once. They make it look so easy, just casually tossing a few into their mouth, taking a sip of water, and ULP down the hatch. But you know what? These multi-pill-poppers are probably just compensating for something else that they're not as good at swallowing. They're showing off, and I'm not impressed. Get a real talent, like juggling pills and swallowing them as they pass in front of your mouth, and maybe then I'll appreciate it. Especially if the pills are on fire, and you throw in some tiny, pill-sized chainsaws for variety. Also, you should be standing on top of a seesaw. Now you have earned my respect.

Maybe swallowing pills is easy for you. Yet to me, as I hold them in one hand, and a water-filled Dixie cup in the other, the pills become as big as whole cantaloupes. I get nervous, and start to sweat, freaking out before the pills have even gotten into my mouth. But come on, who can swallow a whole cantaloupe? And if you could, would you really even want to? They're so much tastier than pills—how are you supposed to resist the urge to chew? Obviously melons are good for you, so I guess if you're in a hurry to get to work on time and haven't had breakfast you could probably just pop in a whole cantaloupe and take it down in one gulp. But in that case, I think you're kind of a cheater anyway. It's like reading the last page of a novel and then telling people that you finished the book. But did you really finish the book? Did you even enjoy it? Did you lick the delicious and vitamin-C-filled liquid off of every page? Sure, you didn't get seeds all over your shirt. But I still think it's healthier to eat a book one page at a time. As long as you make sure that it's ripe.

Still, if you're a multi-tasker, you can even hollow out the cantaloupe and fill it with pills. You won't get all the nutritional benefits of the cantaloupe, but pills are pretty healthy. So I think it evens out.

The next step above cantaloupes are bowling balls, which I have trouble swallowing as well. These aren't sold over the counter at pharmacies because they're choking hazards for babies. But if you go to the right Alleys, you can buy one—trust me, I know a guy. Like pills, they come in lots of colors and sizes. The problem is that bowling balls are very heavy, so you'll probably want to take a bunch of diet pills afterwards. Also, don't go swimming 30 minutes after taking one, or you will sink. Drowning is a very serious illness, one that will take lots of pills to cure. Luckily, you'll be underwater, so it should be pretty easy to swallow them all.

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