I was in the big-box store looking for toothpaste in the pharmacy section, which is the size of a small city. The “Dental Care” section is 3 1/2 aisles of different toothpastes, mouthwashes, floss, denture powder, whiteners, gum massagers, attachments for electric toothbrushes and Waterpiks — 10 or 20 different brands of almost every different item. The most popular stuff is at eye level. But if you suffer from an uncommon ailment of the teeth and gums, you’ll have to crawl along the floor to search for special products, or reach up to the highest shelf.
Pharmacy City is a great place to get an idea of what we suffer from. There are a couple of aisles dedicated to inserts for your shoes, things to massage, warm, wrap, pamper and soak your feet. There’s stuff on the shelves to solve foot problems I’ve never even heard of and pray I will never get. And no wonder our feet hurt. If you walked over to Grocery Town and then remembered you forgot to buy something in Pharmacy City, you’d win a gold medal for cross-country distance walking. I’m in good health, and after about 15 minutes I want to go see if there are any of those electric carts still available.
There’s an entire wall of bandages and wraps for ankles, elbows, backs and feet. Some of the bandages come in industrial-size boxes. I’m not sure you should be treating yourself at home if you need a bandage the size of a beach towel. Something like that is sure to need a stitch or two. You get to the bandage section by taking a left at the sunscreen booth that blocks the middle of one of the main aisles.
I never realized how dangerous it was to leave the house. How did people like George and Martha Washington ever get through those steamy Virginia summers without sunblock and bug spray? Oh, yeah — they didn’t leave the house wearing tank tops and bikinis. They had a word for sunblock back then. It was called “clothes.”
There are several major and growing subdivisions at Pharmacy City — Eye Care Corner, Incontinence Village, Supplement Junction and the Just for Men Corner. And this is the thing about Pharmacy City: You’ll always run into someone you know. It’s like running into someone in the cheap whiskey section of the liquor store.
The first thing you think is how embarrassing — now they’ll think I’m incontinent when actually I’m just looking for Rogaine. The good news is that they’re probably embarrassed, too. When you meet someone in the Incontinence Village, the first thing you say is, “Where do they hide the shampoo? I swear it’s never in the same place twice.”
It’s easy to get lost in Incontinence Village; it’s huge and the boxes are so big. Two or three boxes and you’ve filled up an entire cart. I’m probably not alone in wishing that the outside of every box said something like, “These are not for me. I’m shopping for someone else,” in big letters.
There’s something about being in the checkout line with a bunch of personal stuff that always makes me uncomfortable. I’ll bet there are men and women who drive to faraway towns to buy certain products. I wonder how much hair dye for men is sold over the internet. Me, I’m not embarrassed about dyeing my hair gray; I’ve been doing it for years. It makes me look distinguished.
“Who told you that?” asks Sue. “It makes you look like Captain Kangaroo. But older. And not so smart.”
Contact Jim Mullen at JimMullenBooks.com