The Italian Pharmacy


Living in another country means living around a bunch of people you're not used to, and also living around a bunch of germs you're not used to. Lately I've been feeling a bit sick, but I can't really tell if it's a cold or just allergies. Sometimes I think there's just something I'm allergic to because it's worse in the morning. I also think it's just allergies because the prevalence of cigarette smoke has been bothering my nose (not that it has really bothered me before, though). The office often smells like smoke because a few people like to light up inside, sometimes directly underneath the sign that says "vietato fumare." I'm sure you can figure out what that means from the context.

To try to control my runny nose, I sought out a pharmacy last night. Apparently you can't buy medicines at the grocery and convenience stores in Italy, or at the very least, not at the ones I've been to. I'm not sure if all drugs are considered controlled substances or if there just wasn't any room left on the shelf for Tylenol after they stocked all the pasta noodles.

Pharmacies are easy to find around here because they all have a largish green neon plus-sign jutting out perpendicular to the store, in the same manner that many US barber shops once had the candy-cane colored barber poles out front. As my luck would have it, the pharmacy I found wasn't the cornucopia of pain relievers, decongestants, and q-tips I was expecting; but rather one of those new-age hippie homeopathic places. Although I couldn't read many of the labels, I immediately recognized the root-extracts, 100000X concentrations, and pixie dust that scream "alternative" cure. If they have an FDA over here, the whole store would need wallpaper repeating "What you're buying is not intended to treat, prevent, diagnose, or cure any disease."

Instead of giving up and walking out, I decided to ask the exceedingly nice people behind the counter if they had any cold medicine. Unfortunately I wasn't as prepared as I should have been, so I couldn't muster the Italian words to describe what I wanted. Doubly unfortunate was that neither of the pharmacists spoke any more English than I spoke Italian. Therefore I resorted to acting out a cough and massaging my throat while saying I was feeling bad. Or maybe I said naughty. I hope they didn't get the wrong idea.

What they produced from under the counter was a pleasant surprise. I was able to purchase real, laboratory-researched medicine developed by none other than Pfizer. With three active ingredients, including Pseudoefedrina (which I'm going out on a limb to assume is Pseudoephedrine), I knew I was in business.

And sure enough, it worked wonders today, though in trade has turned me into a zombie. Although right now I'm just walking around slowly and kinda spaced out, I'm still only craving the usual foods and not brains. At least I think. I had some really good meat at lunch today that I couldn't identify, and it's sounding good again now. Could it have been ?


Always gotta be massaging throats, don't you? Geez, doooood. Calm down.

Your story reminds me of the time I was attacked by a swarm of mosquitos in southern France. After lying awake for two nights itching uncontrollably, I decided to buy some anti-itch cream. I went to the pharmacy, and of course the pharmacist didn't speak English and I don't speak French. I did an Oscar-worthy performance of being attacked by a swarm of mosquitos and itching all over my body, and the pharmacist nodded knowingly and handed me a small tube. I used it for almost a week before a French backpacker told me I was rubbing hemorrhoid cream all over myself.