I Love Making Tylenol
I went to New York for Christmas and got sick. Having not been there for seven years, I wasn't sufficiently acclimated to American TV to resist the unrelenting barrage of endemic health problems: inevitable sleep disorders, constipation and diarrhoea, bloating, breathing difficulties, diabetes, allergies, colds and flu, depression and/or anxiety, arthritis, hair loss, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney/liver/thyroid dysfunctions, incontinence, indigestion, epilepsy, emphysema, osteoporosis, nail fungus, muscle pain, memory loss and I have forgotten the rest.
It's a daily dose of five minutes of tedious television broken with four minutes of pharmaceuticals commercials. If you didn't suffer with haemorrhoids before, you would after. Ouch. Without paying very close attention, all you are aware of is the inevitable deterioration of your health. Help. I want to chain smoke, drink whisky and die of natural causes to prove them wrong.
Serendipitously, I was driven past the massive pharmaceutical company Merck, that seems to go on for days. It must cover an entire state.
By law the endless drone of the cheerful drug ads are required to reveal the side effects. This is done with a carefree air of insouciance. Sleep problems, constipation and diarrhoea, bloating, breathing difficulties, diabetes, allergies, colds and flu, depression and/or anxiety, arthritis, hair loss, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney/liver/thyroid dysfunctions, incontinence, indigestion, epilepsy, emphysema, osteoporosis, nail fungus, muscle pain, memory loss… coma or death. Cease and desist.
Coma? Death? Why yes. A bland, boring ad featuring two bright and breezy female friends discussing their common drug of choice. Little do they know that in a few moments, they could both crumple over, knees weakened, sprawled out on the street in drug induced comas and die before help arrived. DOA. Or so the reassuring male voice–over calmly stated. All because these two friends wanted to lessen their shared restless leg syndrome or was it adult acne? Innocuous whatever it was.
Normally, statistics of death-by-pharmaceuticals are hidden in the bottom left lost pages of mid-week newspapers. Suicide is often cited rather than an unnatural death by a chemical that is touted as a cure-all for all the physical symptoms that you don't have.
One unforgettable commercial consists of ‘normal' Americans smiling at you one by one from ubiquitous enormous flat screen TVs and declaring their love for you and all of humanity: “I love making Tylenol for youuuu.” Each happy, healthy worker convinces the viewer that they are doing the ultimate in altruism. “I love making Tylenol for youuuu.” Making youuuu healthy by altering your brain chemistry.
Ah ha. Here-in lies the secret. Sophisticated brain-washing of the masses. Drowning in pills rather than water. So much more insidious.
Perhaps it is in the water. Every single person I came in contact with in the service industry - be it in a restaurant, over-priced coffee shop, discount drug store, cool art supply store, Macy's - was surprisingly harsh and uncooperative. “Look over there” sort of dismissive service… more like a bark. “Over THERE!” To be honest I was shocked. Gwyneth Paltrow stay in New York. Please. This of course referring to “the inferior service of British shops”. I am dangerously close to questioning my sanity here. Could it be jet lag?
Another curious occurrence seemed to take place when I stood in one spot for more than 10 seconds. The person behind me would inevitably start talking to (at) me without any introduction as if they actually knew me, as if I were a dear friend, as if I were an intimate member of their family. I remained nameless, country-less, personality-less, yet I know all about their health, families, histories, where they are going and coming from and what they plan to do in the near future. You could think that sounds quite normal, even ordinary. Well, perhaps not.
It's the relentless details that make me question why I now know how their sister-in-law makes coffee, that they once moved about with some sort of oxygen device, that their father had an Arkansas accent in Ohio, what they ate last night, their favourite crisp brand... I could go on and on… as they did.
Naturally I got all caught up in their monologues. I listened intently. I imagined them popping their pill of choice, turning on the ads waiting for them on morning TV, preparing for a day shared with other monologists. When the voices stopped, I was left with enough inane information to fill a week's worth of a page of a daily journal. Pen-less, I panicked that it had all been put to memory. Argh.
Then I remembered. This is America. This is in fact, normal. The pride in being familiar, forward, over-friendly. It's the American way. It's almost patriotic.
I'm getting better; I'm not taking Tylenol. La la la la la la.
About the Author:
Maggie is from Manhattan, where she was a painter, then designer of clothing, objects, textiles, interiors while writing for various publications and her own webzine. She is permanently based in London, the city of irony, where she writes regularly to her gal pal Lulu in New York.
You can read her amusing tales about London's daily life, people, current events, politics, fashion and culture at her website www.lettersfromlondon.com.