Monday, December 12, 2005

At the Night Pharmacy

Caroline has a cough. The hacking, messy type, that shows up at moments that are not quite convenient for a toddler - when she is throwing a fit, say, for not getting the second half of a cookie she truly believes is hers. To demonstrate her convictions, she is willing to throw herself from my arms, back arched, heels kicking, while I hold on and try to explain that the cold hard ground and her indignation should not meet just now. Upside down, she starts coughing.

After a weekend of interrupted temper tantrums and coughing fits, I decided to get some children’s medicine on Sunday to alleviate my conscious and hopefully her cough. As I have mentioned before, drug stores don’t sell drugs here, but pharmacies do. The majority of pharmacies in the Czech Republic (there are over 2000 of them) are still owned by individuals, not by large chains, so most of them have family friendly hours for the pharmacists - closing for the weekends and early in the evening during the week. Picking up cough medicine on a Sunday night means standing in line at the special 24 hour pharmacy, waiting to talk to the pharmacist on call. Standing in line, I should mention, outside, while the wind blows a brisk tune through the rigging of my scarf and coat.

Thankfully the line moved fast last night. Most everyone seemed to be requesting either a hangover cure or a cold remedy: Ibuprofen (advil), aceteminophin (tylenol), aspirin, vitamins. I watched the line dwindle to our turn, and then I stood in front of the window and did my cough impression for the pharmacist. "Cough cough splutter. Daughter small, coughingly wettest as this," I said in mangled Czech.

The pharmacist must be used to such dramatic, incomprehensible conversations. She nodded her head sagely and turned behind her to pull out a box, not the expected Mucosolvan (its name says it all, really) but Robitussin. Cool, I said, forgetting my Czech as soon as I saw a U.S. brand in front of me. "Dekuji much, and good night!" She nodded and turned to the next well-bundled customer behind me.

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