87: Dum dee dum dum dumb at the drugstore

Switzerland: Land where Nyquil & Melatonin users viewed with suspicion. Heroin-addicts and alcoholics are okay.

“Hola! Buenos dias! No! Er, hello. No, bonjour! Gruetzi! Dang! What country am I in?!”

This is what happens to me when I spend a protracted amount of time in a linguistic stew. I stumble over four languages in a nanosecond, which is what happened when I greeted the pharmacist at the local apotheke (pharmacy) yesterday.

“Why did you start in a language you can’t even speak,” my beloved asked. Why indeed. The pharmacist had Iberian skin tones and black hair, a visual cue that sprung the floodgates on the little reservoir of Spanish my brain has boxed up since our days in Madrid. The pharmacist’s responding look of incomprehension then caused the linguistic data to disperse at the synaptic cleft between my neurons, form into a ball and ping pong around my brain, hitting as many languages as possible. Given enough time, I might have recalled the Japanese that Mrs. Kirbyson tried to teach me in 1975.

I wonder if time-zone-trader Angelina Jolie has trouble sleeping.

It turns out the gentleman spoke English, but by then I had forgotten how to manage even that and so I persisted in my usual muddled melange. Dave just stood back and watched the show.

I am always in a slightly peeved mood when I go to a pharmacy in Europe, which is something like visiting a North American drug store in 1952 when everything was kept behind the counter and a conversation with the druggist was mandatory. I’m actually not sure about that being the case in 1952, but Hollywood tells me this is so and I’m too linguistically hungover to investigate further.

In Switzerland, something as mundane as NyQuil (called Medinait here, for those who need to know) can only be purchased after assuring a pharmacist that the buyer does not have asthma, glaucoma, a family history of glaucoma, neurofibromatosis, halitosis, a tendency to crack knuckles, arthritis, phlebitis, elephantitis or a cough that has lingered for over a week. Who would think a cold medication would come under such strict controls?

Costco's Melatonin: There's the good stuff.

But there’s more. Even the non-drug Metamucil (a non-medicinal soluble fibre product that does wonders for cholesterol counts, by the way) requires conversational counter-time with the drug-store staff.

Last week, I learned that melatonin* – a rather innocuous hormone that flits about in the pineal gland governing our sleep cycles – is only available in Switzerland by prescription. Melatonin has been an on-the-shelf product in the U.S. since the 1990s and in Canada it can be bought in comforting large containers at Costco stores, yet when I asked for it, the Swiss druggist gave me the studious stare associated with searching for signs of drug addiction – that is, my drug addiction. But then, considering how I opened our conversation in  a multiplicity of languages that I don’t actually speak, who can blame him?

I find this fascinating in a country where heroin and other narcotics are legal, and if I wanted such I could probably just drop in at the local injection clinic and load up my veins.

Alternatively, if I’m having trouble sleeping and can’t access my usual supply of melatonin, a cheap and ready source of alcohol of all sorts can be purchased at any food store. I looked down my nose at the men lining up at a nearby convenience store with their beer and booze during the supper hour, but now I realize they may just be fellow-insomniacs whose melatonin-prescriptions have run out.

Blogbits

On Hobonotes’ most recent daily report:

  • Most hits come from the U.S.
  • Least hits come from the Russian Federation
  • Weirdest search term that landed a reader at this site was “Paris restaurant Winnipeg”
  • Readers from Japan did not even register in my country list. I cannot break into that readership. Dang. 

DO NOT USE THIS WEBSITE FOR MEDICAL INFORMATION: To learn more about melatonin, go to legitimate medical websites, such as mayoclinic.com. 
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102: The insanity of insomnia

Gargoyles seem entirely plausible in the world of Hans Christian Andersen.

Blame literature. I am a lifelong insomniac, an affliction that in its early stages had me sneaking my lamp into my bedroom closet where I soaked in the company of many a weird book, all so my parents wouldn’t notice the light under the door while I read late into the night. Technically, this makes me less of an insomniac and more of an obsessive-compulsive reader for whom every book is a “page-turner.”

By weird books, I don’t mean anything as terrifying as monster picture books, unless you want to include Wuthering Heights, and other Victorian-era missives, which when you think about it, are monster stories. This explains so much about my knee-jerk expectation that things will always go wrong.  A steady diet of Charles Dickens does terrible things to a pliable mind.

This unusual reading list through my elementary school years had everything to do with poverty – not that my family was down-in-the-dirt poor, but we were too poor for many children’s picture books, if any – I don’t actually remember anything but printed pages full of text until I hit school, but for my older brother’s school reader, Dick and Jane.  Then my younger brothers came along and entered the land of Dr. Seuss’s green eggs and ham, a line of fables that I rejected because none of the Bronte family mentioned green food or if they did it was in the context of having to consume mouldy spoiled fare. So the only books handy to me at home were those that came in my mother’s affordable subscription to a buck-a-month Book of the Month Club, the collection of which was entirely based in The Classics.

These chairs have nothing to do with this blog post. I've included them to offset the nightmarish gargoyle photo, although they do make a great place to read on a warm spring afternoon, and this post does talk about reading, so I take it back about the chairs being out-of-place.

My gloomy outlook did not improve much when the book club acquired a ‘children’s list,’ which included the unwashed version of Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales and the Brothers Grimm in a two-in-one book volume where you flipped the book over and upside down on the other side was another whole collection of horror stories crafted especially to keep children in line. My mother thought Black Beauty would be a good read, so she ordered it, ushering in my introduction to the world of animal abuse.

It was handy to get my Grades 11 and 12 reading list out of the way before puberty, but awkward to arrive in Grade One without a clue about even a single Mother Goose rhyme and to have only the most scant familiarity with Little Red Riding Hood. Worse yet, because I was an early reader, every teacher assumed I knew things I did not, such as the alphabet. It was a miserable day in Grade 4 when Miss McMurray laughingly said, “Let’s review the alphabet, although I’m sure you all know it.” The class laughed, because they knew that in fact, I had never been able to recite the alphabet, an educational oversight that branded me for way too many school years.

All of the above is a long way of explaining that I was up past 4 a.m. last night, which is not really that unusual, but it is not a good thing when living in a hotel bachelor suite where my beloved husband is trying to get some sleep because he has to go to work in the morning. I lay in bed and stared into the dark until after 2 a.m., but then had to get up because there is only so much blind-staring I can do at a stretch.

But in 102 days, we will have a bedroom with a door on it, and I will be able to tiptoe into the living room and read away without waking anyone. Bliss.