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Rum & Coax

After more than two decades of writing columns for newspapers, I finally persuaded them to reprint earlier, well-received columns and give me a paid holiday in September. I think they gave in, not because of the need for a creative break I outlined, but because they knew that newspaper sales are then the lowest for the year, with people saving every penny for back-to-school costs). In any event, in my most extended newspaper holiday, ever, I’m taking my September holiday. This column first appeared on Friday 10 July 2013.

My wife bought me these excellent memory-improvement tablets; of course I keep forgetting to take them, indeed, have actually taken to throwing them away (making up in deviousness whatever I’m losing in recollection) so she won’t notice that the level of pills is not being depleted. One way or the other, though, the bottle and the game will soon be up; but I do have what I think would be a foolproof excuse: I forgot.

By a tangentially linked process—I wouldn’t say I remembered them—the memory pills did get me thinking about those prescription drug TV ads that run in the most expensive primetime advertising slots. (Pharmaceutical companies can afford them; they’ve forgotten more about profits than Donald Trump will ever learn.)

The problems that prescription drugs address may be very serious but their advertisements are hilarious, or would be if people didn’t damn well get up next morning and go directly to their doctors and ask if the drug advertised was right for them.

They’re clearly persuaded by the supposed benefits actors paid to pretend to be well get from swallowing the pills concerned, but it’s just as clear that no one really listens to the warnings at the end of the commercials, which pharmaceutical companies have to run to avoid lawsuits.

No matter what else it might do for you, would you voluntarily swallow something the manufacturer himself warned you could cause swelling of the face, lips, tongue and throat, difficulty in breathing and swallowing, excessive bleeding, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, palpitations, thrombosis, atrial fibrillation and heart attack?

And those are just the allergy and blood side effects. Gastro-intestinal side effects of many of the wonder drugs advertised include nausea, stomach and/or rectal bleeding, constipation, diarrhoea, vomiting, chronic kidney failure, hepatitis, jaundice and more. General side effects include tiredness, weakness, hair loss, urinary tract infection, painful menstruation, heartburn, vaginitis, pancreatitis and hyperglycaemia. With side effects like those, you’re better off staying ill.

But pharmaceutical companies saved the really good side effects stuff for your head, where their drugs may cause headache, amnesia (so much for memory pills), seizures, speech disorder, stroke, increased aggression, agitation, anxiety, confusion, depression, hallucinations, hyperactivity, irritability, panic, sleeplessness, overexcitement, hostility and, in rare cases, suicide.

Additionally, “rare” means a different thing for pharmaceutical companies than it does for human beings: dictionaries define rare as “not occurring very often” or “not found in large numbers and consequently of special interest or value.”

For you or me, then, “rare” might be one in a thousand, at the very least one or two in every hundred; for pharmaceutical companies who have direct access to the Washington politicians who frame the laws that supposedly regulate them, “rare” has been allowed to mean five per cent of cases—and that is after the worst result subjects are dismissed as statistically unworthy and thrown out of the entire study early; what they call “rare” on television might be a little too regular for you, if you knew about it.

Most ads warn that pregnant woman should not use the product and at least one I’ve seen warns against possibly fatal spontaneous bleeding. What kind of firetrucking medicine is that? They actually say this stuff in their ads (though very fast, like a dancehall LP played on 45 rpm). If they listened closely, no one in their right mind would take these things (but, of course, many who do, aren’t).

So, conscientious public servant that I am, I’ve come up with a superior alternative. Instead of those fancy, deliberately misleading names pharmaceutical companies pay advertising agencies millions to make up for them, instead of Sukitup or Fukitall or Wonderbra or I’ll Leave Herass, here’s my far safer, familiar, monosyllabic alternative, which I would have voiced over video of a miserable office worker sitting unhappily at his or her desk:

Rum.

Your boss on your ass all day and, when you get home, your spouse is bitching, the children wailing for help with homework and the dog barking constantly? Are you finding ordinary life just too much to cope with? Do you feel lost and alone? Do you feel you just don’t know where to turn? Ask your bartender if rum might be right for you. Rum eradicates all your problems by going straight to your head and making them completely unimportant at once. Rum makes your life perfect for as long as you’re drinking it. Get a head with rum.

(This last bit is voiced very quickly over images of happy revellers at Carnival.)

Rum is not for everyone. Pregnant women should not take rum but their husbands definitely should. Increased stress levels may require increased rum dosages. If you are a good-for-nothing, selfish bastard, rum will only make you a drunk good-for-nothing, selfish bastard. Common side effects of rum include vomiting, talking too loud, talking pure shit while thinking you’re clever, slurring your speech, making an ass of yourself, getting married to Britney Spears in Las Vegas and picking a fight with a man who could beat you senseless with one hand even if you were sober. Rum may make you think you can drive a vehicle, a delusion often causing death. In rare cases, rum makes you feel horrible the next day but that is easily cured by more rum.

BC Pires is a rum-jumbie. E-mail your shots to him at bc@caribsurf.com. A considerably shorter version of this column appeared in 2009 in Barbados but BC probably forgot

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