The only time you see gray-haired people like me on television is in commercials that only run during the evening news. You'll see an athletic gray-haired guy and his athletic wife running down a beach, playing tennis and dancing on the deck of a cruise ship while a serious, disembodied voice intones, "You'll know when it's time for Splondocaine."
The voice never tells you what Splondocaine does, or what it's for, but instead just tells you to ask your doctor about it. It's like a big secret we can't let young children know about yet.
"Mom, what's Splondocaine?"
"Watch your mouth! We don't talk about that kind of stuff in this house. You'll know when it's time!"
During the rest of the commercial, the voice tries to warn you, in frantic speed-whispers, NOT to take Splondocaine, for the love of God!
"In some people, Splondocaine may cause drowsiness, vomiting, stomach upset, mucous discharge, yellowing of the skin, visions, dementia, loss of hearing, warts, curvature of the spine, sleep apnea, loss of feeling in the forehead, smelly feet, bad breath, a deep and abiding sense of impending doom, liver spots, baldness, wrinkles, sciatica, bed-wetting, liver damage, loose teeth and forgetfulness. Did I mention the drowsiness?"
The man and the woman in the commercial were now laughing at a kid flying a kite. That did it: I decided I had to have some. So I went to my doctor. "Doc, don't you think it's time I took Splondocaine?"
"I don't know," he said. "How long have you been constipated?"
"Is that what it's for?"
"Well, what did you think?"
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"I thought it was like marijuana for old people. Have you seen their ads? Those people are high. I thought that's what the kite meant."
The next night, I saw a commercial for Plasothalix. It came between an ad for adult diapers and another for Polident. It showed a gray-haired man blowing a horn, eating corn on the cob and laughing on a big, fancy sailboat. The serious voice said, "Joe used to worry, but he doesn't anymore. He uses Plasothalix twice a day and is the life of the party. Ask your doctor about Plasothalix today! May cause dry heaves, cold sweats, boils, manic depression, palsy, dry mouth, emotional outbursts, itchy skin, sneezing, runny nose, tennis elbow, psoriasis, foaming of the mouth, fingertip soreness, loss of a sense of time and lower back pain. Do not drink alcohol or eat cashews while taking Plasothalix."
I called the doctor again. "Doc, I'm sick with worry. Shouldn't I be taking Plasothalix twice a day?"
"Oh, wouldn't think so," he said. "You've got plenty of hair."
"Hair? I thought for sure it was for anxiety. Or maybe motion sickness. Do you have anything for anxiety? Because I'm very anxious. Don't you ever watch the news? People with gray hair are falling apart! I'm afraid to walk down the street. Pieces of me may drop off the way tailpipes come off old cars."
"Maybe there is something you should take," Doc told me. "I'm going to call in a prescription for Evenitol for you."
"Evenitol? I've seen that commercial. Isn't that the one where the gray-haired guy is out jogging with a gray-haired woman, and after that, they play handball and go rock-climbing? Then he goes swimming while she does tai chi in the park. Then he plays baseball, and finally they go camping and whitewater rafting together that same night. You'd have to give a 20-year-old oxygen and adrenaline to do all that in one day, but these people seem fine. So what's Evenitol for? Chronic severe rectal itch? Adult diaper rash? Mole hair?"
"No -- it softly but gently puts you to sleep during the evening news. You'll never have to watch those commercials again. Take two and don't call me in the morning."
Contact Jim Mullen at firstname.lastname@example.org