Dec. 16 - I went to the store Saturday afternoon to get Trine some Panodil (Danish aceteminophen) and ibuprofen, both of which had been recommended by her emergency room physician to help her cope with her sprained ankle.

Supermarkets here don't sell medicine alongside their toothpaste and mouthwash, though. They have them in a special area, behind glass, the way cigarettes, liquor, and firearms tend to be sold in America.

"I would like to have some Panodil," I told the contraband clerk.

He smiled, nodded, and grabbed a packet of the Danish pain-reliever off a shelf behind him.

"And some ibuprofen," I added.

He turned back to the shelf and put the Panodil back in its place.

"No, no, no," I said. "Both of them—Panodil and ibuprofen."

He turned to me, puzzled. His expression was familiar to me: it's the look every Dane seems to adopt when they hear their own language spoken.

"I can only give you one box," he said in English.

"Yes," I said, "one box of each."

"No," he said, "only one box. I am not allowed to sell you more than one box of medicine."

"But they're different medicines," I said. I had the truth on my side: one's an analgesic, the other's an anti-inflammatory. I know this.

"Yes," he said, "but I can only sell you one."

"I have a note from a doctor," I lied. I didn't actually have the note because I hadn't seen the point in bringing a "prescription" for over-the-counter medicines with me. It wouldn't have mattered anyway.

"It doesn't matter," the clerk said, as I feigned a search of my pockets in the hopes he'd say, "oh, never mind, I don't need to see it."

I was absolutely baffled. He seemed to pick up on that.

"I am allowed to sell you only one medicine," he said. "If you want more, you have to go to a pharmacy."

Pharmacies are nationalized in Denmark. They keep about the same hours as the post office.

"The pharmacy's closed," I said. "They won't be open until Monday."

"I'm sorry," the clerk said.

Hurrah for socialized medicine.

* * *

There was nothing to stop me from going to the 24-hour pharmacy in downtown Copenhagen, of course. Or from rushing over to another supermarket before they all closed in fifteen minutes. Or giving 7-Eleven a try. But that just makes the policy even stupider: if I can get the damn medicine anyway, why make my life so miserable trying to get it? Did Denmark have that many problems with aceteminophen overdoses? Had the Danes once been a nation of ibuprofen-gobbling anti-inflammation addicts?

I remembered strolling through a WalMart a week or so before we moved to Denmark. We'd been loading up on things we thought would be cheaper in the states than over here. We'd been shopping for an hour already and still faced a two-hour drive home. (No, we hadn't driven all that way just to get to WalMart; we'd been spending the weekend with my parents in central Connecticut.) We were finally making our way to the check-out lines when Trine suddenly noticed the medicine aisles.

"We should get lots of medicine," she said. "It's so much cheaper here, and you don't have to go to a pharmacy."

I was impatient—I seem to be allergic to WalMarts, and I could tell I was about to break into hives. I reminded Trine that we already had a whole drawer full of pills, syrups, lotions, and balms to bring with us.

"All right," she said, the way people do when they know you're going to regret it.

And I do.

* * *

In fairness to the Danish system, which was definitely a pain in my ass on Saturday, I should mention that Nicorette is half the price here, that a lot of medications that require prescriptions in the states are available here—from pharmacies—without prescription (I'd say "over-the-counter," which is technically accurate, but you can see it's a little more complicated than that), and that the system definitely helped me out when I was immobilized by gout a couple of weeks before my wedding.

But come on... Tylenol? Advil? Lighten up.

Tea Wrecks

The Boston Tea Party took place 230 years ago today.

A group of young colonists, dressed as native Americans, stormed a few British ships in Boston Harbor and tossed their tea cargo overboard in protest of the British insistence that Americans ride their horses on the left-hand side of the street. While this is often remembered as a defining historical moment in the development of our proud nation, it should not be forgotten that Boston Harbor was for a long time one of our most polluted waterways. The Moron's Almanac equally deplores the ecologically disastrous precedent set by these hotheaded young good-for-nothings, and their demeaning depiction of native Americans as savage, tea-hating polluters.

* * *

Today is the birthday of William "Refrigerator" Perry (1962), Benny Andersson (1946), Steven Bochco (1943), Leslie Stahl (1941), Liv Ullmann (1939), Arthur C. Clarke (1917), Margaret Mead (1901), Noel Coward (1899), Jane Austen (1775), Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770), Katherine of Aragon (1485).

Today is Independence Day in Kazakhstan, Anniversary Day in New Zealand, and Reconciliation Day in South Africa.

Happy Tuesday!

2003, The Moron's Almanac™

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