Saturday, December 11, 2010


Maybe the fairy tales and cartoons have it right. Once the lights are out, all the inanimate objects we assume to be soulless come to life. Maybe all that is made of matter must have its own internal energy that holds it together—and that energy is active and alive when we’re not looking, or else it’s too tiny for us to observe. In any event, it is amazing how little we clumsy, cumbersome humans actually control. (Perhaps our dogs only let us think we control them out of love. Cats, on the other hand, always remind us who is boss.)

There is always garbage that deliberately misses the can and papers that refuse to land where you put them, computers that refuse sleep mode (but then again, we know they have brains), and clothing that gets hooked on doorknobs, railings and even nails in desperate attempts to stay behind. There are pens and keys that roll off desks into shoulder bags and briefcases below who act as their getaway cars. How often have you seen something wrap around another item, say a paper clip or something equally twisted, and you know you couldn't have caused that to happen consciously if you tried in a million years?

But for those of a certain age—those of us requiring pharmaceuticals for daily maintenance—there is “the pill chase.”

Pills, growing more costly by the day. must be taken at regularly prescribed times, providing microscopic effects barely discernible but perhaps vital to our survival. One could argue that these pills have the power to cloud our minds and judgment as easily as they may be designed to clarify it or to thin our blood. If they don’t want to be taken, they have the power to make us forget.

And then sometimes, there is The Great Escape, the day that tablets once carefully counted by pharmacists now decide to make a run for it from the plastic tower that holds them captive. A child-proof cap is (finally) removed by folks who are way past childhood. And once you are momentarily distracted, by a phone, a clock, a remembrance of something you must put on your to-do list once you can find it . . . out the pills leap, as if spring-loaded, rolling in multitudinous directions like cattle escaping their pen. Their intrinsic value, combined with their actual cost and their legally-prescribed dosages, make you, the poor dumb human, scramble, as you try to coax back each little escapee. Fears and anxieties of germs and dirt, not to mention house-keeping guilt, add to the conundrum as these missiles enter into unchartered territories of the kitchen floor. And will you actually swallow this pill that is now tainted by its freedom? Thank god there’s dryness, maybe nothing will stick to it, being as you can’t clean it off after all . . . . oh, please, God, let the five-second rule be true and not something we just made up to salve our neurotic souls . . . And even when retrieved, they may not all go docilely back into their light Lucite corrals. Placed back on the counter as one goes to retrieve more, they resume motion, rolling into heretofore undiscovered puddles on the counter or off the edge to the safety of the cranny between the stove and the cabinet, cracks between counters and appliances that under other circumstances and definitions would be deemed contiguous, side-by-side—damn the uneven kitchen floor! And unlike food, which has already submitted to slaughter and is now defeated, these pills cannot be rinsed off once in contact with other surfaces. So you wistfully, carefully wipe them off with a dry paper towel, hoping against hope that you are not pressing dirt and germs into their surfaces, and that you are in fact wiping off anything microscopic that will introduced cholera or e-coli into your system, attempting pathetically to restore them to their “virginal” status. Pathetically, you then count them, trying to figure out how many are unaccounted for in an important manner, all the while knowing you really aren’t sure, despite the start date on the label, just how many should still be remaining. Then you re-incarcerate the detainees into their plastic chamber, all the while wondering if they’re contaminating each other or else plotting their next daring escape attempt.

Your prison break adventure completed, you attempt to resume your day, operating on the clearly fictitious assumption that you are in charge of your own life.