It’s 2:30 am, and I’m prowling around my friend’s house, peering into her bathroom closets and cabinets.
I’m not normally this nosey. Really, what goes on between you and your pharmacist–or Skip, the friend who always has the good stuff—is your business.
But it’s the wee hours of the morning and some intestinal demon is wringing out my stomach like a wet towel. I need a Tums.
No doubt it was the Mexican food. In San Antonio, where I’m visiting my friend and her family, the cuisine packs some punch. I don’t speak Spanish, but even so, I should have been suspicious of a dish called “Camarones à la Diabla.”
Naturally, I recognize the risks involved in snooping in people’s bathrooms. You’re bound to stumble on things that are deeply personal—the kind of items that you try to hide in your pharmacy cart under a bag of cotton balls or a magazine you didn’t really want to buy. (And despite all these efforts, you unfailingly run into some nosey friend who picks up the magazine and announces, “Well, looks like someone is having a colonoscopy!”) Consequently, I vow to rifle through all my friends’ most personal possessions in the most thoughtful and non-judgmental way possible.
I start my prowling in the guest bathroom. The drawers are completely empty except for one of those suction devices–shaped like a mini-turkey baster–designed to help clear an infant’s nose. This seems odd, given that my friend’s youngest child is 17. Non-judgmental goes right out the window.
I’m amazed to find the under-sink cabinets nearly empty, as well. Shouldn’t any guest bathroom in the state of Texas have stockpiles of Pepto Bismol? Do my friends host only enchilada-loving natives of El Paso or Guadalarjara? Have they given no thought to the delicate GI tract of a New Englander?
I slip downstairs. Luckily, the master bedroom is not en suite, so I don’t have to tiptoe through their room to reach the bath. I understand the dog sleeps in their bedroom, and he didn’t like me before I started breaking and entering.
I search the master bath: its drawers, closet, and medicine cabinet. Nothing. How can this be? Do all Texans have stomachs of steel? Is it part of their citizenship test? (“Eat this burrito and record how you feel in half an hour….”)
I decide to try the kitchen, but halfway through the darkened living room I step on a snake. Or maybe it’s not a snake, but something shaped like a snake that moves and yelps, though neither as quickly nor as loudly as I do. It is the dog—or rather his tail. I try to resume normal breathing, certain that this whole experience just shaved two years off my life. Oddly, I find myself wondering how that translates into dog years.
Tiptoeing into the kitchen, I flip on a light switch over the sink. As it turns out, though, it’s not a light switch, but the garbage disposal. Another near-cardiac event.
I search the kitchen cabinets. Finally, in the last cupboard, I hit pay-dirt: a shelf with various prescription and other medications. Way in the back is a small box with the word “heartburn” written on it. I am so relieved. I pull out the box.
What immediately strikes me as odd is the photo of the dog on the cover. I look more closely. It’s not heartburn medication, I can now see, but heartworm.
I decide to pack it in. As a last resort, pour myself a glass of milk and, amazingly, this works. I find I’m able to sleep.
The following morning, I chide my friend about her lack of OTC medications. She looks puzzled and opens a door to a back hallway that—who knew?—offers yet another bathroom. She reaches into the cabinet and produces several boxes of antacids, in all shapes and flavors, colors and sizes.
Travel, for me, is all about education, and I learned several things from this experience:
(1) never order a Mexican entrée that includes the Spanish word for she-devil;
(2) have more respect for people who break and enter; it’s not as easy as it looks; and
(3) when in trouble, always wake your friends, because only they know where they’re hiding the good drugs.