Tales From The Pharmacy


Back in the day, Robitussin® came in a glass bottle and the box was made of wood. Another case that progress ruins packaging.


I’m 14 years old. I’m at the drug store seeing if they got any new comic books. I am intrigued by a new candy product called Charm’s Blow-Pop®, which is supposedly both a candy and a chewing gum. My thoughts of how ludicrous this concept is was interrupted by a famous rock star, who half whispers to me, “Hey, do me a solid, and buy these three bottles of Robitussin® cough syrup for me.” Keep in mind, this was the ‘70s, so anyone could buy anything as long as they had the money and proper intent. He gives me a handful of wadded up bills. “Keep the change. I’ll meet you around the corner.”

Before you judge me for being so naïve, I didn’t have anything better to do, and this guy was legendary. So, I take the bottles of Robitussin® up to the counter. To avoid suspicion, I said to the maybe 18-year-old dude behind the register, “I would like to buy this.”

His response was the greatest amount of indifference I had ever experienced before. I decided then and there, I was going to be this guy in four years. Long story short, I was. I pocketed the change, which ended up being three dollars and 74 cents.

He’s waiting beside the green dumpster, which reeks. Funny story, true, when I was this age, I thought that it was the flies that made garbage stink, and not the garbage itself. I hand him the brown bag, and he immediately opens up a bottle and hands it to me, and says, “Watch.” He opens up another bottle and slugs most of it. “Make sure you leave about this much.” He swirls the bottle to reveal about an eighth left. He smiles, sticky syrup glistening on his upper lip and drops the near empty bottle into the bag.

I nod as I take a swig. It is a nasty cherry, kinda almost cherry because of the smell, but overall, nasty on the tongue, ergo nasty cherry. In the meantime, he has already finished the last bottle. Not wanting to be judged a pussy, I chug-a-lug the overly sweet thick red syrup and nearly throw up.

He takes the bottle from me and drops it back into the bag. There is a rattling clink as he shakes the bag. He gently swings it against the side of the dumpster. There is a metallic thud followed by the tinkling of breaking glass. He hands the bag back to me and says, “Tell the fella inside you dropped the bag, and you need more for your sick ma. He’ll have to give you a replacement. Have to.”

I did as he said and returned with a fresh bag.

“You’re welcome.” He says before rapidly guzzling down the cough syrup.

As I say, “It was a pleasure to meet you, Ace Frehley of the rock band, Kiss.” His overly dilated pupil eyes float out of his pock marked face.

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