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June 14, 2012

There’s this lame joke I heard as a child:

A boy is standing around with his hands in his pockets. An old lady approaches and asks him:
“Are your hands cold, dear?”
“No, Ma’am”, replies the boy.
“So why do you keep them in your pockets like that?”
“Because otherwise they will be cold!”

I don’t know if there ever was a societal pressure against keeping your hands in your pockets. Maybe. I’ve heard that having stuff in your pockets disfigures your clothes, and I guess that can go for hands too. What I do know is: there’s a societal pressure against painkillers. Here in Germany it’s a very directed pressure from above, from the government. Three times out of four, when I buy painkillers, they’re accompanied with a lecture on how they’re bad for me and I shouldn’t take too many. Like the pharmacists had instructions to lecture everybody who buys something. There’s a bit of a peer-to-peer pressure too, but that was worse in Sweden, I thought.

The thing about painkillers is that they work. I take them, my headache goes away and leaves me mostly normal. When I’m not in pain any more it’s easy to conclude that I didn’t really need the painkillers, I was just imagining the pain and nausea earlier. And then I get angry with myself and decide that next time I won’t take any. And then… hoo boy.

“Is anything the matter with you, Ester?”
“No, not really, I’m just a bit tired.”
“So why are you eating the strongest over-the-counter painkillers there are?”
“Because otherwise I’d be in bed right now, unable to stand a light, nauseous and with a splitting headache!”

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