Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Tears for my tears

I have been shedding a lot of tears lately. When I read a Washington Post–ABC News poll finding that the more people know about Bush's plans for Social Security the less they like it, a tear runs down my cheek. And by the time I've learnt that World Dominatrix Condoleeza Rice has packed her boots and her sari and is off to Asia, another tear swings pendulously from the tip of my nose.

My Nearest and Dearest fear that I may be becoming "addled," a socio-psychological condition to which Southerners are especially prone. But the truth is that one of my tear ducts has closed quite perversely, and now my tears have nowhere to go but down and out. It's something I can live with, even if the photo of me smelling the roses while dabbing my eye with a tissue seems ... well... a little precious.

But then my duct took a dive and became infected, and I knew it was time to act. In fact, I even knew what I needed to do; I just didn't know if I would be allowed to do it.

So I went to the local pharmacy to see if antibiotic eyedrops might be available over the counter. They're not. But then I got a real eye-opener as to just what is available for the optically challenged.

There are drops to take the redness out, which after a few uses cause a rebound and put the redness back in. These are available in the $5 range. For a similar price you may buy artificial tears.

Then I discovered three homeopathic formulations that promised "no known side effects." I was willing to believe this, since to the best of my knowledge they have no known effects whatsoever. For their superior effectlessness I would have to pay $10.

But on the shelf next to them I found the crème de la crème in over-the-counter eyedrops. Bausch & Lomb makes a 1/8 oz. bottle of 5% sodium chloride solution that my discount chain sells for $19.99. The package proudly lists only the one ingredient and promises that unlike cheaper drops it will not cause a rebound effect. I almost bought it until I discovered that I could buy a box of table salt and some distilled water for under a dollar.

By this time my duct was refusing to settle, so I knew there was nothing for it but the obligatory visit to the warden of the medicine chest, my friendly walk-in clinic physician. For $80 he regaled me with tales of his travels in Gaspé—he doesn't work as hard as he used to, he says—and looked at my swollen duct under a magnifying glass. "Yep, you have an infected tear duct. You sure do." Then he wrote out the precious prescriptions—antibiotic eyedrops and a broad-spectrum oral antibiotic. I kissed his hand.

Then it was on to the pharmacist. He asked if I knew if I had any allergies to these or any other drugs. Why I would be buying them if I knew any such thing is still unclear, but it never hurts to have your memory jogged in case the hives and bronchospasms you had last time have slipped your mind.

Finally the magic potions were served, and the pharmacist asked if I would like to pay by check, cash or credit card. Since I had been ready to offer my car title, I was relieved when the bill came in at under $50.

And what did those antibiotic eyedrops cost? Like the saline eyedrops for $19.99, these too were made by Bausch & Lomb. And for only $3 more they had an antibiotic included. I felt like I was pulling off a heist.

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