September 14, 2008

Joke’s On Him


I’ve complained about my doctor in the past—his blackmail attempts and general incompetence—but now there’s something even more sinister afoot.

            Maybe I’m being just a touch paranoid here, but I’m coming to the conclusion that he’s trying to kill me. Or if not exactly kill me, he’s at least trying to insure that I will never breed. Maybe I said something I shouldn’t have while I was in his office—something like, “If I ever had a kid, I’d chain him in a closet and conduct language experiments on him until he was twenty-one, then I’d throw him out on the street.” Or maybe, “Man, I sure do hate Adam Sandler movies.”

            That’s part of it. The doctor looks and sounds just like Adam Sandler, without being the least bit funny (which I guess also describes Adam Sandler). It makes it very difficult to take him seriously.

            Anyway, when I first started seeing him, I was only taking one prescription medication, and that was for my seizures. I’d been taking it for over fifteen years at that point. There were no side effects, it did what it was supposed to, and all was well. But after my second visit, this guy put me on another pill that was supposed to relax my smooth muscles and, in turn, slow my heart rate.

            Along with those things, it also sapped my energy, made me dizzy, and had what the pharmaceutical commercials delicately refer to as “sexual side effects.” (I don’t know why they call them that, since there’s no sex involved—I think they should call them “a lack of sexual side effects”—or just rephrase the whole thing to say, “side effects include a lack of sex.”)

            But after a few weeks, I seemed to overcome all of those, mostly through sheer force of manly will. Things were getting back to normal again. And in this day and age if I only have to take two pills a day, I think I’m in pretty good shape.

            He apparently noticed that I was only taking two pills in this day and age, and so decided that something more needed to be done. The next time I went in for a checkup, he told me that my blood pressure was way too high, and prescribed a third pill. Suddenly, all the side effects that came along with the heart pill returned, and then some. My lower intestine went a little apeshit (so to speak), and I found myself trotting nervously to the bathroom three or four times every morning.

            When I explained all this to Dr. Sandler, he didn’t believe that it could have anything to do with the new blood pressure pills, since they weren’t listed among the official side effects.

            “It began the day after I started taking the pills,” I said.

            “Well, did you change your diet recently?”


            “It’s probably something else, then. I’ve never heard of this before.”

            He didn’t really seem to care that it was happening—he just wanted to defend that damn pill’s honor. The pill (and its list of possible side effects) couldn’t possibly be wrong.

            That same visit, he took a blood sample to check my cholesterol levels.

            Then they lost the blood sample, so I had to go back to let them take another.

            “If there’s anything unusual about the results,” he said, “we’ll call you.”

            Three weeks passed and there was no call. Assuming that either everything was fine or they’d lost this second sample too, I stopped thinking about it.

            I guess they caught the psychic shift, because his office called a week later. The cholesterol was “a little high,” his secretary said, “so he wants you to start taking Lipitor.” Without any further explanation or consultation, she said she was going to call it into the pharmacy.

            You’ve seen the commercials for Lipitor, I’m sure—one features a bored doctor behind his desk, reciting some deeply improbably dialogue to an attentive patient. That one made me cringe even before I was told to take the drug myself.

            Now, first of all, I don’t trust any drug that advertises on the television. Few things in this world scream “EVIL!” quite so loudly as a pharmaceutical company’s television commercials. So right there we have a problem, and lord knows how I’d go about explaining it to the doctor.

            “Oh,” his secretary added before hanging up, “I know you don’t have any insurance, so you should know that it’s really, really expensive.”

            I was getting the idea that something malignant was going on here. Over the course of just a few months I’d been put on three different pills. I had no energy, nothing below my belly button was working the way it was supposed to, and to top things off I had no insurance and this new pill was “really expensive.”

            My vague sense of foreboding was confirmed when I picked up that first bottle of Lipitor. Not only did they advertise on the television, but the text of the official information pamphlet stuffed in with the pills was nothing more than the text of the commercial, word for word.

            Never trusting anything I read in official corporate pamphlets anyway (even when they aren’t just TV commercial scripts), I got on that dreaded Internet and did a little research.

            Well, what I found were dozens and dozens of pages devoted to the unreported dangers of Lipitor. Memory loss, loss of mental acuity, constant muscle and joint pain, impotence, stomach trouble. Worse. Hundreds of accounts of lives made miserable by this evil pill.

            Well, I had most of those side effects already, and didn’t feel that I needed to exacerbate them at all.

            Then Morgan found the real side-effects list, and it went on for page after page after page, in teeny-tiny print. It was terrifying. She explained to me exactly how Lipitor works in scientific terms. Even though she’s in the medical industry, she was mortified, too. As pills go, it was just a really bad idea.

            I was starting to feel more and more like my friend Derek. Derek’s been prescribed all sorts of things over the years, but these days only takes one or two. His feeling is he’d rather live the way he wants to and possibly die as a result than pump himself full of these pills that are going to make him stupid and nauseous and tired all the time, in the hopes they might help him live a little longer. And you know, I think I’d rather die of a quick heart attack while I still had all my faculties about me than shuffle on through life in a limp, half-dead haze.

            So there. And I’m going to keep enjoying sausage, too.

            And besides, if that doctor’s goal was to prevent me from breeding by chemically deadening the necessary mechanisms, the joke’s on him—I had myself fixed when I was twenty-four!

            Or, you know, something like that.


You can contact Jim Knipfel at this address:

With occasional exceptions Slackjaw generally appears weekly. For email notification of other Jim Knipfel publications (books, etc.) and events please join the Slackjaw email list here.