The magic pill

When I was a homeschooled kid, I used to go hang out at my dad’s office about one day a week and do my math in the break room. Or I’d help the nurses file charts, maybe even watch a procedure if the patient was willing. Things like ingrown toenail removal; I trimmed my toenails fastidiously afterwards.

Something my dad used to say was, I wish you could help with more patients. I could dress you up in a lab coat and just have you listen to certain people. You’d prescribe them placebos because all they want is to talk and then be given a pill to make them better. You’d just nod along, and then hand them a scrawl at the end of their visit: RX Stultania QID. Maybe you’d even say something like “This pill will significantly improve your quality of life, but you have to give up smoking and Doritos for it to work.”

IMG_1542I would picture myself, a scrawny ten-year-old with enormous glasses, sitting up straight, drowning in my dad’s white coat, fastidiously taking notes into a chart. I’d have a nametag: K. Botkin, Stultologist. Obviously, none of my patients would speak Latin. What a good listener you are, they’d say. This pill will fix everything, they’d say. But I really have to give up smoking? And eating junk food?

And drinking Cola, I’d say. The pill is counteracted by preservatives. You’ll have to make your own food using real ingredients like spinach and butter and ground beef. The pill will change your life, but it’s a delicate pill, a magic pill. It needs to be massaged internally with yoga stretches and sit-ups. It will extend your life by ten years if you take it according to instructions. It’s cutting edge, so it’s expensive. Don’t buy it unless you’re serious.

They’d nod eagerly. They’d hurry away with their prescription. They’d buy broccoli and uncured bacon, butter and potatoes. They’d resign themselves to nicotine patches and morning yoga. They’d have to: the pill would be too expensive to waste. Sometimes, trying to work their ankles closer to their ears, they’d wonder if it was worth it. But then they’d go home and pan-fry a steak and decide that yes, life was actually pretty good.

They’d return three months later, check in, say they’ve slipped a few times but overall have done pretty well. You’d examine their dosage, add a tablespoon of MCT oil to their regimen, fish oil, a daily dose of bone broth. You’d give them a reward coupon for the original placebo pill: 80% off. You’d pat them on the back and tell them to keep up the good work. Elated, they’d fill their prescription for the second time. A year into it, with a bit of tweaking, they’d be full-fledged paleo-eating yoga devotees. They would be leaner, have fewer gallbladder problems, fewer aches and pains, fewer dizzy spells. Their lungs would be clear, their coughs less intense. Their circulation would have improved.

All this without the potentially disastrous side effects of the weight-loss pills and cleanses peddled by people marketing to those who want a quick fix.

The quickest fix: get a good night’s sleep and an excellent meal. Apart from that, go in for the long haul. Or pay me money to prescribe you a placebo.

Caveat: I’m not a doctor, folks. I’m a Stultologist.

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