Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Pill Wagon

I was always confounded by the anti-drug campaigns. When President Nixon took on the "War on Drugs" in 1969, it was a call to arms in our community. (In fact I always remembered "These are drugs" (and a hot frying pan is shown) then "This is your brain on drugs" (and a egg is shown frying in the pan.) In my mind this ad was put out in the late 60's early 70's. I must have been doing drugs because when I researched it, the ad was not put out until 1987. But I digress.) At our school they would bring these full color posters with pictures of what "bad" drugs looked like so we would know what to stay away from. Basically they were telling us we needed to rat on anyone we knew who was "taking drugs". And, the evil "weed" was the root of it all.

It wasn't that I was into drugs or did not understand or appreciate the consequences, I did. There was little doubt in my mind if you partook in illicit drugs your mind would be gone and you would find yourself on the corner of some big city street wearing a multi-colored sari with a sign around your neck saying "Please feed the homeless." Of course you could not see what was going on because the drugs had made you go blind. I paid attention to all the TV ads. Yes suree bobtail, I knew what would happen and I wasn't having anything to do with it. It was evil - all of it.

Now, my father was a pharmacist, or "druggist" as they were called then. So I was used to being around all different types of medicine. And, I had worked in Dad's drugstore since I was old enough to answer the telephone, so I probably had more hands on drug experience than all my friends combined.

The conundrum for me was a vehicle. And not just any vehicle. Daddy took my brother and me to school every morning on his way to work. He would usually drive the drug store's delivery truck - a Ford Ranchero. Remember those? But this was a little special. It had the name of the drug store painted on the doors, along with the phone number and the slogan "Free Pick-up and Delivery". It was white with colorful tablets, pills, and capsules painted all over it and on the tail gate, in big bold letters, as if there was any doubt, it said "Pill Wagon". Now around town, everybody knew the Pill Wagon. As a little girl, it was cute, as I got older and the kidding started from my friends, the attractiveness of my "ride" quickly faded.

One day, we are sitting in class listening, once again, to the local policeman talk to us about the evils of drugs. When he pulls out his handy dandy color poster, it dawns on me. I am literally the "poster child" for his program. I ride to school every morning wrapped in that poster. Why couldn't I just be a normal child and be dropped off at school in station wagon, or God forbid a four door sedan.

I came to dread having to show up everyday in a vehicle that resembled the anti-drug posters the officers were always drilling into our little minds. I would go out in the evenings to see if any of the illicit drugs that we were supposed to be on the look out for matched the colorful artwork on the "Pill Wagon". But it was all confusing to me. I understood the difference between illegal drug use and prescription drug use, but still found it a little unsettling.

Eventually the "Pill Wagon" had done her time. I don't know how many miles the old girl had on her, but it was time for her to go to "Delivery Truck" heaven and none to soon for me. Dad was very sad. He was attached to that truck, it was part of the business, of it's identity. When he announced that he had to buy a new delivery truck, I crossed my fingers. My only fear was that it may be something bigger, more colorful. But God was kind. He just bought a regular pick-up truck with a magnetic sign on the door with the name of the pharmacy. He said the Pill Wagon was a one-of a-kind.

Looking back on it, I realize that, like most kids, it didn't take much to embarrass me. And, that truck gave my friends much fodder to play with. But they were the only ones who felt that way. Everyone else in the community had an affection for that delivery truck. And, I should have appreciated it more because there is little doubt that Dad's marketing ploy was part of his financial success. However, at 10 years old it is hard to appreciate that aspect of it.

And, I am sure some where out there another drug store had their own "Pill Wagon", but I have never seen one. I survived the "Drug War" and my friends' endless ribbing. As much as I believe many things painful at the time, are good lessons in the long run. This is one that I feel was optional. I still catch Hell from my friends to this day about this. Whenever my girls complained growing up about something I did that embarrassed them (which was often), I should have retorted with - "Well, at least your father doesn't take you to school everyday in a truck with tablets, pill, and capsules painted all over it and the moniker 'The Pill Wagon' on the tailgate."

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