Wishing for a Walgreens

Stuffy nose? Check. Sore throat? Check. The feeling of being hot while standing in the frozen food section of Monoprix? Check. Sudden chills in the sweltering checkout line? Headache? Check and check again.

But I wasn’t getting sick. Not me. Not now. I just needed to drink some more water. Dehydration and all that. But upon watching the Castillet shimmer and sway slightly in the sunset light during a dinner I could barely taste, I realized it was best to skip the Saturday night out with friends.

Maybe I should run by Walgreens and pick up some cough drops and fever reducer before going home. It wasn’t that late.
Suddenly it hit my fevered brain. Nothing is open on Saturday evening in Perpignan. No pharmacies, no shops of any kind. Not only that, but nothing would be open the next day either. I had scared and restless thoughts of spending an entire delirious night and following day in bed without medicine, sick with some crazy French virus my body couldn’t handle.

Doctors wouldn’t be able to understand my atrocious accent. How would I explain I’m allergic to penicillin and sulfa? I’d look like an idiot with my phrasebook, delirious in the pharmacie asking for some outdated version of cold medicine. (It’s happened before. The woman at our hotel’s front desk raised one manicured eyebrow when I asked for “papier hygiénique” before it clicked and she said derisively, “Papier toilette?”)

Not only that, but there was no way I could intelligibly ask for cold medicine en français, even if the shops were open in the first place. Just getting contact lens solution a few days before had been a confusing ordeal. It was just like me to get sick in a country where the pharmacies don’t leave the cold medicine on the shelves.

Besides, as Google kindly informed me, France has nothing that resembles Dayquil. I didn’t even bother checking for cold and sinus pills after that.

Thankfully, a group member brought me two packets of Dayquil, and a teacher loaned me acetaminophen-based glories that put me to sleep for 13 hours. I woke up the next day to a clear head and painless throat. (Now if only my nose would follow suit.)

Even with the crisis averted, the thought of crazy French viruses and unfamiliar medications scares me. To be honest, I’m still not even sure where to buy tissues.

So though we’ve graduated to past tense in our beginner’s French class, and I can order from a menu without (constantly) glancing at my phrasebook, I hope my body doesn’t give out again till I touch down on American soil. I really don’t want to ask the pharmacist for “syrop contre la toux.” With my luck, that’s not even what I need.