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Published: Friday, 8/15/2008

I ll see your small, pink pill and raise you one large, blue one

The five retirees were gathered tightly around the table in the mall food court.

They seemed to be intently playing some sort of game, acting much like men around a poker table.

It was lunch time. The quintet of seniors had finished sandwiches, salads, oriental food and tacos. Still on the table within easy reach were their drinks of choice coffee and diet pop.

They were deep into their after-meal topic du jour when the game broke out among four of them.

The day s discussion so far had centered on illness and medications, specifically how many pills they took and how often they were taken. It is a popular subject among senior citizens.

At first glance, what they were doing appeared strangely reminiscent of the children s card game of Fish.

You may remember how it goes:

One player says to another, for example, Gimme all your twos. If the second player has a deuce, he must surrender it to the questioner who gets another turn.

If the player asked is not holding a deuce, however, he responds, Go fish. Then he gets to call out a card from an opponent of his choosing. The game goes on until one player has all the cards.

Well, there were no playing cards in front of these guys. There were four little pill boxes for their necessary daily medications.

The game went something like this:

The first man, about 67 years old, held up a tiny pink pill. It was a diuretic to help him cope with high blood pressure and diabetes. Anyone else have one of these? he asked.

Two of the other men, one in his early 70s and the second in his mid-80s, were also diabetics. They each proudly presented their own diuretics from their respective pill boxes. The fourth retiree, also in his early 70s, had such a pill, too, but his was solely for high blood pressure.

They paused to compare the strength of their pills. Next they discussed the effects the diuretics have on them, especially if they take them too close to bedtime. The number of nocturnal trips to the bathroom ranged from two to a half dozen. No surprises there.

Then another man took a turn.

Anyone have one of these? he inquired. He was holding a blood thinner. Two others said they did.

At this point, purists of the game of Fish might have claimed a second turn for him. His pill, you see, was the brand name version, called Coumadin.

The others were holding up generic versions of that prescription, called warfarin sodium. Not exactly the same, it was pointed out.

The game was interrupted for a while as the relative merits of a brand name blood thinner vs. a generic blood thinner were hotly debated.

Several of the men took a few moments to compare their heart surgeries and reasons for taking the medication, but it s a topic that comes up often and usually requires extensive discussions.

The number of pills in the little containers ranged from five to eight. These were the ones to be taken at intervals through the day. Other tablets remained at home on a table or sink to be taken at bedtime or after the evening meal.

I looked closely into each pill box and felt compelled to ask, Anybody have a Viagra tablet? Any Cialis? How about Levitra?

The replies were, as I expected, mostly a wave of the hands and some loud guffaws dismissing the need for performance enhancements. Good humor isn t lost on these seniors.

A few more rounds went by, but after the first couple of comparisons, it was down to more unusual pills prescribed for an ailment that was not common around the table. I should add here that, unlike playing cards, no pills changed hands.

A couple of times, one man admitted that he had forgotten the exact purpose of a pill he had just pulled out, but was required to take daily at a certain time.

Here s where these four guys had a clear advantage over similar discussions occasionally popping up at other tables in the food court.

One of the players was a retired pharmaceutical salesman, who could identify most of the drugs and tell the user why it was most likely prescribed.

I felt a bit left out as the fifth retiree at the table who wasn t playing, but merely observing.

My pill box has five tablets for each day of the week, but they re all taken after dinner.

I don t have to carry it around with me all day so I couldn t get in the game.

Jim Wilson, Sr. commented on Extra whipped cream on mine, please

I can smell the coffee and the popcorn now. What a great time in my life -- when everything was simple. We would load up our cars or even take the bus to downtown Toledo, where we would see our friends, take in a movie, eat at Don's Drive-In or Woolworth s, and ride the lions at the Lion Store. Who could forget Tiedtke s? The smells would tickle your nose whenever you got near.

Wow, the simple times! If we could only bring them back. Thanks for the memories, Ken.

Marian Cheesman Lockwood commented on Extra whipped cream on mine, please

I remember doing my Christmas shopping at the Elyria Woolworth s when I was barely tall enough to see the displays. And I was absolutely fascinated by the pneumatic device that 'transported" your check or large bills or whatever business had to go upstairs for final transaction (much better than watching a hamster on an exercise wheel).

Oh, how I miss Woolworth's and its "five and dime" treasures! Thanks for helping me relive a few golden moments from my childhood.

Dave Simmons commented on Extra whipped cream on mine, please

I worked at a Woolworth's in North Ridgeville, Ohio, from October 1959 to June 1960 as stock boy, dishwasher, clown-costumed cookie seller, etc. What a great experience for a high school kid! I think I made 85 cents an hour.

I remember those menus. I spent lots of time on Saturdays mopping behind the counter, clearing dirty dishes and running dishes through the dishwashing machine behind the counter. Thanks for the blog about this.



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