#16 Pill Peddler

In the summer of 1968, a close friend and I got it into our heads that we needed to lose weight. No, that’s not accurate, not lose weight. This was the age of Twiggy. Though unlikely we ever said it, we wanted, we needed to be thin. There was the Holy Grail of a “clinic” for just that purpose in Seattle.

I had spent part of the previous summer never venturing past Seattle’s University district.  But now we were headed back to that beautiful city with the Space Needle in one direction, our own Olympic Mountains far off in another and Mt. Raineer as a majestic exclamation point. Forget all that! We had grown up with it. This was about Getting Thin!

We earned our own money. She told no one. I told no one. We drove the two plus hours to Seattle for our appointments with the man who was known as the “Diet Doctor.” Thin was always in: thin thin thin we would be. That meant happy. I was not overweight, but life was not happy then for me as described already. Now thin would be under my control. As in most ventures I did no research. He was a doctor. What else did I need to know? Thin was happiness. Thin was success. Thin was security. Thin was beauty. Thin was comfort. Thin was not impossible but now it was going to be easy. Skinny would be even better. Sunken tummy, protruding pelvic bone, thin.

We arrived at the Seattle office building and entered a crowded waiting room. I don’t remember the faces of the people there, except that they were almost all women. A receptionist took our names. How long would we spend with the doctor we wondered? He would have the answer to all that glittered in life.

I know I met the doctor, but it’s a blur. I can’t tell you what he looked like. Various attendants weighed me, and measured every inch of me, even my wrists. I don’t think there was any blood work. But a variety of nurses spoke with me and I filled out forms and signed papers, doubtless without reading.

Eventually everyone was herded through and I was given written instructions and THE PILLS: little envelope after little envelope of pills. We called them rainbow pills. Nurses explained, and I swear this is what I was told, that some pills were for thighs, some for the tummy, some for hips. I remember the number 23 per day of these small pastel yet vibrant tiny M&Ms. We thought they must be brilliant people because my friend and I didn’t have the exact same combination of pills. They were custom designed.

We drove back to our Olympic Peninsula with the secret elixirs, eager to get started. Pills were to be taken at certain times of the day: upon waking, before eating, after eating. It was fun to get on the scale.

A few weeks later we secretly went back to Seattle to weigh in and get more pretty pills.

I was working hard, going to school, loaded with energy and not sleeping. It took a while to realize why. By now you understand that it takes a while for anything to sink in with me. My eyelids would not close. I put on a dress that dropped to the floor. WONDERFUL! Even my shoes were loose. I wouldn’t have been allowed to donate blood. And no one asked a thing.

One night I was lying on the couch watching a movie, and either there was an earthquake (We did get them occasionally) or my heart went kathump-bump-kathump-barump-thumpy-pause-thump-pause-patter-patter-patter-pause-kathump-long pause-thumper-kathump-bumpy-bump-speed-bump-faster thump. It was not an earthquake.

I got up, found the stash of pills and flushed them down the loo. My apologies to the fish. It was three days before my eyes actually closed at night to sleep.

About a decade later an expensive Park Avenue Cardiologist informed me of an electrical problem in my heart. I’d need a pacemaker one day and was advised not to run the Boston Marathon. “No problem there,” I said. And, so far so good.

A few years after our pilgrimage to Seattle, the “Pill Peddler” went to jail.


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