Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Day At The Chemists

I do not need to detain you with the reasons why, and they are not solely to do with the need for medicinal compounds, I am well-versed with chemists in the area. Or pharmacies, to give them their properly and directly translated name.

I like the local pharmacies and pharmacists and their staff (with the exception of one or two, that is). Because of my mysterious need to inhabit these establishments, I know the people concerned pretty well, and knowing them means that they are a rich source of information. If you want to know about national characteristics, go ask a pharmacist; he or she can give you chapter and verse. As in ... The Mallorcans spend hours upon hours requiring explanations for the simplest of drug-taking and then repeat these explanations - several times - in their own unique, shouty, potato-mouth-filled fashion. The Germans spend hours upon hours demanding entire technical specifications and full composition percentages (and still then ask more questions). The British evacuate chemists in embarrassment because of language difficulties and because of anything vaguely to do with private areas. The Russians don't go to chemists to buy drugs but to hand over wads of cash for anything that comes in expensive, designer packaging, like shampoos or cologne washes.

The Russian designer-craving mentality may or may not have something to do with the makeovers that have been occurring to the pharmacies. While I was under the impression that pharmacists were all boracic because the Balearics health service hasn't been handing over what it owes to them, they have been undertaking facelifts that have turned their facades, if not always their interiors, into appearing like designer hotels. Were it not for that green flashing thing outside, you would expect to walk into a pharmacy and book a long weekend of en suite, spa massage and small portions on very large plates that pass for dinner.

This designer impulse is not confined to the pharmacy exterior. Business cards? Works of art in some instances and always a combination of subtle greens (unlike the unsubtle green flashing thing), black and a logo of Adobe Illustrator graphic-design creation. While resort modernisation has concentrated on hotels, the pharmacists have been leading the way. They are über-contemporary, marked and branded with Sans Serif styling but ultimately facades for what generally happens inside. Some paracetamol, please. Yes, that'll be three euros, twenty-five. It will? Oh yes, it most certainly will, unless you are in the know, happen to speak the native or are Mallorcan. Then it will be sixty odd centimos. Same drug, different brands - one generic, the other not. One for locals, the other for tourists.

But then, I don't criticise the chemists or their suppliers for seeking healthier mark-ups. They are businesses after all, though there are some pharmacists in Mallorca who attempt to conceal this business, the president of the Balearics being an example (and I suppose that one should add "allegedly"). That, though, is a different story. The pharmacy represents good business because of necessity, even if the necessity is simply to provide overpriced paracetamol to combat the previous evening's lager and vodka intake.

The pharmacy also represents the most significant point of observation of the tourist class. The pharmacy reveals all tourist and local human life. It is the single most egalitarian come-together point in resorts. Chav or not-chav, Brit, German or Russian, they are all there, and so the pharmacy is the perfect site to witness tourists in their unnatural habitats, tourists of whatever nationality, of whatever background, all seeking creams to treat mosquito bites. The pharmacy should, therefore, demand a position of greater importance in tourism life. It isn't simply a point of sale for suppositories and sunburn lotions. It is the theatre for touristic existence.

In such high regard do I hold the pharmacies, notwithstanding that odd one or two which I don't, so impressed am I with their generally unwavering patience and smiliness that I feel an entire guide should be devoted to them. They should be publicised for the tourist insight that they offer and for their shiny new exteriors. Flogging headache pills for more than is necessary, well, I can forgive them, but, and I know I shouldn't really say this but I will, perhaps such forgiveness also has to do with the white uniforms. And the fact that most of the staff in pharmacies are female and that they look good in those white uniforms. No, I know I shouldn't have said this. Forget it.

Any comments to please.

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