I believe that I eat a good diet. However, I have bowed to pressure from various family members to supplement it with multi-vitamins. Expecting high prices, I set off to buy some in Harbin. I entered the drug store, and acted as nonchalant as possible. I always try to find my items before someone comes to attempt help, as that doesn’t always go well. To be unhelpful is unthinkable to a Chinese, and especially in a store. But my Chinese is extremely sketchy. I’m fine with most foods, and handle purchasing with no small measure of pride. Even when I can’t comprehend the price when I am blasted with it at supersonic velocity. I try to negotiate another attempt, but it is usually accomplished by turning the cash display towards me, or by punching into a calculator.
This store offered me no refuge. Within seconds, a kind lady was at my side at the vitamin shelf, which I had already located. Her speech was native, full bore. Hemming and hawing in broken Chinese, I waved at the bottles and attempted to communicate the concept of “multi”, with a word I think means “together”. She appeared mystified, I suppose she thought I was going to buy out the store, or something like that.
Aha! I found multi-vitamins! Oh, but what’s this? It’s for women. In retrospect, I suppose that eating them wouldn’t raise my voice to a higher octave or anything like that, but I have years of proud Western male pride to overcome. So I waved it in front of here and said, “nan” (chinese for man). She nodded knowingly, and with great satisfaction, offered me a box from a lower shelf. It was none other than, “Essence of Kangaroo”.
Now, I consider myself both gifted and cursed, with a mind that can think, as we say, “out of the box”. Sometimes it is so quickly ambushed, or overwhelmed with dissonant concepts that it cannot really function. So please excuse me, that my first thought was simply, “What is the nutrient composition of kangaroos”? Such is the strength of my faith in older sales ladies in drug stores.
I quickly regained my composure (although I doubt that it appeared so on the outside), and said no, not that. At that moment, I found the men’s vitamins to the left of the women’s, and thanked the woman. She pointed me to the cash register. I paid the outrageous 95 yuan price, but was drawn back irresistably to the kangaroo medicine shelf. I confirmed the label. I hadn’t been dreaming.
Leaving the scene of this encounter, a series of questions formed in my mind. Foremost being, what does essence of kangaroo do to a person? Linking this to my request for a male gendered product, I supposed that the lady thought I needed an aphrodisiac or such “male performance enhancer”. I do have some gray hair. If it would add some bounce to my step, it couldn’t be bad.
Secondly, how is essence of kangaroo obtained? From which part, or from all parts? Are kangaroos likely to become an endangered species as a result of this prescription? It occurred to me that I might not even want to know the answer.
Third, and this is more philosophical. Are they entitled to use “essence” in this manner? The animal has such grace, at least as it is famously painted by the Australian aborigines. I have one such decoration, and noticed immediately the life force in it that was so well depicted. Wouldn’t it be false advertising to claim that a kangaroo’s “essence” is actually some fluid in its nostril, or somewhere? More believable with an ignoble animal such as a pig, whose essence must necessarily be laboriously located and refined to be believable.
The question must now be asked, how many kangaroos were consumed in the production of this medicine? It was a disturbingly large bottle.
Lastly, what other delightful essences are in stock there? I am going back soon to feast on my new found gallery of epic pharmaceutical wonders.