Mr. Cope’s Cave: Today’s Helpful Tip For Old People


I am herein setting forth on a new continuing series, “Today’s Helpful Tip For Old People,” with future installments contingent on: 1) how often I think of something else to put in it, and 2) how long I remember that I started a new continuing series. The subject matter is, loosely, things aging folks might do to counter-act what I see as the incessant medical/pharmaceutical/advertising complex’s attempts to bleed as much out of us as they can before we die.

The idea came to me yesterday in a drug store as I searched for the cheapest package of low-dose aspirin I could find. Which drug store I was in isn’t important, as they all do the same thing, and anyone who is, 1) over 50, and 2) been to a doctor lately, will undoubtedly know why I was shopping for low-dose aspirin. Because a doctor told me to, that’s why. And if you’re going to cough up the dough it takes to see a doctor, you might as well make some attempt to do what the doctor tells you to do.

Within limits, of course.

So my doctor has told me I should be taking a low-dose aspirin every day. As I understand it, an aspirin a day helps keep Misters Heart Attack and Stroke away. You probably already know that, because if you have watched even an hour of television—particularly an hour before 7:30 in the evening when all of us old people go to bed—you will have sat through an average of five commercials telling you to have aspirin around in case Misters Heart Attack and Stroke come visiting, and that your best bet is to take some every day. I’m guessing that by now, every man and woman in America over 50 with, 1) an aspirin-tolerant stomach, and 2) a television set, has a bottle of 81-milligram aspirin sitting somewhere where they can’t miss it and forget they’re supposed to take it. I keep mine next to the eating utensils in the kitchen, knowing that there will never be a day when I don’t have need for a fork or spoon.

Of course, faithfully taking your aspirin every day means that sooner or later, you will run out of aspirin. Which I did. Which is why I was standing in that drug store yesterday looking for the cheapest bottle of 81-milligram aspirin I could find. As I see it, there is no need to buy name-brand aspirin, not unless you are trying to impress people. And even if you are, the impression you can make with aspirin is only so deep, as there is no such thing as “BMW Aspirin,” or “ Louis Vuitton Aspirin.” As an aspirin snob, you will have to settle for “Bayer.”

Anyway, I was having trouble finding the cheapest bottle of 81-mg aspirin, mostly because it didn’t exist. From the days not so long ago when I could get a hundred pills for under two bucks, the price on low-dosage aspirin has inflated like German reichsmarks during the Weimar Republic. The best price I could find on the lose-dose stuff was more than $11 for 90 tablets. That’s almost 13 cents for something you give babies to suck on for teething pain.

I was pissed. I was beginning to think I would take my chances with Misters Heart Attack and Stroke. All those television commercials scaring the pee-wadding out of aging people, all those doctors’ orders, it was paying off—big time. For the aspirin kings, if no one else. I realized I had smacked face-first into another one of those, as I call them, “screw a senior moments,” defined loosely as a tactic used by that medical/pharmaceutical/advertising complex I mentioned earlier to get the Golden Years crowd to cough up whatever it takes to stay alive a few more days.

Ah, but I found a happy ending, if not to life, then at least to my low-dose aspirin irritant. A few feet down the aisle from all the low-dose aspirin was the other stuff. Let’s call it the high-dose aspirin shelf. Instead of 81-milligrams, it was 325-milligrams, and instead of 90 tablets, it was 500.

And best of all, instead of costing more than 11 bucks, it was less than $7!

I considered the risks. What if, by taking 325 milligrams a day, I was turning my blood to water and eventually, it would start leaking out of my pores like catsup-colored sweat? Or what if I took one 325-er every four days instead of every day? In numerical terms, it comes out almost exactly the same number of milligrams averaged out over four days. But did I risk not having enough aspirin in my system on the third and fourth days to ward off the dreaded cardiovascular ninjas? Would I be peeing away the benefits of taking aspirin, even while elevating the risks?

Maybe you are faster than I am. Maybe you have already figured out what I—and perhaps you—should be doing. As for me, it took somewhere between five and 10 minutes to see the obvious answer. I think. Standing there in the drug store, stewing over the outrageous rise in the cost of low-dosage aspirin, I lost track of time. Who knows? I might have been there 30 minutes… 40 minutes… all the while muttering, “You bastards!”

But of course, the answer lies in those little pill cutter-uppers. We all have one, don’t we, old people? At least one. Young people probably wonder what they are, those pill slicers, but assume they have something to do with dentures or ear wax. Things they don’t want to think about, so they don’t ask.

So one 325-milligram aspirin tablet, halved and quartered, comes out to four little pie slice-shaped tablets, each coming in at 81.25-milligrams. Hah! I beat you, medical/pharmaceutical/advertising complex! I kicked your ass! I am now getting 2,000 81-mg (give or take) tablets—pie slice-shaped as they are—for less that seven bucks! I won’t have to go buy your damn aspirin again for almost six years!

You know… if I last that long.