Ode to an Alka-Seltzer

Waking in fright this morning, I found that a very special bulb had lit itself on the control desk inside my head. It was the one labelled “Alka-Selzer.”

“Yes,” I thought, running an exploratory tongue over furry teeth, “Alaka-Selzer. Don’t worry, Head, I’ve got this.”

But I didn’t. I didn’t have “this.” I didn’t have anything. And last time I checked, “anything” included Alka-Seltzer.

I cursed my lack of foresight. How had I discounted the future so completely? Had I really believed last time that I’d learned my lesson?

Note to self: You never learn your lesson! That’s the one thing you know for sure about yourself. Also, you’re fond of jam.

Why hadn’t I stocked up on Alka-Seltzer? It’s like that time I threw all of my shoes away after deciding “once and for all” that life is better spent indoors.

Woe, woe, all is woe. I couldn’t even slither down to the cornershop or squint my way along to the pharmacy because I knew I’d be fobbed off with some awful pill. Alka-Seltzer, once a staple of any degenerate’s bathroom cabinet, is weirdly difficult to get these days.

There was a time — 1955 probably — when the plink-plink was the go-to throbber relief for almost any recidivist wastrel you’d care to name; Hemingway, Vonnegut, Elizabeth Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant — they all knew. Buzz Aldrin had a special flap built into his spacesuit just for the plinky. (I don’t know that for certain but it doesn’t feel libellous.)

But the fifties and sixties were more stylish times. Everything today is about efficiency, solving a problem so you can get back to your miserable work and never have a sick day. Nobody wants to truly enjoy an illness anymore, to luxuriate in soupy wretchedness.

I don’t want to swallow a pill, dammit. I want Alka-Seltzer! Someone get me an Alka-Seltzer before I tear this town to pieces!

Now look, I know what you’re thinking, madam, and I agree that I’ve said “Alka-Seltzer” an awful lot in this post, but this is not sponsored content. Having said that, the good people at Bayer Pharmaceuticals could certainly do worse than “Someone get me an Alka-Seltzer before I tear this town to pieces!” as a catchy marketing slogan. Get in touch, Big Pharma, if you’re interested. I am willing to be an enthusiastic brand ambassador for… well, I’m not going to say it again for free.

“Oh! for an Alka-Seltzer,” I thought, “I’d give my wife’s left kidney for an Alka-Seltzer.”

But wait. Didn’t I see a boxload of Alka-Seltzer at the pound shop recently? And was it not the case that I couldn’t believe my eyes and bought a fiver’s worth? Was I not thinking forward to just such an emergency as this morning and the next fifty or so this mornings? Did that happen?

It did?!

What took place next involved a drawer, some rifling, and the word “hooray!” but I’ll leave it to you to fill in the blanks.

I half-filled a weighty-bottomed highball with cold water, tore the little blue packet down the middle in what felt like an emergency field attempt at separating Siamese twins, and gaily flipped the tablets from a couple of feet away, one after the other — plink!™ plink!™ — into the water.

They fizzed and foamed immediately, as is their wonderful wont, and I knocked it back. It may be my imagination, madam, but I’m fairly certain the sun began to shine and a little bird somewhere began to sing.

An Alka-Seltzer tablet really is a design classic, you know. I’m always surprised by how skinny they happen to be and how perfect these proportions are. In my memory they always seem as fat as a rubber bath plug — perhaps an exaggeration suggested by their efficacy — but in fact they’re very slender discs like something you’d bet with or push into a meter, and they have a slightly thicker edge like a shirt button, and the brand is embossed into them. You can just imagine the machine that presses them. It’s probably a Big Bertha of a machine and entirely automated, but I like to think that a person in overalls or a cheerful octopus pulls that embossing lever, happy in the knowledge that her work will save many writers’ lives.

A spiritual miser would say that none of an Alka-Seltzer’s aesthetic beauty is strictly necessary. I daresay they could scrap the embossing and whatnot to save on costs, but they don’t and I think that’s neat. There’s no twenty-first-century skinflintery about Alka-Seltzer and that is why they’re ace.

Also they cure hangovers.


My legal adviser (who may or may not be this guy) would like me to point out that Mr Buzz Aldrin was never inebriated or hungover while on the moon and also that “on the moon” does not in any way ever mean “drunk”. Now, to distract everyone, here’s Buster:

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