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Bottle almos' empty? Just add some water and' Tussin.

If you have ever lived in North Philly, or if you are a fan of Chris Rock, chances are that you've heard of TUSSIN. Now, even though I was *close* to the north-lands of my fair city, I was never introduced to this stuff until I heard a simply wonderful bit about it in a Rock sketch a few years back. This stuff is the ghetto miracle. It's the magic elixir that will cure all of your ills, set bones, heal cuts and save the family a pile o' medical billz to boot! And best yet, if de bottle almos' empty, just ad some watta an' shakeItUp!...Mo' TUSSIN. I actually was lucky enough to catch a Rock show at San Jose State University during the summer I was in California working for the Man. It still stands as one of the funniest things that I've ever seen, and it had my friend Jay gasping for air and holding his sides for an hour straight. Do yourself a favor and check out the Bigger and Blacker show, as well as any older mp3s you can find of his stuff (esp. with the Marion Barry sketch, or the one about the Tossed Salad Man). I never had a chance to see many eps of the Chris Rock show, though the 20 minutes which I did catch one evening purely by chance showed me that I was truly missing out on a diamond in the pile of waste that is standard programming. He was in, the afore mentioned, North Philly and was interviewing folks in preparation for the big Republican Convention that was going to be held in The City That Loves You Back. He was wearing a 2 foot tall stars-and-stripes hat, and was pulling people right off the streets who probably would have shot me. My favorite interview was as follows:

    Chris:    So will you give George W. Bush

              a Chance?

    Resident: Yeah, I'll give him a chance...

              [chews on gums]...I'll give him

              a chance to get the hell out.

Which pretty much sums it all up, doesn't it?

So Chris Rock taught me about TUSSIN in one of his older skits. Given the utter levity with which he approached this stuff, and the fun that can be derived from the name, I really had to wonder if such a thing really existed. I mean, it's clearly a take on robotussin, which is in an identical box and costs about 3 times as much. This makes me wonder, then, what the robo prefix is for? Maybe that's why the stuff always tasted vaguely like crank-case drippins. So I was going through my life totally ignorant that such a thing existed, but remembering full well the hilarity which could result from the application of good ol' TUSSIN to the treatment of every ailment from a cold to a fractured collar bone. It also happens that I've been sick as hell this week, which is really bad timing given that it's a big crunch time at work and I ain't got time to bleed. So you may remember from a much older photo-essay on the hallowed pork sammich that there is a Mobil station near my office where we are fond of going during the day for muffins and beer. Well, I dragged myself in there on Monday looking for another half gallon of OJ to pour down my throat in an effort to give my body fuel if not sleep that it needed to mend. Given my sickened state, I glanced and the selection of drugs that they were proffering that day. Now, I had earlier been given a box of ALLERFRED from a co-worker. This stuff is, I suppose, the po' man's answer to SUDAFED, but you get *twice* the shade for 1/2 the price. It also had put my friend on his a$$ the last time he'd tried it so I clearly wasn't going to take this stuff in the middle of the day when I was already fighting to stay conscious at my desk. And there, between the ALLERFRED and the heavy-duty lay-tex products I saw a white and sickly-green box that proclaimed itself to be TUSSIN! I was both amazed and overjoyed. This product existed, and better yet, I was in a sketchy enough store that they carried it! Now ok, I've never actually looked for this stuff in a larger store, and I'll probably find it there on the shelf next time I go to Wegmans', but the circumstances were just too perfect and my brain was just fevered enough to really think that I was looking into the Shroud of Turin. Of course I bought it, with an overjoyed and most likely addled look on my face, to the surprise and disgust of the clerk-girl. This job would be great if it weren't for the customers. Of course, if the ALLERFRED was supposed to knock me on my back, then who knew what this stuff was going to do? We all know about nyQuil, the Nighttime Stuffy-Head Coughy Achy How-the-Hell-Did-I-get-on-my-Kitchen-Floor medicine. I wisely saved this potent brew until I'd returned home.

So I was feeling pretty bad at this point. When unholy humors start coming from the lungs, you really have to stop and think if it's time to take a sick day. However, here before me I had TUSSIN! My one chance at salvation! Remembering the teachings of Rock, I broke open the box and examined the contents. There was the standard plastic 'Dosage Cup' balanced on top of the bottle in the box. These cups always really amuse me. The warnings on the box say that adults should only take 2 teaspoons at a time, and not a whole lot more than that in a 24 hour period. However, the cup is marked (and not very well) up to 4 teaspoons. Now I understand that this is probably because they made 4 million of these little things and use them in everything from laxatives to children's cough syrup, but that's just an OD waiting to happen.

At least this stuff has a safety cap - you gotta give it some respect for that. I mean, back in the day we sure got by with a lot less, but I must say that it's nice to know that there wasn't a little extra bit of lovin' added to my ghetto treat in the form of strychnine. Actually, what really makes me laugh are the wads of cotton that get jammed into Tylenol bottles. I've fought with those things for many minutes before I'm finally able to wedge my fingers in the little neck of that bottle far enough to actually grab hold of a wisp or two of the cotton and wiggle it loose. And you know, thank the matrix that it was in there, otherwise the bottle would have made such a terrible racket in the store, and might have indicated that it was HALF EMPTY before it was even opened. Wouldn't want to tip off the consumer, now would we? Figuring out the method behind the madness is half of the fun of a consumerist society like ours; notice how the bags of potato chips, which even beat the Tylenol in percentage of air/bag, always have the empty part colored in some opaque scheme? They'll make sure to have BIG PRIZE! BONUS WIN WOMEN CRUISE ASIA! on it to distract you, but under the shiny happy color is nothin' but air. So you open the thing up and reach to the bottom of your christmas stocking for the first widening chip, wondering why you just spent $4.34 on this sack of air that used to be free (and less greasy). So it was nice to see that the bottle of TUSSIN, while a little smaller than the box it came in, was filled to the top. It is also a lovely red-liquid-death color, and viscous as warm honey. All this I discovered as I removed the hardly child-proof cap and filled the laxative cup up to the ill-marked 2tsp line.

With it sitting there on my desk, totally undisturbed by any kicking or taunting I could deliver to it, I had to wonder if this stuff was just going to make me sicker upon ingestion. I mean, as hausmaus had told me earlier in the day "Man, you gotta stop buying your medicine at gas stations" which certainly had a nugget of truth to it. However, more feverish heads soon prevailed and I realized that if it was good enough for Chris Rock, then it was good enough for me. Of course there was always the outside chance that he never actually had the stuff but knew enough about it to realize that it deserved a sound thumping in his sketch. No matter, up to the lips, over the gums...

Two things about those pictures: I'm not and never was a student of the Cornell Hotel School (though I play one on TV) and when I took this draught I felt like the floor of a taxi cab, and quite looked the part. You can see the utter lack of speed with which the stuff sliiiides out of the plastic Dosage Cup. Let me assure you it took its time all the way down too. Now I've had robotussin...and it's got a pretty *sturdy* taste. What I found amusing about TUSSIN was how often on the box it went out of its way to assure the user that it contained "NO-ALCOHOL" and was "NON-ALCOHOLIC", and my personal favorite, that it is "NON-NARCOTIC".

Stuff back in the 80s must have been pretty hard-core. I mean, I was surprised to see that this stuff didn't contain any alcohol, but since I rarely get sick, and it's even more rare that I indulge in medicine like this, I really don't know what the standard procedure has been for many years. I just remember that the big thing used to be how the cold medicine had that sharp taste because it was loaded. I'm sure that if I were to drink this whole bottle I'd probably see dancing pink elephants in my ensuing Delirium, but that's due to something entirely different than what they put in my Captain Morgan.
So I kicked back this little cup o' sauce, and after savoring that industrial $2.99 flavor for about 0.2 seconds, I drank several glasses of tap water and thought happy thoughts about tastykakes and scrapple and anything but "cherry" flavored honey. Unlike the robotic counterpart, this stuff was Mylanta for my mouth, and left my tongue and cheeks coated with a thin residue of TUSSIN essence. After a few minutes of this I went and brushed my mouth out like a sorority girl after a big frat party. Fortunately most of the ghetto pleasure came off, but I was definitely left with the reminder that I'd just put something into my body that I better hope did more good than harm. You can tell from my post-drink reaction exactly what I thought of the juice.

I had actually planned on writing this article the night that I tried TUSSIN. However, shortly after my personal time with my toothbrush, I realized that I could hardly stand up. I made it to the light switch, and to the bed, and that was about it. So this definitely has all sorts of good uses for young kids. As with the best medicine that a parent can buy, when you give it to your sick child they'll complain about the taste for about 2 minutes then pass out, buying the tired parent about 4 hours of rest before the whining begins again (I should know, I played that game many a time back in the first-season days).

My final take on TUSSIN is one of guarded recommendation, and definitely satisfaction that I've experienced it. I certainly felt better in the morning, so as a curative it seems to have done its good work. As a food it could use a little work but if you're looking to TUSSIN for a tasty snack you need to have a Bunny Trail Treat. As a wonderful bit of life experience, I'm very pleased that I've had TUSSIN, and that I took it not as a poser but as someone who was genuinely ill and wanted to see if it worked. So thanks Chris Rock, and thanks CVP for pointing the way to TUSSIN, and to a healthier tomorrow.

Charlie, 5/03/2001
It has recently been brought to my attention that the brand name beverage is spelled 'Robitussin'. However, since a good number of actual medical sites on line have it the way I do above, I figure my point is still just as valid!
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