[Editor’s Note: This is Chapter 5, excerpted from The Viagra Monologues.]
So there you are, standing across the counter from a pharmacist’s assistant, usually an Ecuadorian woman, or even the pharmacist him or herself. She’s wearing the official white- jacket uniform with a name tag. She’s looking at you expectantly, waiting for you to tell her what you want. And now’s the time has come to tell her you want to buy the dick drug.
In a language you probably don’t speak or understand.
One of the first things you’ll notice in Ecuador, especially in the Andes regions, is the high degree of courtesy that Ecuadorians extend to everyone, including visitors. You’ll hear “Buenos días” and “¿Cómo está?” (“Good morning” and “How are you”) from almost everyone you encounter and you’ll be expected to respond in kind. Much of this can seem excessive to North Americans, but it’s an essential part of Latin American interpersonal transactions, culture, and life and should be respected and reciprocated.
Thus, especially if you’re visiting and you haven’t had too much interaction with locals, you start out with the farmacia attendant with an exchange the pleasantries.
You say, “Buenos días” or “Buenas tardes” (“Good afternoon”), and maybe even “¿Cómo está?”
In my experience, it doesn’t go much further than that.
She might say, “Bien, gracias. Y usted?” (“Well, thank you. And you?”)
So you should be prepared to say, “Muy bien, gracias.” (“Very well, thank you.”)
This puts her a little more at ease, dealing as she is with a gringo and, though still not knowing what you want or how much extra effort the transaction will require, at least she knows you’re aware of the conversation culture of Cuenca.
The Moment of Truth
Also, it sets the pace for the exchange. From there, you can enunciate, slowly and deliberately, “Quiero comprar Viagra genérica.” (“I want to buy generic Viagra.”)
Some words with which she might respond include: “¿Cuantos milligramos?” (“How many milligrams?”) Or, “¿Cuantas quisiera comprar?” (“How many would you like to buy?”) Or, “¿Cuantas cajas?” (“How many boxes?”).
No matter what she says, however, you can respond with, “Cincuenta milligramos.” (“Fifty milligrams.”)
Beyond that, you can relax, because no matter what she says and no matter what you say, when she sees that lost look on your face, she’ll scoot off into the shelves and return with boxes of product. Now you’ve got some printed words and numbers to look at, such as Sildenafil, a brand name, 50 mg, and tabletas. She’ll probably open the box, so you can also see the pills themselves, wrapped in little plastic compartments in stiff foil.
The talk proceeds to how many you want and how much it’ll be.
“Caja” is a box.
“Tableta” or “pastilla” is a pill.
“Cuánto” is how much.
“Cuesta” is cost.
The numbers will come fast and furious, something like, “Una caja cuesta cinco con cuarenta y ocho.” Or “Tres cajas cuestan dieciseis dólares con cuarenta y cuatro centavos.”
That lost look will bring out a pen and slip of paper on which she’ll write down $5.48, or $16.44, or whatever.
Now you hand her American money. She makes change, prints out a receipt, puts the receipt and boxes in a bag, and hands it over.
You can say something like, “Gracias por su buen servicio.” (“Thank you for the good service.”) Or if she’s been a really good sport, “Gracias por su paciencia.” (“Thank you for your patience.”) And I guarantee that the smile with which you thank her will be 100% genuine. After all, you’ve just purchased penis pills for pennies on the dollar, in Ecuador, in Spanish.
You’re still smiling as you walk out to the noisy street, humming some variation on “Let the good times roll.”
As you’ve probably figured out, we’re pushing you to learn a little Spanish while you’re stocking up on your man meds. If you’re living in Cuenca, you should be studying Spanish anyway, if you don’t know it already. If you’re a visitor or in Cuenca just to buy pills, we’re suggesting you get a little education and have some fun at the same time.
On the other hand, if you’re not interested in the language-education component of the experience, plenty of English-speaking guides in Cuenca can handle the transaction, and whatever else you’re buying or doing, for a modest fee.
We’re Still in Ecuador
So, you’ve pounded the pavement. You’ve walked into every farmacia you’ve seen, had a fun exchange in another language with an Ecuadorian clerk, and become comfortable enough, even, to perceive the awkwardness and humor inherent in the subtext that permeates transactions involving sex-related medicine in any language. You’ve walked out smiling with another batch of boner tabs. You now have a mess of white, yellow, blue, green, and purple round, heart-shaped, and spheroid pills.
If you live in Cuenca, you don’t need too many; you can always pop into a farmacia and walk out with more.
Also if you live in Cuenca, you’re not taking them out of the country, so unless you plan to carry them with you when you do—for example, as a matter of course while returning to your home country with your partner—you can skip the next chapter.
If, however, you’re visiting Ecuador, and taking advantage of the hassle-free purchase process and the rock-bottom prices, you might have stocked up—for yourself, your user friends, or even the apocalypse. Now, all you have to do is return to the States, Canada, Australia, Europe, or wherever you live and deal with that country’s import policies and Customs procedures, the subject of Chapter Six.
[You can buy the Viagra Monoluges for $9.99 from Kindle (click here).]