Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rubbing alcohol MIA in Australia

My youngest daughter found a mini battery operated hand-held fan, which I bought her last time we were in the US, and desperately (the way only little ones can obsess about something) needed to make it work again. The weather had clearly turned from 'coat wearing' season to tropical 'bikini heat' over night in Melbourne, and the poor child needed to cool herself down, or... God knows what would happen. So we embarked on a mission to find and purchase triple A batteries.

"Easy" you say? Not as easy as you would think.... but, eventually we found some. The salesperson was kind enough to open the little device - it was screwed shut, and we didn't have a screwdriver - and put the batteries in. 'Click, click'... nothing happened. You could see my daughter's disappointment take over her face, and cause for her jaw to drop and let out an involuntary *sigh* and a stern stomp of the foot on the floor. The young woman helping us, opened the fan again, and looked around the area where the batteries normally sit, as if she was a luxury car mechanic investigating a 'funny' noise under the hood. 'Click, click' she attempted to turn the fan on again, but to no avail. "Ahhh, here's the problem" she commented, "the batteries corroded and the connection does not work," she finally concluded. "You should buy some alcohol, and with a cotton ball wipe the connectors, and install the batteries again. It will work for sure."

We thanked her, and went on our way to buy a bottle of simple, household rubbing alcohol.

I knew of a drugstore just around the corner; surely they would have it. "No!" Said the woman at the cash register. "Try a chemist." (That's a Pharmacy for us Yanks).

As I know very well my daughter's passionate need to get what she wants (actually all three are quite determined, when they set their minds to something), I knew that by sunset, I'd better have bought some rubbing alcohol or I would not hear the end of it from her.

In search of a chemist we went.

Close to home... a good four, or so miles away from where we began our journey, and about four dozen "are we there yet?" later, we finally walked through the automatic doors of our local pharmacist.

Immediately, a smiling young woman approached us and offered to steer us in the direction of the item we were after. I expressed a wish to purchase a simple, and small bottle of rubbing alcohol. The smile became a slightly concerned look. Then she turned to her manager, and asked what she should do? He in turn looked equally as concerned, and... I guess... having heard our American accents, assumed we were looking to buy rubbing alcohol for 'normal' reasons. He then explained that they did not carry bottles of alcohol... as a matter of fact it was probably not going to be something we could just pick up at the local pharmacy or grocery store, instead we could purchase alcohol wipes, in packs of 50.

It took me a moment, to process this. (Years of bleaching my hair must have finally taken its toll on my brain... sigh.) I turned to the manager and asked: "Is it because people drink it?" He didn't reply, but his head nodded in agreement, to which my middle daughter let out a loud: "People drink it?!?" I explained to her later, why this would be the case.

So, a simple journey to buy batteries became yet another learning experience for us, in the land of Oz. Rubbing alcohol is considered "not safe" to have around the house and easily accessible, but Codeine is perfectly OK to sell over the counter... whereas in the US, we need a prescription for it. I need to do a bit of research and find what else is legal, or not. It should be fun. I will report later.