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The prize: A pair of monogrammed Wilkinson scalpels. The ad: This Vicks 44 gem, headlined, "Now is not the time for his cough medicine to wear off." The diagnosis: Another blizzard of twisted over-the-counter depravities from America's communications professionals. Take two codeine suppositories and call us in the morning, which is to say keep those e-mails comin'!

As a former rite-aid employee, I have inside information that might shed some light on this mystery. Maximum Strength Vicks 44 is more than mere cough medicine; if you guzzle a family size bottle you will be infused with an abundance of energy, bravado and prophetic vision. He's not sick! This guy wants to be the best healer around, so he chugs a 16-ouncer before every operation.

Keith Kellum


We always said the smartest people are to be found on their knees in drugstore aisles. Dextromethorphan, man! DxM abuse is rampant, and with good reason. You drink enough, you get that raised-eyebrows Marshall Applewhite look that glitters with prophetic power. We just ordered a keg of Vicks 44 Magnum, so come over on Saturday night, Keith, and we'll tuss out.

I start every day with a nice tall glass of Vicks 44. Whether I've got a big meeting, open heart surgery or I just need that extra kick, it's Vicks 44 to get me through the day. If it were anything other than Vicks, I'd be worried.

April Boyle


You're so right, April. "Vicks 44, part of this nutritious breakfast." The other day we started out with a stein of Robitussin DM, and by noon we were, like, bogged.

This looks like just another one of those "turn your head and cough" ads targeted at pill popping doctors who smoke, causing them to do imperfect castration operations on cult leaders who have to get a roll of quarters to carry in their jeans so they can go shopping for 39 pairs of Nikes, 50 yards of purple cloth, two dozen Sony videotapes and a full gross of floral scented candles. I've seen it all before, remember the hype for Kool-Aid that Jonestown thing caused?

Ron Devito


So smoking causes imperfect castrations? What a great warning for the side of the Marlboro box. Ron, lace up your Air Applewhites, purple suits you. Your closing line: "Is that a roll of quarters in your pocket, or are you just glad to free me?" Kool-Aid is a great Vicks chaser, by the way, they taste about the same.

Unbelievable. How much work would it have been for them to say "her" cough medicine.

Peter Marcionetti


Well, it would have been a lot of work, Pete, since it's a guy in the ad. Unless you mean the line should have referred to one of the female lackeys with the shower cap. Have a couple of NyQuils and a Don Diego and think it over. We can discuss it further at our party on Saturday night.

Look really close. You'll notice the patient is Michael Jackson's newborn. It's the little tyke's first plastic surgery. Better not cough and screw it up. You'd blow the chance to do the next 57.

Hart Rusen


Jacko Jr. has indeed had his first surgery, but it was not in his little chicken chest, Hart. Daddy thought the kid's nose was too large.

No, you've got it all wrong. It's not the doctor who's taking the cough medicine; it's the patient. Under managed care they've started doing all major surgeries under local anesthesia. If the patient's racking cough came back in the middle of surgery, he might thrash his body about, causing some serious scalpel damage. So, he has to make sure he's taken long-lasting cough medicine and a 12-hour antihistamine to avoid sneezing, as well as slathering his body in hydrocortisone cream to avoid any of those uncontrollable itches. You know the kind; they come when you're doing the dishes, digging in the garden, throwing clay pots . . .

Kathryn McKay


Had you read the entire This Month's Contest blurb, Kathryn-we guess you were too busy scratching somewhere-you would have noticed we suggested the patient was getting the Vicks as an anesthetic, so where do you come off telling us we got it all wrong? You're not invited to the party, and stop throwing clay pots, you'll hit someone.

I think this is a fine ad. I see nothing wrong with performing surgery while on medication. Just as long as he's not operating a motor vehicle.

Liz Gumbinner


No, Liz, there's nothing wrong with performing surgery on medication, we couldn't agree more. Come over Saturday night and Keith will take out your gall bladder. Don't worry, he's bringing a designated driver.

I know it's a DMB&B ad, but disregard the DMB&B address. The company I work for is not part of the DMB&B "way," so the gloves are off. So, would everyone just get off of the whole urban myth thing? There were no fingers in a Doberman's throat, the firefighting plane didn't drop some poor sap into the middle of a forest fire, and nobody ever woke up with a scalpel in his peritoneal cavity. I guess what I'm trying to say is, cough syrup's been going downhill ever since they took the codeine out of the original delicious Formula 44.

David Newton


OK, we'll disregard the DMB&B part of your address, Dave, but we couldn't help noticing the medicus. Please join us on Saturday night, and bring the codeine.

That's the head surgeon they're operating on. He wrenched his shoulder trying to remove that damn childproof cap on the Vicks 44 and now they're trying to repair the damage. It's a delicate operation; his shoulder is next to his heart, which is next to his wallet. One wrong move and they'll have flying aortas and martini-encrusted golf membership cards splattered all over the ceiling. However, they could replace the heart by finding a consenting hog donor, and they could use the hog's hide to replace the wallet. My dad's a veterinarian, he's done it hundreds of times.

Tom Drehmel


How does a hog give his consent? One snort yes, two snorts no? But never mind that, Tom, we've got a really old basset hound, his legs are shot, but his heart's OK. How much for your dad to make a wallet?

Actually, the chief of neurosurgery is on that gurney-addicted to codeine, he sucked down so much that he fell asleep on an unused bed, and he's about to wake up to four interns in bunny suits hovering over him with chainsaws. They're burying Norplant in his chest as a joke.

Valerie Singer


Norplant implants, what a great idea, Val! Let's pray Anna Nicole Smith gets these the next time she goes up a cup size.

This is actually a visual of the newest in a series of "extreme experiences" which are all the rage now-this one is open heart surgery without training. Even the most "extreme" dudes sometimes get a case of the jitters, so they swig on Vicks to help steady the nerves.

Kevin Kerwin


Duuuuude! Right on! In fact, we just came back from a Mountain Dew bungee briss on the Brooklyn Bridge. Raaaaad!

When you get the call to be an extra on E.R., you'd better not have a coughing fit during filming or George Clooney will jam a prop scalpel in your eye for holding up the show. George is a very busy man. Don't mess with George.

Michael Samonek


Yeah, but he's not too busy to pass up our party on Saturday night, and he's flying in with a planeload of Contac CoughCaps!

"Vicks 44 is the perfect cure for a hacking cough." Could it be more clear?

Steve Popp


Bing! That's a winner, Steve. A response so translucently sapient it could only have been written under the influence of at least a gallon of no-frills Tussin DM mixed with a bottle of Kahlua (this is called a Shitslide). We gave your scalpels to a homeless man on the corner of 14th and Park Avenue South, and he promptly held them to our throats and forced us to cough up our ATM cards and PIN numbers. We're billing you for our losses.

This Month's Contest

Win a pair of anatomically correct his 'n' hers crash test dummies!

Jeez, Mercury makes some big-ass cars! Headline: "The 110-passenger Mercury Grand Marquis." Copy: "Smooth, roomy, quiet and powerful. For the person who not only has plenty of friends but who also knows how to treat them." How? By cramming all of them in the car at once so they suffocate like the poor slobs at some Central American soccer stampede? We're stalled. Send your accident reports to Adulate@aol.com, and please skip the trunk space/elephant jokes. Contest not

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