This week Eric Hobson tells us about having to take a bitter pill.


The last firebase, the one without a name, did have one distinction; it was in a malaria warm zone. A warm zone meant that we were required to take a quinine pill once a week – as opposed to a hot zone, which required quinine 3-7 times a week.


This base was fairly close to HQ, so beer call was the chosen time and place for taking medication. You had to line up in front of the medic and an officer, take the pill and swallow in front of both.


Now quinine is one of, if not the most, bitter substances produced by Ma Nature. Let me explain why we were required to take the quinine in front of an officer. 99+% of the personnel hated this literal ‘bitter pill’.

I was part if the less than 1% who couldn’t care less. Why? Well I was Biology minor in college so I knew that most of your tongue bitter receptors are on the back of the tongue. Naturally I would put the pill on the tip of my tongue and with a big slug of beer wash it down with little or now effect.


Everyone else, in an effort to swallow as rapidly as possible tossed the pill to the back of their mouth right on top of the densest concentration of bitter receptors.


Did I ever say anything? Nope. I figured if you hadn’t paid attention in Health and Bio classes in high school it was your loss. One week early on one of the nicer LTs asked:

“You going to tell them?”

“Don’t know what your talking about Sir”

Sometimes education is its own reward.




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