Author Archives: lastrefills

lastrefills

A long time ago in a New Jersey far, far away, I was issued a pharmacy license. It was a license to work. Where ever there were prescription drugs to fill, I was there. Eventually I landed the dream job: regional manager. Airplanes, hotels, and expense accounts. But I gave that up to have a life with my family. So I am back at retail, behind the counter. I work in the wrong part of town and I am running out of time. These are my last refills.

LAST REFILLS: Episode 4- “Fran and Fran”.

(Note: Because I lack focus, even when it comes to my heritage, I am one-quarter Irish. But being so close to St. Patrick’s Day, that ‘s equivalent to being 400 percent Irish).

(The events in this post are mostly true. Some time in November  2010)

Fiddles, pennywhistles and mandolins. Airs from the back of the pharmacy. Bouncing off the jugs of GoLytely, were the sounds of reels, hornpipes, and jigs. Frances could hear the music over the sounds of the unlocking pharmacy gates, which themselves, rattled like chains. It never took long to discover some act performed by the new pharmacist to upset Frances.  Today it would be the Irish music.

It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving but Frances was not worried. A typical pharmacist would get slammed with last minute prescriptions, but her drug store was not located in a typical town. Those residents of Eastborough that could afford it, had already escaped for the holiday. The rest had little escape money. Their funds were earmarked for the stuffings, the sweet potatoes, and the cranberry relish, which they  would use to orchestrate their Thanksgiving symphonies.

Frances had been rhapsodizing on how easy her day was going to be as she steered into town with a festive tempo. That morning had started cold, but in time the ground’s hard frost was joined by the late November sun.  Along the river, some of town’s water damaged houses were already strung with colored lights. And the river, itself, was topped in a thin layer of ice.

Except for some men huddled together on the bridge onto Main Street, the town was asleep. The men were waiting to see if any trucks would stop and hire them  as helpers for remodeling jobs on the fancier homes in Westborough. They pounded their hands to warm them and joked loudly in Spanish, sending streams of steam into the air. The streams lit up briefly above their heads and then faded into the morning light.

Frances was in a fantastic mood by the time she arrived and unlocked the pharmacy. But when she heard the faint sound of a concertina and some gruff voice singing about “whiskey in a jar”, her first thought was of Phil. He had worked the last two days and had left the radio on when he closed the pharmacy.  And he had changed her radio station. At the prescription counter, she reached over to turn down the music, but then noticed that the radio wasn’t even switched on. She spun a complete circle but was unable to identify where the music was coming from.

Her pharmacy tech, Helen, arrived and greeted her, then walked over to her computer and signed on.  Frances was scanning the shelves to find Phil’s music player which was now singing about “the town it loved so” well with a clear tenor voice. Helen was setting up her work station, and reading the notes left by Phil when the front-end cashier entered the prescription department with a pot of black coffee.

-“Where’s Frances?”, Emily asked, pouring Helen some coffee.

-“Somewhere over the rainbow colored fluoride-vitamins.”

[Phil’s Radio was releasing the following:

♪♫ …There was music there in the Derry air

Like a language that we all could understand… ♪♫]

-“Oh, I know this song, did Frances pick this station?”

-“No I did not. I don’t know where Phil left his IPod, and it has been dispensing this music since I opened. “

-“Craft, Phil listens to this?”

Craft was sliding tablets of metformin across a tablet tray in counts of five. The sound of the metformins falling over the side kept time to the song.  Before Craft could answer Emily, Frances poked her head from the shelves to look at them. Frances did not like anyone calling Helen by her nickname of Craft.

-“Please don’t call her one of Phil’s ridiculous nicknames.”

This style of music was driving Frances crazy. To her it sounded like a pack of poltergeists trapped in a television set. It was distracting her from the prescriptions and the baskets of medicine were stacked unchecked near her vacant computer. Craft could see that they would soon be in trouble, so she asked Emily to remain behind to help find Phil’s IPod, which was now tapping out pipes and drums.

Luis, the shift supervisor, walked in to use the fax machine and told Frances that a customer was waiting for her near the pharmacy register. The man was asking for something for his eye. Emily had slowly started searching in the oral contraceptives at a pace that would take her from days 1 through 28 to finish.

[Phil’s Radio:

♪♫ …How sweet the sound… ♪♫]

-“So I’m doing the sweet potato casserole tomorrow, how about you Craft?” Emily shouted.

[♪♫ …to save a wretch like me… ♪♫]

-“Desserts, pumpkin pie with whipped cream”, Craft answered, shaking a bottle of Tussionex slowly.

-“Just try some Visine”, Frances said, dropping her customer and returning to focus on her search.

[♪♫ …was blind but now can see… ♪♫]

-“Hey look what I found here”, called Luis, who had joined the hunt and was over near the syringes.

-“Is it Phil’s radio?”

-“No, it’s an empty can of Diet Coke on top of a box of Epi-pen-Junior.”

Frances was trying to control her breathing but her anger swelled.

-“That damn Phil. Craft, I mean Helen, didn’t you talk to Phil about leaving his cans in the pharmacy?”

-“I just found another one on top of the LoEstrin!”, shouted Emily holding up another can of Diet Coke.

They all gathered around the can.

-“I’m going to call district, this is not acceptable.”

-“And does he always play this type of music?”

-“No. The Irish music started yesterday.”

-“Be quiet a second. I think I hear where it’s coming from. It sounds like it’s in that cabinet near the GoLytely bottles.”

Frances, Craft, Emily, and Luis leaned their ears towards the Golytely. The tune neared its big finish and bursts of bag pipes gushed from the back of the pharmacy.

-“It’s in the narcotic cabinet!”

Frances keys jingled as she rushed to unlock the cabinet. The lock was an old tricky mechanism that took a bit of practice before you could make it turn. When she finally swung the old wooden door open she lost her place in the music.  The cabinet was full of controlled drugs that they had never stocked before. Frances removed some it and arranged it on the floor. First up were the Fentanyl patches. Then the morphine concentrates came out, followed by the Opanas.

During the last few days, Phil had used the entire month’s purchasing budget to order pain medication.  Frances walked back to the prescription counter. Three of Phil’s empty cans stood at her work station. Frances picked up the phone and pounded out Phil’s number. When he answered, she launched into her aria.

[♪♫ …On Raglan Road of an autumn day/ I saw her first and knew… ♪♫]

-“Phil, you know I’ve been finding these empty cans all over the shelves with the medicine. And like.. what is up with these cans?…”

[♪♫ …I saw the danger and I passed/ Along the enchanted way… ♪♫]

“…Am I supposed to clear them for you? Are you leaving them for me to throw away?..”

[♪♫ …And said let grief be a fallen leaf/ at the dawning of the day… ♪♫]

“…And why did you have to order four pages of narcotics?  We will never use them.”

-“Frances, didn’t corporate complain to you that we were turning away too many control prescriptions? Because we never had pain meds in stock?” Phil asked.

-“Yes. But at least  I waited for a prescription first.  In fact, just last Friday I ordered morphine. For Francis Cullen. Did it come in?”

-“Yeah. That guy, Francis, with the prostate cancer that spread.  I must admit, it was pretty incredible that you were able to talk him into waiting the entire weekend for his pain pills. Actually, me and the patient had a little problem when that order came in. Which is why I figured it might be a good idea to have that stuff on hand, before they come in with the prescriptions. So I stocked us up on some things. ”

[♪♫ …On Grafton Street in November… ♪♫]

Her voice quivered a bit and she asked Phil in a soft vibrato,

-“What problem with the morphine order? Am I in trouble?”

[♪♫ …Oh I loved too much and by such by such/is happiness thrown away… ♪♫]

-“You ordered morphine sulfate in sustained release tablets. The doctor wrote for immediate release tablets. So Craft and I had to tell him that we couldn’t fill the prescription that he had waited all weekend for. Of course the order arrived late in the day, so by the time we realized it, there weren’t many options left. At that point he couldn’t  talk much because he was hurting pretty bad. Like I said, it was amazing that you were able to get him to wait.

[♪♫ …I gave her poems to say

With her own name there/ And her own dark hair

Like clouds over fields of May ♪♫]

-“So from that point on, it kind of turned into a bit of a cluster-fuck. Excuse my language. He lived alone, so I figured it was up to us to try to fix the problem. So we called around and lucky for us, the independent pharmacy had the pills he needed. But Francis Cullen obviously couldn’t drive and our delivery guy was finished for the day. But the independent guy said they would rush it over if I got them the prescription. Francis was really distressed at this point, Frances. So at four o’clock in the afternoon, on the Monday before thanksgiving, I sent my only tech out of the store to walk the written prescription down to the independent pharmacy. I wanted Craft to personally hand the prescription to the pharmacist, so there would be no more screw ups.”

-“So they took care of him?”

-“Well, they wanted to, they really did. But it didn’t work out. When they got to his house, he wouldn’t come to the door. And the independent store was getting mad because now they were getting backed up. Finally, I had Craft call the town police. The cops told us that Francis Cullin had reached his limit and had dialed 911 about a half-hour before his prescription arrived.”

[♪♫ …On a quiet street where old ghosts meet… ♪♫]

Francis did not answer Phil or ask Phil a question. In their pause the old ballad coming from the narcotic cabinet filled the silence.

[♪♫ …I see her walking now/ away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow… ♪♫]

-“And, I don’t think you have to worry about getting any complaints. As of yesterday he won’t be complaining to anybody”, Phil went on, trying to fill the conversation.

-“I know as a pharmacist I’m supposed to feel noble about my job and how I save lives. But honestly, I don’t think I save many lives in retail pharmacy. Not directly. The best I can do is to make their days a little easier. Which is good enough for me. So, if you don’t mind, I’ll be keeping the narcotic cabinet stocked.”

-“But why did a guy that sick live all by himself. Why wasn’t anyone taking care of him?” Frances asked

-“I don’t know, Frances. I guess it was just another case of a person having an unrequited love for life.”

[♪♫ …That I had loved, not as I should/ a creature made of clay

And when the angel woos the clay he’ll lose /

His wings at the dawn of day… ♪♫]

-“Phil, what the hell does that mean?”

-“Some people spend their entire life trying so damn hard, just to find out in the end, they never got back what they gave. ”

-”Anyway, sorry about all the cans in the pharmacy. It’s not your responsibility to clean them up. I’ll make sure to be more careful next time.”

*****

 

(The song in the post is called Raglan Road. It was taken from a poem. I have used the lyrics without permission. I suck at getting permission.

Here is a link to Van Morrison singing the song. Happy St Paddy’s Day.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLCYH36ahpE&feature=related

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LAST REFILLS: EPISODE 3: “ROB ROY”

 (Sometime in November, 2010)

The week that Phil started working in the Eastborough Pharmacy, Frances warned him about what it would be like to work with Roy.

                                -“Something is wrong with his mind”, Frances said, “Ever since he got back from the war.”

                                -“The war?”, Phil asked.

                                -“Yeah, he told me he served in Viet Nam.  He must have been traumatized over there. Now, most of the day he just walks up and down Main Street, writing in his note book and talking to himself.”

Corporate had always suspected that Roy would be a problem when they purchased the pharmacy from Frank and Lou four years back. Roy had been hired by Lou, the more difficult partner, years ago.  Before that, Roy had held a steady restaurant job and lived with his father in a rented room on Main Street. His mother had taken off when he was just a toddler. After two years of working for the restaraunt,  his father died unexpectedly, and Roy shut down mentally.  From that day on, he started to wander around Eastborough, writing in a notebook and eventually he was fired from the restaurant.

Lou had known Roy’s dad from  the prescriptions he filled for him every month. So he felt obliged to help Roy and gave him a job in the pharmacy. Stocking and dusting the shelves. This was fine with Lou’s partner, Frank.  They owned the store and they could hire and fire whoever they pleased. As long as Roy didn’t have to speak to customers, his job in the pharmacy was secure.

But Frank and Lou left soon after the corporation bought their pharmacy.  The new company told Roy was he would have to work at a cash register in the prescription department if he wanted to keep his job. The district manager was certain that the cash register would overwhelm Roy and he would eventually quit. Roy was a strange guy anyway, the district manager thought, and his quitting would be for the best.

Phil’s first night working with Roy was like a suicide mission.  Before the night even began, a shift supervisor came into the pharmacy to warn him. This supervisor was Phil’s age, but he had wider hips and thinner hair.  His name was Luis. None of the employees trusted Luis. Corporate had bought him in from another store owned by the company and everyone in the store thought he was a kiss-ass for the district manager.              

                                -“You will be getting a pharmacy student to help with the prescriptions”, Luis said to Phil, “his name is Nathan.  I wouldn’t let him count. And do you know about Roy?”

                                Phil turned around and asked, “What about him?”

                                -“Hey man, that war really screwed up his brains. He isn’t very much help in the store.  It’s a big shame that we are stuck with him on our payroll.”

On their first night together, Phil, Roy, and Nathan got ambushed. Phil could not figure out where he was needed the most. Nathan couldn’t type, but Roy couldn’t talk. Roy was frozen behind the cash register as though he was hiding behind the wall of a bunker. Prescriptions kept getting dropped on him like incoming shrapnel. The pharmacy didn’t have a separate prescription drop-zone and pick-up-zone, and all the casualties came to Roy.

 At 6pm Luis had to stop his work in the aisles and come to the back and help Roy at the register. Luis loudly complained about him the entire time, but Roy never said a word. When Roy left the pharmacy to  empty the trash in the store bathroom, Luis muttered about how happy the store would be if  Roy would finally quit.

When they were outside after the store closed, Phil stopped Roy in the parking lot and asked if he wanted a ride home.

                                -“No. I always walk”, Roy said, and he was already taking his notebook out.

                                -“Hey Roy”, Phil asked, “What did you used to do before you started working in drug stores?”

                                -“I used to serve Viet Nam.”

                                -“You were in the Viet Nam War?”

Roy laughed and started to walk down the quiet street in the dark.

                                -“Are you crazy Phil?”, he asked, “I would have been just a baby back then. No, I used to be a waiter in a restaurant that served Vietnamese food.”

***

Phil had all night, and the following day to think about his conversation with Roy. First,  he was worried about repeating the same battles with the prescriptions for the next two nights. He aslo thought about the fact that the entire store thought that Roy was a war veteran. And then Phil considered that Roy was once a waiter in a restaraunt. If he had been able to successfully handle that job for two years, he should be able to work a cash register.

Before their next shift started, Phil gathered his team of Nathan and Roy.

                                -“Roy, do you have the notebook that you always walk around with?”, Phil asked.

                                -“Yeah.”

                                -“Take it out, and when you get any orders tonight, write them down on the pad just like when you were a waiter.”

Then Phil turned to Nathan. 

                                -“Nathan, you’re on the counting tray. I’ll be on the work station expediting the prescription processing.”

                                -“I don’t understand, does that mean you’re typing? What the hell is expediting?”

Phil grabbed Nathan’s tie and pulled his face close to his.

                                -“Nathan, if we want to get through the dinner rush, you must listen and do exactly what I say. Now say back to me “yes chemist”.”

                                -“Yes, chemist.”

                                -“I can’t hear that.”

                                -“Yes, chemist!”, Nathan shouted.

Phil gave Roy a slight pat on the shoulder.

                                -“Roy, go out to the front of the house and get us some scripts!”

Roy walked out to the line of customers waiting at the cash register. The first person in line was holding a blue prescription paper. Roy approached him holding a pen to the pad. He looked the customer in the face and said,

                                -“Good evening. How many prescriptions do you have in your party?”

                                -“Uh…two”, he answered, somewhat confused.

                                -“Ok, we’re looking at 20 minutes right now. Would you like any readings from the blood pressure machine?”

                                -“Ok.”

Roy placed the two prescriptions on a little barrier that separated the prescription department from the cashier’s station, looked at what he had written on the pad, and called out,

                                “Two tickets in the pass and they’re traveling!”

Phil picked up the prescriptions.

                                “Nathan! I need one synthroid, the 88’s for a month, make them generic, and I need one tenormin, also generic, 50’s for a month. Yes, please?!”

                                -“Yes, Chem’!”

                                “Say the order back, Nathan!” 

                                -“ Yes, Chem’, one synthroid, the 88’s for a month,  and I need one tenormin, 50’s for a month, the cheap stuff on both.”

                                -“How long on that Nathan?”

                                -“I need ten minutes, Chem.”

                                -“Ten minutes??”

                                -“Yes chem’, the cotton is stuck in the Synthroid!”

                                -“Oh come on Nathan!”

Roy came up to the pass. When he spoke, Phil noticed that he had developed a subtle French accent.

                                -“Chemist, dis guy over by da vitameens ‘as been waiting for the poison ahvey special for da half hour. ‘e’s starting to rub hees crotch against the aloe display.”

Phil picked up the poison ivy basket from the QA station. He pressed two fingers against a tube of cream that was in the basket.

                                -“Oh god, Nathan come up here.”

                                -“Yes ’Chem!”

                                -“This betamethasone is supposed to be a full tube. Touch that tube. Does it feel like a full tube to you? Roy, come back here and touch this tube, please.”

The crowd of customers standing near the cash register stopped their conversations. The watched as the pharmacy technician and the cashier touched a tube of steroidal cream that was sitting in a basket held out by the pharmacist.

                                -“Eet is an open tube, chem.”, Roy said, disgracefully looking at Nathan.

Phil dumped the tube to the floor and kicked it to the other side of the pharmacy.

                                -“You gave me an open tube”, Phil screamed, suddenly using a British accent, “Give me a full tube you lazy cow!”

Nathan looked ready to cry. He stumbled towards the syrups, then turned the other way and headed for the topicals.

                                “Chem, I ‘ave two new tickets in the pass.”

Along with a french accent, Roy had developed enough confidence to shout the prescription orders to Nathan as Phil typed the labels.

                                -“Two amox 400 leequid, one flavored wit da grape, they’re waiting, and one’s a crier”, Roy called out.

                                -“Nathan, that’s a VIP order”, Phil said, as Nathan dropped off the synthroid and tenormin at the QA station.

                                -“VIPs. Two amox 400, make one a merlot, I need 15 minutes”, Nathan repeated the order to Phil.

                                -“Nathan. Nathan!,” Phil had a disgusted look on his face. He had opened the synthroid and was looking at the tablets.

                                -“Nathan, does this synthroid look green to you?”

Nathan sniffed and wiped away some water forming in the corner of his eye.

                                -“Oh God, you’re not gonna start crying. You can’t handle pharmacy? Look at me, do you want to leave?”

Nathan sniffed and stood up straight.

                                -“No chem. I don’t want to quit, chem. It’s my dream to count for you in Hell’s Pharmacy!”

                                -“What color are these Synthroid 88’s?”

                                -“They’re blue, chem.”

                                -“They are ‘[bleep]-in’ blue. You ‘[bleep]-in’ cow. ‘[Bleep]‘ off with ya, and get the ‘[bleep]‘ out of my pharmacy!’

Roy turned to the customers and announced,

                                -“Ok, people, dats eeet. Da countin’ is closed. Come back tomorrow night.”

This confused the customers of Eastborough and some of them even drove their prescriptions to a 24-hour diner in Westborough.

By the third night, Nathan understood exactly what Phil’s strategy was, and got into the spirit of the “line-cook concept” for filling prescriptions during the dinner rush. It was all about maximizing the effectiveness of Roy. Prior to starting, Nathan went into the break room and returned with Emily’s coffee maker.  He plugged it in near the cash register. Nathan figured that the sound of the brewing coffee might create more of a restaurant atmosphere. As Phil entered he noticed that Nathan had tied a large white head-band, containing Japanese graphics, around his forehead and was using a pen to sharpen his pill-counting spatula.

                                -“Nathan, you do know you’re Korean and not Japanese.”

                                -“Just work with me , chem.”

The pharmacy crew had an amazing night. Roy arrived wearing a white dress shirt and black pants with a white linen towel tucked into the front. His wiry hair was slicked straight back and he had somehow grown a pencil-thin mustache in the time between the second and the third day. He juggled all the customers with ease. He called out each order for the other two guys working the line. He bought glasses of water and little dishes of bread for the customers who started to show impatience.  At the peak of production Nathan started making chopping sounds with the spatula by whacking it against the counting tray and sometimes he would shout something in Korean.

After all the customers were served, and the little drug store was quiet, Luis took a broom to the sales floor. He came to a sudden halt when he got to the pharmacy cash register. Roy was leaning against Emily’s coffee maker and  speaking into a cell-phone in fluent French. He paused his conversation, looked at Luis, and said,

                                                -“What? I’m on a break!”

Later that night, the three of them hung out in the parking lot after the store had closed. Phil sent Nathan across Main Street, to the liquor store, and told him to get the crew a six pack of Red Stripe.  In the cold November night, the three of them laughed about their shift, drinking beer and smoking some cigarettes that they had swiped from Emily’s stash in the break room.   Inside the store, Luis was on a phone in the manager’s office.  During their shift he had been using his cell phone  camera to record the non-kosher style of pharmacy that Roy, Nathan, and Phil had been practicing in the Eastborough store. At that moment he was describing it to someone over the phone.

***

Seven days later, Phil and Craft were enjoying a steady day in the pharmacy. It was busy enough to make the time passed quickly, but they easily kept up with the prescription volume. Sometime in the afternoon, Craft noticed that the district manager and the Loss Prevention manager had entered the store. They both were dressed like Men In Black. The district people disappeared into the manager’s office and when they emerged an hour later, they were escorting Roy to the front door.

                                -“Roy?, what’s going on?”, Phil yelled over.

Roy pulled away from the Loss Prevention manager and ran up to the barrier where he been passing prescriptions to Phil during the week they worked together.

                                -“They canned me, Chem. They said I stole from the shelf.”

                                -“Roy, did you defend yourself?”

                                -“It’s Ok. I don’t fit in.”

                                 The Loss Prevention manager caught up with him and said, -“Roy, come on, don’t make us call the police.”

 Roy took out his notebook and handed it to Phil.

                                -“You hold on to this, Chem. You seem to work a lot more organized when my notebook is around.”

Then Roy left the store, with Loss Prevention closely walking behind him.

***

 The next day Frances was scheduled to work  and the district manager called her, to explain why one of her pharmacy cashiers had been fired the day before.  Apparently, they had Roy on a video tape entering the store bathroom. Afterwards, Luis had checked the bathroom trash and found a tube of Vagisil that Roy must have put there and was going to smuggle out of the store later.

                                “Wait a minute”, Frances asked, “You mean Roy was really a woman?”

LAST REFILLS: Episode 2- “The Sisters of UnMercy”.

Note: This is a series of episodes entitled “LAST REFILLS”. They will probably make more sense if read in order. Then again, they might not.

LAST REFILLS: Episode 2- “The Sisters of UnMercy”.

(sometime during September in 2010)

 

The entire town of Eastborough knew Roy. They all believed that he once served Viet Nam because that is what he told everyone. No one challenged him on it, but if that were true, it would have made Roy four years old when he was fighting in ‘Nam. Roy spent most days and nights walking up and down Main Street writing in an old tattered note book.  Except if it rained. During that weather, Roy stuffed the notebook in his back pocket and walked down Main Street carrying a long metal tent pole.

The Sunday that the new pharmacist replaced Jesus, was the third day of a long stretch of late summer rain in steamy, late, September. Roy carried his metal tent pole down Main Street, entered The Stone Gardens with it, and walked over to the bank of the river. He stuck the pole into the slowly passing water as deep as it would go and observed where the water level rested. He opened his notebook, wrote down his observation, and removed the pole from the river. He continued down the road and breathed a sigh of relief. He couldn’t wait to tell Jesus. Roy was the pharmacy cashier who worked the evening shift at the drug store on top of Main Street.

Lisa, the 23 year old shift supervisor, typically arrived one minute before the store opened. Since all the pharmacists knew this, they never bothered to arrive on time. It was company policy to have front end management open and close the store. Had it been Frances who was scheduled that Sunday, she would have not bothered to show up on time. She refused to have to wait outside for Lisa. 

Today was the first day for the new pharmacist and when Lisa got out of her car, she sprinted right past him as he waited in the rain. He strolled up to Lisa as she inserted her key in the pharmacy door’s lock.

-“Why are you so early?” she laughed.

-“It’s about 27 seconds before we open…And my name is Phil, by the way, your new druggist.”

They entered the dark store.  Lisa wanted to joke about him needing a towel, but Phil was already vigorously drying his hair with his white pharmacy jacket. This left his hair a wild mess and he looked like one of the 14 nephews would have looked, after they had a bath. Phil poured out some of the rain water that had collected from the lid of his drink and then he lapped up whatever remained from the top of the cup. Lisa quickly considered the new pharmacist; a short, middle aged, nerdy-looking guy that needed a haircut. After she turned on the lights, she walked past him. The drops of water that still covered his glasses made rainbows.

…District sent us another loser…

Lisa expected him to bother her each time a Spanish-speaking customer needed help in the pharmacy. She had even told him that there were plenty of Spanish-speaking people that  lived in town, and that he should page her to come to the back and she could translate. She was slightly mad when he didn’t so she went to check on him in the back. When she got to the prescription department, she saw that Phil had been counseling the customers with sketches when it was necessary.  The counter was littered with his drawings of pills and capsules, some with arrows pointing to mouths, and others with arrows pointing to worse body parts.

He was on the phone with a customer.

-“You’re right sir, I am an asshole, but not for the reasons that you think. Goodbye.”

-“Who were you talking to on the phone like that?”

-“Some customer named Gary.”

-“Don’t worry about him, he’s a freak, he screams at everybody, and always wants a delivery on the weekend, even though we tell him over and over that we don’t do the weekends.”

-“I need directions to his house. I’m going to take his medicine over. He needs his Prograf and prednisone.”

-“What?” “I don’t care if he needs his protons and neutrons, don’t deliver to his house by yourself, that guy is a psycho. Didn’t you read in the paper last year about the guy who got beat up in this town?”

-“That’s just the regular newspapers you sell up front”, Phil said, “I’m going to bring you a copy of the newspaper I write for. It’s called The Mundane Times. Instead of all the bad stuff that makes the usual headlines, we cover all the countless interactions that folks have every day that don’t end with shootings, stabbings, or beat ups. Each edition is higher than 15 New York City phone books.”

**

The shift supervisor did not waste any time on Sunday night. She called the lead tech to tell her about the pharmacist that had replaced Jesus.  During the phone call with the shift supervisor, the tech repeated everything to the pharmacist-in-charge in a text. The pharmacist-in-charge then called the district manager.   The district manager told her to meet the new pharmacist at the store the next day, and to submit her observations in an e-mail to the district office, human resources, and risk management.

 Meanwhile the lead tech agonized about her situation to her sister, her brother, her mother, and her aunt who had just arrived from Greece.  Then she interrupted her husband’s plans to watch Sunday Night Football by agonizing to him, and she continued to agonize well into the night, robbing him of that sleep, forever.

The pharmacy’s lead tech was Helen.  She was loved by the customers. They usually bypassed the pharmacist and went to Helen with their problems.  The male customers were drawn to her like magnets, but Helen never flirted back with them. She was a serious twenty-six year-old and what she lacked in patients for incompetent co-workers, she made up for with respect and concern for the sick and cranky customers.

From her countless conversations the night before, she learned she should say as little as possible to the new pharmacist. He sounded like he was just another crazy American. To be polite, she did ask  him about how things turned out on his first Sunday.

-“I did OK. But there were all these notes left on the counter from Jesus. In all my years in catholic schools, I never heard so much from Jesus before.”

-“No, that’s the name of the pharmacist you replaced.”

-“That makes sense. You don’t want to hire Jesus as your pharmacist. He’d go around healing everybody, and then you wouldn’t  have any prescriptions to fill.”

-“That’s not funny. I’m Greek Orthodox”.

-“Sorry.”

After that, Phil and Helen worked without a word. In less than an hour, Phil realized she was one of the most talented technicians he ever worked with. She could make any prescription problem disappear.  Phil told her he would call her by a nickname if she didn’t mind.

-“What nickname is that?”

-“Craft.”

-“And what does that mean?”

-“It means you work magic on the prescriptions. This is the easiest Monday I have ever worked in a pharmacy.”

Helen did not protest about her new name. And she was a little disappointed to see that Frances had arrived in the pharmacy.

-“Is it true that you delivered to Gary yesterday?” “He’s a problem customer” Frances said.

-“Oh hi, Francine!”

-“My name is Frances.”

Phil glanced over at Craft but she was hiding her face behind her hair.

Then Frances noticed a cup of Dunkin Donut coffee resting on a shelf in with the birth control pills. Phil had placed his coffee there when he arrived at the pharmacy that morning.

-“Why is there a cup of coffee in my oral contraceptives?”

-“Phil doesn’t like to put his coffee cup on the counter. He told me he has a tendency to spill things”, Craft answered for Phil.

 -“Sorry Francine, I’ll move it.”

At that moment, Emily and Lisa entered the prescription department. Emily was carrying the morning pot of coffee. She was about pour some for Craft and the new pharmacist. She looked at the cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee that Phil was holding and made a face.

-“Oh, you buy your coffee?” Emily bellowed,  “So, I guess I won’t be pouring you a cup every day.”

-“Of course you will.” Phil said, “In one his notes to me, Jesus told me your coffee was to die for.”

-“No, pouring you another cup would waste it.  Your cup is already full.”

Frances, Craft, and Lisa watched the two of them, smiling. They couldn’t wait to see how this would end.  Phil reached over to Craft’s work station and picked up an empty mug and held it under Emily’s coffee pot.

-“Please?” he pleaded.

Emily slowly poured into it, looking Phil in the eye the whole time. Phil brought the steaming mug up to his mouth and guzzled the entire thing with one swallow. He pounded down the mug then lifted the Dunkin’ Donuts cup and swallowed all the coffee in there as well, tossing the empty cup into the HIPAA trash. Finally, he reached into the pocket of his lab coat and removed a fresh can of Diet Coke. He popped open the top, leaned back, and loudly gulped downed every drop.

He wiped his mouth with his hand and said, “Aaaah!”

Frances, Lisa, and Craft immediately turned away and began to furiously text on their cell phones.

LAST REFILLS: Episode 1

 

(I recall some advice a friend on twitter once gave me. She basically said you should write to have fun. She also said that writing was an act of sharing.  These rules are much better than my old ones.

 So I will share two years that I spent at my last retail pharmacy job in a series of little posts.

I am going to try not to care about the writing.  I’ll try not to track my hits, my relevance, my topicality, and whether or not  I dispense useful information, coherence, or  good grammar.

I will just quietly post a message on twitter as I finish each episode.

And I promise myself I will have fun with the writing.

 

LAST REFILLS: Episode 1- “I need my Blood Pressure”.

(Sometime during August, 2010)

The old cashier gripped the glass coffee pot as though she was an angry wife swinging a rolling pin.  Every morning she would enter the pharmacy’s bathroom, taking the glass coffee pot with her, and 20 minutes later she emerged with a pot full of cloudy water. Annie, the store manager, held her breath as Emily proceeded to pour this into the coffee maker.

None of the pharmacy staff liked to think about what other activities may have occurred in the bathroom before she came out with the water. They lived in mortal fear of that coffee. But they feared Emily more. They drank without complaint, all the while eyeing packages of acidophilus for the remainder of their shifts.

Annie looked down at the other end of the store and saw a group of customers waiting for them to open, standing outside the front door.

                  …Oh Christ, Lou, the building’s landlord, was out there too. Now she would have to hear about how he and his partner were the town’s saviors when they owned the pharmacy.

The staff did not much respect Annie as a manager. Whenever she spoke to an employee, she struggled with her sentences. The words couldn’t quite break the chains of indecision that held them shackled to her brain.

                  “Emily”, Annie managed, “see if you can move all the Halloween items to the…”

Annie suspended her sentence, lifted an item from the tote near her feet, and left the rest of her thought to suffer forever in solitary confinement. She tried something else.

                   “Emily, Uhm, Are you wearing your name badge?”

Emily glared back and folded her beefy arms across a massive chest, and Annie got so nervous, she put out the hair straightener where the lice treatments were supposed to go. Emily reminded her that the store should have opened 15 minutes ago.  Emily knew they couldn’t open until the pharmacist arrived. Annie also knew enough to watch everything she said to the people who worked in the store. A large drama could start with a small word. It was why she often stopped herself in mid-sentence.

Frances was the pharmacist who was on the schedule. She was late again. She practiced pharmacy by a set of random rules, which frustrated the customers and the pharmacy staff.  One of her rules was that she would only fill prescriptions printed on blue paper, the color of New Jersey’s official state prescription blank. If the customer had a non-blue prescription from another state, they would have to go down the road.

Another rule was about the use of the phrase, “by mouth”. All of her prescription labels had to contain the maximum number of “by mouths” allowed by the laws of grammar. This is how she wanted her prednisone labels to read:

                                On day one take five tablets by mouth in the morning, and five tablets by mouth in the evening, on day two  take four tablets by mouth in the morning and three tablets by mouth in the evening, on day three take three tablets by mouth in the morning and two tablets by mouth in the evening, on day four  take 1 tablet by mouth in the morning and ½ tablet by mouth in the evening, on day five take ½ tablet by mouth in the evening, and on day six stop taking tablets by mouth.

Should a tech missed just one “by mouth”, Frances would make them retype the entire thing. 

 Most of the store preferred her partner, Godwin, but Godwin had no business practicing retail pharmacy. He could not keep up with the volume of work. Godwin liked to use biblical phrases as his computer password.  In the beginning, when he first started, his password was “the lord is my shepherd I shall not want”, and every time he checked a prescription, he had to type that phrase into the computer.

 When that didn’t work, he changed it to “vanity, vanity, all is vanity”. Even that slowed him down too much.  One day a technician suggested that he just use “Jesus”. Another employee argued against that idea, because he noted that Godwin had only been picking quotations from the Old Testament.

                   “Why not use “David” then?

 All the store business suspended, while staff and customers thought up secret passwords for the town’s pharmacist.  Godwin said he thought “David” was too simple but would consider using “the house of David”. At that point the night cashier suggested “the house of blues” and a customer with a UTI asked him to stop participating in the discussion. In the end he chose “Jesus”.  Godwin was reborn, and the store referred to him as Jesus, from that day forward. 

 Though she was better at managing the work flow, Frances was only preferred by a few customers and even less employees. She would push the staff to follow some corporate directive during the most difficult parts of their shifts. Suddenly, the techs would have to inventory the creams and lotions. Then she would stop that, and have them phone customers reminders to refill their Lipitor.  After two calls she would send someone home to reduce payroll. It all depended on which e-mail she happened to be reading. The staff became two staffs. Either you followed Frances up a mountain of e-mails, or you followed Jesus, because when his shift ended, at least he would treat you to a last supper.

                ****

  “Are they going to open sometime today, I need my blood pressure.”

  “Where was it when you left?”

  “I don’t know that machine wasn’t on the table, when are you going to fix that leg?”

  “My leg is fine, it’s my toe, got all swelled up.”

  “The leg ain’t fine. the table wobbles.”

  “I wobble because of the acid in my toe; I can’t even tie my laces.”

  “Lasix? Who said anything about Lasix?  I need my atonall,”

The short woman turned to the shorter man and repeated herself, but louder and slower.

      “I…need…my…blood…pressure.”

The two of them disregarded the tall man beside them. They were all waiting for the pharmacy to open.  If he had still been working the prescription counter, the tall man would have cared for all their concerns.  But now he was unknown to them.

This little red building was still half his, so he checked on things from time to time. But he didn’t see the point. Frank, his old partner, had never set foot here again.  Since that day they sold their pharmacy business to a big chain that swept into town.

Frank was a difficult partner. By the end they had stopped talking. Frank  had no business sense and failed to see the big picture.  But the taller man, Lou, had seen the big picture early on. When they first started the business, people didn’t have pharmacy insurance. At that time, medicine might be expensive, but it always had to be affordable. You charged what your customers could pay. And you still made money.

When insurance got involved, the costs got quietly shifted around to everyone who worked, whether they needed medicine or not.  And this was a golden time for doctors, pharmacists, and patients. Doctors could prescribe whatever they wanted. Insurance would pick up the tab.

It was Zantac and Prilosec that started the beginning of the end. Because patients only saw a co-pay, drug makers could charge anything. At that time, the prices for Zantac then, later, Prilosec were unprecedented. But nothing could touch these drugs when it came to controlling gastric pain. Record numbers of prescriptions were sold and insurances picked up the tab. 

In time, business realized that this spending was not sustainable. Insurance had to reduce costs to keep the massive profits rolling. Conveniently, chain drug stores were drifting in. These big companies could afford to accepti obscenely low reimbursements. But why would they take less? So, they could increase store count and then they could buy out the smaller pharmacies that could not compete.  It was a golden time for chain pharmacies and insurance companies.

 At first, Frank refused to sell. Lou was ready to hold a gun to his head. He kept seeing their windfall drift further way. The two of them stopped talking. It divided their store and business suffered even more. Eventually, the constant rush from the big pharmacies eroded Frank’s resolve, and he finally agreed to sell. Lou chuckled quietly. He remembered that the crazy bastard closed his eyes and cried the day the chain handed them the checks.

****

 The windows of the old red building in Eastborough, New Jersey, glared at the little line of customers. The drug store was firmly footed at the far end of Main Street, a street mainly used by to get to some other town. For most of its history, Eastborough lived in a state of competition with the slightly less working-class town to the west.  This escalated when the New York, Susquehanna, and Western Railway laid tracks which further divided the towns, two hundred years before.  After the tracks went down, uppity Westborough named a newly built post office after itself, rather than the common name that both had used previously.  Soon each side was claiming its own schools, churches, and town music bands.

 The battle became especially pitched during the rivalries of the two town’s bands.  It reached a crescendo in 1920, when a resident of the Eastborough formed a popular cornet band which played each summer in Stone Gardens, located off of Main Street, less than a mile from the little drug store.  The band’s proudest moment occurred in the summer of 1940, when the town erected a band shell near the banks of the Lenape River. Even some of the larger North Jersey newspapers printed pictures of the band conducting its Saturday night serenades to people sitting on the banks of the calm water deposited into the hot August night.

 This all came to an end in the flood of 1968, when the river swallowed the band shell, which was never seen again. Because of its location near the river, Eastborough would always be at a disadvantage. The river snaked around the town. At least once a year, when the rains were heavy, it would tighten its coil and hiss out the excess rainwater flooding the low lying roads. The western side of the rail road tracks was always untouched by this.  The floods eroded away the resolve of the better-off people, and those that could, left the town forever.  

In 1979 the iron quarry located at the base of the town closed.  When it collapsed, it took the jobs but left its scattered gravel which had given the only park in town it’s name: The Stone Gardens.  When the 21st century started, many of the adjoining towns saw their populations swell. An influx of super sized stores surfaced onto the expressway that lay in Western Borough. Instead of patronizing the stores of Main Street, people flocked to Targets, Lowe’s, and Staples, and the tinier stores drifted deeper and deeper down the Lenape river to eventually board themselves.

***

 Each afternoon at four, Emily walked around the drugstore with the remains of the day’s coffee. The tall, pimply kid was working the front register.  He told Emily hello, but he was looking past her. He was focused on Lisa with her shiny black hair and dark eyes.

Emily turned down the cough and cold aisle where Lisa, a shift supervisor, was talking to a customer in Spanish. She did not want to share her coffee with these two

 The front door open and the store’s delivery man entered.  She quickened her pace to the manager’s office, to avoid talking to the driver. 

                “Whores. All of them.”, she thought.

  In the manager’s office, she poured out some coffee into Annie’s mug.  Downstairs in the pharmacy, the tech had nothing going on. She was scanning the internet from her phone, tracking some merchandise that she sold on a web site that her brother had built for her. The belts from china were a hot item.

 If Frances wasn’t distracted by the paper she was holding, she would have told the tech to count the oral inhalers.  But Frances was in shock. She stared at the fax in disbelief.  Each day, the district office faxed the latest version of the store schedule to all the pharmacies in the district.  Jesus had been crossed off the schedule. District had removed him from staff and replaced him with some other guy’s name. It was effective the following Sunday.  Emily entered the prescription department without speaking, and quietly filled their cups with last refills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The David SnowJob

 

David Snow, CEO of Medco, sucking the last bit of life out of community pharmacy.

Here is his limp link:

Medco CEO Champions Robots Over

Pharmacists!

 

 

Oh, and if you want to read a mature, thought-out commentary on “Mr. Ambassador to Retail”, check out the blog at:

The Red Headed Pharmacist

 

 

 

Fantasy Island Pharmacy

(Before she passed away and before an illness drained her mind of all its memory, my grandmother was the hardest working woman in the state of New Jersey. In my own house, things sometimes got a little crazy, so on many Saturday nights I would sleep over my grandparents. Nan would set up the couch on her porch with a blanket and a pillow for me. She would sit in her chair and put up her feet. I was a typical pissed-off adolescent and barely said two words,  but I loved to hear her laugh at Bob Newhart or Mary Tyler Moore, or even a ridiculous show like Fantasy Island. On this show, guests would spend a weekend on a mysterious island, and for a price, they would  live out their fantasies in three days. A typical episode would go something like this…)

A perfect, tropical morning greets gentle palm trees and white stone buildings on a lush island somewhere in the South Pacific.  On one of the more prominent of the stone buildings stands a bell tower, and from one of its windows, stands a wee little French man gazing at the clear sky.

He is Tattoo, and he works for the proprietor of the island, a man only known as Mr. Roarke. Tattoo sights something on the horizon. He first points in its direction, but then blindly reaches behind himself to grab a rope that controlled the tower’s large iron bell. Once he has hold of the rope, he tugs on it.  Unfortunately, he is standing a little too close to the bell, and is struck by it several times in the back of the head.

“De pain! De pain!” shouts the French man, rubbing the top of his cranium.

A bi-plane emerges in front of the slowly rising sun, the sound of its propellers cutting the damp air like electric razors.  The pontoons of the aircraft belly flop onto the cool water of the island’s lagoon. Above this, on the silent road that leads from the stone building, a golf cart darts in and out of the palm trees like a poorly shot tee off. The cart stops some distance from the water and Mr. Roarke and Tattoo look at each other from its front seat. They are both wearing identical white suits. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Mr. Roarke: “Sweet mother of God, Tattoo, must you hit every pot hole?”

Tattoo: “Hey Roarke, I’ve got a fantasy for you. How about reaching into the rich corinthian leather of your wallet and paying for some road repairs on this damn Fantasy Island?”

Mr. Roarke: “Enough, my little French Fondue! Our guests are stepping off the plane. We have fantasies to fulfill!”

The first person to step off the plane was a young woman in her twenties.  She was neatly dressed and appeared to be giving the airplane pilot a recommendation for treating a head cold.

Mr. Roarke:  “Tattoo, meet Craft. She is a pharmacy technician and has been working in retail pharmacy for seven years. Craft’s fantasy is to be able to call out sick one day without the pharmacist falling apart. I shall make her dream come true!”

Tattoo: “This is her fantasy? I mean, really, that’s the whole thing?”

Mr. Roarke: “Quiet you silly escargot! Our second guest is arriving!”

A pale, unshaven, face emerged from the door of the plane. His arm immediately shielded his eyes, even though he was wearing the darkest of sunglasses.

Tattoo: “That guy doesn’t seem to like the sunlight.”

Mr. Roarke: “His name is simply, The Count. He is the store manager at the same retail pharmacy and prefers the darkness of his manager’s office.”

Tattoo: “OK, so what’s his fantasy? Does he wish he was tall and handsome, and to be a feature player in a famous Star Trek sequel?”

Mr. Roarke: “No Tattoo, he would like to hire the perfect employee for his store. One that meets all his requirements.”

Tattoo: “Hey boss, have we jumped the shark here?  These fantasies are lame. How do you expect any viewers to tune in to watch this merde?”

Mr. Roarke: Tattoo, do you think this is easy, because if you do, I would love to trade places with you.”

The third guest stepped through the door of the plane and promptly tripped on his own untied shoelaces. As he struggled to regain his footing, a jar of medicine he had been holding slipped from his fingers and scattered tablets all over the lagoon. Attached to his other hand was a telephone receiver, its cord tangled in a cup of cold Dunkin Doughnuts coffee.

Tattoo: “Gees Louise, what the hell is wrong with that guy?”

Mr. Roarke’s face turned a bright shade of red and he stared down at his white shoes and sighed.

Mr. Roarke: “His name is Laston Refills.  He’s the store’s pharmacist. ”

Roarke addressed the sorry trio by shouting in his best stage actor’s voice, “My friends, Welcome to Fantasy Island Pharmacy!!!”

Tattoo: “Easy boss, you’ll tear your trachea.”

********

As soon as Laston Refills started his shift at Fantasy Island Pharmacy he was ready to strangle Mr. Roarke.  The tall bastard had left a note on the pharmacy door that read the following:

 

“Greetings Mr. Refills. Enjoy a perfect shift working in my pharmacy. Uh, by the way, Craft, your sole technician for today, needs to take a sick day. You will be working alone.  WELCOME TO FANTASY ISLAND PHARMACY!”

 

Laston walked into the prescription department and saw that yesterday’s drug order had not been put away. Three large plastic totes were stacked on the floor; a sheet of paper was taped to the top of the stack, on which a floater pharmacist had scribbled the word “sorry!”

He opened the first tote and found it completely filled with generic Z-Paks. Laston looked up and saw a customer standing on the sales floor studying the signs above the aisles.

“Can I help you find something, sir?” Refills asked.

The man faced him seriously and said, “I’m a grown adult male with many important responsibilities. If I can’t find a simple bottle of Advil without having to bother the pharmacist, then I shouldn’t be allowed to live. Thank you any way. And may I say you are looking very young today.”

The phone rang, Refills answered.

-”Fantasy Island Pharmacy, can I help you?”

-”Yes, I can hold”, the voice on the phone said.

-”Excuse me? You’re asking me to place you on hold?”

-”Oh my, yes. You answered the phone much too quickly. You must be busy. Take another customer first, I’ll wait.”

He put the phone down and went over to the cash register to take in a new prescription.

“My last name is composed of four different hyphenated names because I’ve been married three times”, the prescription customer said, “now, I realize what a pain in the ass that is for everyone, so I just use my maiden name, Jones, to make it easy.”

Sure enough, Laston was able to find her record in the computer right away.  The prescription was for Z Pak. It was the easiest prescription to fill on earth. He picked up the call he had left on hold.

-”Sorry you had to wait, can I help you?”

-”You came back too quickly, put me back on hold.”

-”What?” Laston asked.

-”Yes, put me back on hold! Put away more of your drug order first.”

Laston opened the second warehouse tote and saw that it, too, held nothing but Z-Paks.

-”Excuse me, can I pick up a prescription? My name is Greta Dey.”

A woman was patiently waiting by the register. In her arms she held a baby, who was fast asleep. Laston was curious, so he asked her,

“OK, but shouldn’t you have told me some of the background information before you gave me your name. Like, how you went to the doctor yesterday, and you couldn’t get back here in time, and how early you woke up today, and who drove you here?”

The customer looked him in the eye and said, “Now, why on earth would I complicate the simple act of picking up a prescription?  By the way, I love your neck tie.”

The rest of his shift continued in the same manner. He eventually got the customer on hold to agree to let him take her phone call. The caller wanted to make sure it would be all right to come in two hours prior to closing time to fill just one Z-Pak prescription.

Since all of the prescriptions were for Z-Paks, he stopped putting the order away and just dispensed them from the totes.  Customers protested when Laston tried to ring them up at the register, they wanted the pharmacist to focus on their prescriptions, after all.

One break in the routine occurred when he was pulling out some azithromycin for a patient. He found a prescription in the will call area that had been filled for his own grandmother. It wasn’t for a Z-Pak. He looked at the receipt and her address read, “right down the road from Fantasy Island Pharmacy”. He would take it to her after his shift.

The other break in the routine came when the actress, Scarlett Johansson, approached the prescription counter and asked to see the store manager. As she waited, her bodyguards stood silently while photographers snapped pictures.

When The Count emerged from his darkened manager’s office she said to him, “I’m Scarlett Johansson. I wish to give up my film career and come work for you! How quickly can I start?”

*****

Tattoo: “Ok, hold it, hold it. This has got be the lamest show we have ever done. What kind of stupid fantasies are these? A girl takes a sick day? A pharmacist fills prescriptions?”

Mr. Roarke: “Patience, Tattoo, patience. Keep watching. I’ve been doing this for years.”

*****

When he arrived at his grandmother’s house after his shift on Fantasy Island Pharmacy, Laston could tell that his mom was having a rough day with his grandmother. Laston’s mom lived with his grandma and taking care of her was a full-time job. Laston walked up the driveway and greeted his mom who was already outside, waiting by her car.

“Thank you so much for coming over to give me a break”, his mom said, “I fed her and washed her already.  She hasn’t been crying.”

“Take your time, mom, just come back when you’re ready. Oh and I bought her more of these, I wasn’t sure if she would be out of them”, Laston showed her the bottle of medication he had with him.

“You must be getting forgetful”, his mom said,” we haven’t given her those in years.  I don’t think they ever did anything to stop it. Thanks honey, I won’t be long.”

As Laston passed through her porch, he remembered his last visit with his grandmother. Her wheelchair had been positioned at a window in her tiny kitchen, which faced a dead garden in her  back yard. The dim light of the window had cast a dull grey into her blank eyes, both of which were empty of moisture save for a tiny tear hanging from each clump of corner lashes.  Her dry lips silently mouthed whispers to people who weren’t there and he had held one of her bony hands in his own.

Now, he stopped suddenly  at the entry to the kitchen.  Her  wheelchair was empty. On the floor rested the belt that usually kept her bound to the chair and the white, cotton gloves, that protected the skin of her arms and face from her compulsive scratching.

“Oh hi honey! You finally got here, I didn’t hear  you come in!” his grandmother shouted.

She had entered through the living room and held a pillow and a blanket for him.

“I’ll set up the couch for you. Hurry up; our shows are about to start. And I have those cupcakes you like in the refrigerator.”

She switched on the TV. After preparing the couch with a clean blanket and a fresh pillow, she sat in her chair with her feet up and started inspecting the scratches up and down her arms.

“Boy, I must have really overdone it working in my garden in the back yard today. I scratched the hell out of my arms.”

Laston couldn’t take his eyes off of her. He had no words.

“Hey, this isn’t our show”, his grandmother complained, “Where’s Mary? What happened to Newhart?”

The television screen contained a group of scrawny, soiled men and women. Their clothes were reduced to tattered rags. Each one in the group sat next to a lit torch, and when it was his time, one of them stood up, and turned in his torch to have its light extinguished.

“It’s called Survivor. It’s reality TV.  It’s not very fantastic. But I have a better idea.”

Laston switched off the television.

“Nan, remember the guy who used to come into our drug store wearing the crooked wig?”

“Oh yes, she laughed, “He would always try to sell the boss that horrible gold jewelry!”

He looked at her and said, “What do you say you and I go sit outside on your steps and talk until the sun goes down. I work in a drug store; you’ve worked in one forever. We could laugh about all the crazy shit that has happened to us over the years.”

“Talk with my favorite grandson? I would love it!”

She looked down at her soiled clothes and with her bony hands felt that she was wearing a diaper under a pair of black sweat pants.

“What the hell am I wearing?”, she asked, wrinkling her nose.

“Honey? Do you think I have time to take a shower and change clothes first?”

Laston glanced outside a window at the horizon. The sun looked as though it had stopped moving.

“Sure”, he said, “take all the time that you need. It looks like we have an unlimited supply of light out there.”

 

 

 

 

One Last Picture Show.

Yeah, it’s  the last installment of my Retail Pharmacy Movie.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, You’ll probably transfer all your prescriptions to mail-order.

While you are watching this, please remember, this is a series of clips of some of the lighter moments in retail pharmacy. It’s not always like this; sometimes it can be downright unpleasant.

It stars an unknown pharmacist who I’m calling Ryan (it rhymes with tryin’, or cryin’).

My cowardly disclaimer: I DO NOT know any of the individuals in my movie. All the clips that I used were found posted on YouTube, and we all know how reputable they are. Since these already live in the public domain, I don’t believe I am violating anyone’s privacy; but if enough people bitch, I’ll take the video down. Of course the Walgreen’s commercial and movie scenes are copyrighted, but the print in the copyright agreement was so tiny, I couldn’t read it.

Yeah, I’m just trying to have fun at other people’s expense.

 

Without further interruption, here are some pharmacy rough cuts: (please click the link below)

 

Saving Pharmacist Ryan

 

 

 

 

A Nightmare on Arm Street

Well, I have decided to shoot a movie. After which the audience may wish to shoot the director.

It’s pretty much a treatment on the state of retail pharmacy.  So far I only have a small budget based on accumulated Colcrys coupons, so I can only afford a clip right now.  Take a look as soon as possible, before the copyright infringement laws kick in.

 

PLEASE Click this LINK, below, to view it:

A Pharmacist’s Nightmare on Arm Street.

 

Oh, and Popcorn in the rear? Go see a doctor about that….

 

Are You Drug Dealing in the Years?

No pharmacists were harmed in the making of this blog post.

THIS, From the American Pharmacists Association:   the month of OCTOBER is American Pharmacists Month!!! In the words of my fathers, the APhA and the Omega:

 ’This month-long observance is a time to recognize the SIGNIFICANT contributions to health care and the commitment to patient care by pharmacists in ALL practice settings from around the country.’

That’s right! Pharmacy is celebrated in the same month that people put on their costumes, and trick each other into thinking that we are giving them treats.  So in preparation of next month’s “Pharmala-palooza”, we at the Refillsonian Institute proudly present:

 

MY Pharmacy postcards from the Ledge!

Like a sales flier, it will provide a quick pictorial tour of the many popular eras in pharmacy. This will be followed by a musical number performed by some special guest stars.

This entire program should take less than fifteen minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Take it away boys!

(this verse sung by the pharmacy tech)

“His never lasting boner

Is always fading fast.

But his insurance doesn’t cover

His shot at getting ass.

The words “prior authorization”

He doesn’t understand,

My butt is getting handed to me

By an erectile dysfunction man”


(CHORUS):

“Are you drug dealin’ In The Years?

And shorting tablets all the time?,

Left the Viagra guy in tears

Do you have enough of mine?”

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(this verse sung by the pharmacist)

“I kept drinking all those lattes

Since the time was eight-fifteen,

And if I don’t stop to piss soon

The floor won’t be so clean.

My Friday at the pharmacy

Didn’t turn out like I planned,

‘Cause I  just got my ass kicked

By an erectile dysfunction man”

 

(CHORUS):

“Are you drug dealin’ In The Years?

And shorting tablets all the time?,

Left the Viagra guy in tears

Do you have enough of mine?”

-

(Everyone squeezes out a quick solo)

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(this verse sung by the patient)

“I spend a lot of money, here,

And I’m always on your line.

Those plans I had for sporting wood

I’ll erect some other time.

this tribute’s nearly over

And I’m still not satisfied,

I’m writing a complaint letter

guess the  johnson’s staying dry.

 

(CHORUS):

Are you drug dealin’ In The Years?

And shorting tablets all the time?,

Left the Viagra guy in tears

Do you have enough of mine?

-

Are you drug dealin’ In The Years?

And shorting tablets all the time?,

Left the Viagra guy in tears

Do you have enough of mine?

Inventory Day

Welcome to my inventory day. I’m here to separate some of the salable items from some of the cheap crap that I have been posting on this blog. Every retail pharmacist builds up an incredible storeroom of stories. I have tried to manage mine wisely. Some of them I have sold “as is”, and others I have dressed up for the customers. It is all in the packaging.

I have something here where I wrote about pharmacy in the 1970s. I think this one suits a lot of the older people. It’s vintage.  I wish all of you were alive during this time. I know you hear this pitch from the  peddlers day in and day out, but trust me on this. Remember, pharmacy is a trusted profession.

Over here, I have another item about one long shift spent in a pharmacy.

A person really did tell me she was allergic to the ink in The New York Times. But that actually happened when I was much younger. As a teenager I was a life guard at a pool. One day, when no one was in the water, I was glancing at a newspaper, and this woman sitting near the deep end walked over and asked me to put it away. The wind was blowing the ink toward her and she was afraid of breaking out.

Also, I really did drive to an old lady’s house to check her digoxin tablets after work. She did live in a house that was lit by so many yellow light bulbs, that it made her white tablets look yellow. She fooled me into thinking I made a dispensing error, but in the end I didn’t buy it.

But that’s not all. I did have a store manager who wouldn’t turn the store lights on until right before we opened. He would get there an hour early and work in the pitch dark. Sometimes what you don’t see is what you wind up getting.

And if you act now, the story talks about a unique customer. We do have a bipolar shopper that shops at our store. She cleans out entire aisles of seasonal items when she is manic. Some shops wait for the Christmas season to make their entire year’s profit. Our store only needs 4 easy payments from the bipolar shopper.

But wait, there’s more. I did have a lady who complained about her blood pressure machine and wound up breaking down and crying when I asked why she needed to take her blood pressure THAT morning. I got clued in to asking the right question from all those years dealing with my late father. He was a tough customer.

I have another one about a compounding error that  I invented. I really did add boric acid, instead of bicarbonate, to a little kid’s compound. But it never got handled and shipped to the customer. I was damn lucky, because I am pretty sure that kid would have bought it. I saved the boric acid bottle in a desk drawer, somewhere, to serve as my constant reminder. I have no idea where it is today. I would check your purchases, carefully, if I were you.

Then there was the one about being handed a jar of pee one night in the drug store. Some lady really did hand me a bottle of urine in the pharmacy. But it was her kid’s urine, not her husbands. I guess you can’t buy trust.

And if that’s not enough, I also tried my best to accurately describe myself as if I were a package insert. Those are the folded up papers that are stuck to the top of each bottle of medicine that comes from the manufacturer. Look closely, and you will see that they are really just one large sheet that is folded a ridiculous amount of times, to reduce them to the size of a square.

Honestly, my life does seem like a package insert sometimes. I think only a few gifted people get to live grand lives that are written like novels. Some of us spend our entire lives being the same sheet of paper. When things don’t work out the way we plan them, we fold life over to a clean side, and try to rewrite ourselves. But we don’t make change. We are exactly as we were, when we were first written. And we make ourselves smaller with each fold.

I started blogging because of a plan that I formed when I was once parked on the shoulder of interstate-95 in Maryland. Three years ago my wife, son, and, I were driving to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for our summer vacation. The drive was interrupted because of another crisis at work. I spent two hours dealing with it on my cell phone, on the shoulder of I-95. A conference call in the middle of my freakin’ vacation.

I kept my family hostage because of a regional job that had started like a dream.  I had been in the right place at the right time, and the company I was working for took a chance on me. For a couple of years I was a pharmacist that no longer had to practice pharmacy.  I got to travel all over the country, live in hotels, and be the guy who supposedly fixed problems. All along, though, I knew, I had to leave it and go back to retail pharmacy. Go back to where I had started 18 years ago. Would it be insane to leave my dream job? No. I owed it to my wife and son to provide them a happier life. Two years of traveling every other week was not a definition of family.

But I have a a plan-o-gram, now. I can’t keep changing jobs. After much thought, I have realized we have to move away from New Jersey. I have been 47 years in the same place, living from job to job. Existing in a traffic jam of over-working,  frantically checking the map for the next paycheck. For what? To fill a house with a bunch of mass merchandise inventory that we don’t need. Each month hanging together by the next cleared check.

So an opportunity has come my way and this will be my final pitch. If I get it, it’s going to be my last job. It will mean a big relocation for us, to the other side of the country. And If  I don’t get this one, so be it. Our goal, as a family, will still be the same: to break out of some bad shopping habits. Bought things get old. Buying newer things will not fix that. Look back at your fondest memories. Which ones involve  purchases at an outlet mall?

So I want to resume this blog’s original plan. Not to build a mass audience. Instead, to keep a smaller one. Readers that are like myself. And we’ll talk about the new pages that we are going to add to our lives.

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