Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Pharmacy Years, Institutional (Reprise)

One of the themes that contiunally emerges among Lamplight Drivel postings is that of looking back. I'm not a person who lets the past eat up my thoughts or time to the point of current inaction, but I feel that a good hard look at your past is exteremely valuable to your well being, your understanding of self. So many dismiss the act of looking back, as it is a sure way to stunt growth, to relive old failures. That can certainly be true, but a clear-eyed, healthy examination of what lead you to where you sit is crucial, invaluable. If we're only focused on the future, we'll never really have any perspective on ourselves and how we've developed.

So as before, I found myself wandering through an old haunt. Only now it was a furniture store that had once been an institutional pharmacy. It was almost a decade after I had quit. The building's interiors still strangely looked and smelled the same, even though all of the old counters in the back and the entire retail section out front had been ripped out to make way for wicker chairs and such. I was the only one there that afternoon; the woman at the register was engaged in something and to my relief, not practicing any hard sell tactics on me. This left me free to just gaze around, lost in memories.

As you read, my time in this segment of pharmacy was far from grand. While therewere some good moments, most of my 5 off and on years there usually found me with a pissed off demeanor. When I think back on much of my pharmacy career, I remember anger, frustration. Yes, it is what you make of it, but sometimes the environment is so antagonistic, so beyond your control, so seemingly hellbent on entropy....I learned most of my basic Rx knowledge within those walls, so I owed the building that much.

Every corner of that place had a memory, most of which I laughed off that day. I remembered those surprise visits from the Board of Pharmacy. We would only have a few minutes' heads-up courtesy of a warning buzzer sounded by the pharmacist out front. As our tech to pharmacist ratio was a bit out of bounds by law, most of the staff had to run out the back door until the inspectors finally left. Lucky ones. They would go hang out at the resturant next door and/or smoke in the alley. Guess who usually got stuck inside with these less than pleasant snoops? Sometimes, there were citations. Every time an outdated med was found, I wondered if the inspectors didn't plant them? We tried to be thorough, keeping the inventory current.

I also thought of *George, the very highly stressed pharmacist who one day got so angry his body went into a full spasm and a shoe flew off his foot and hit the wall. Lots of George memories. He was an old school chauvanist who indeed had a few harrassment charges leveled at him. He was fond of tired inneuendoes like "Lie down, I wanna talk to you!" and "Let me get something straight between us." I guess that was no worse than one of the techs who loved reciting a filthy poem that included, "This is the legend of Piss Pot Pete, Forty Pounds of Swinging Meat."

George passed away my final year during a pharmacy dinner sponsored by one of the drug companies. Right at the table.

I thought also of *Walter, a very hefty old Jewish man who had ferocious flatulence problems. It was positively eye-watering on some days. One of the more outspoken techs loudly slammed a can of potpourri spray on the counter in front of him once. He pretended he had no idea of why she did that. I went to that tech's wedding, by the way, one that had a 2 hour sermon before the vows and some of the best collard greens ever.

There were so many co-workers. I tried to recall many of them. Some weren't there long enough to register. Their faces raced through my mind. As you read, I dated a few. I also tried unsuccessfully to hook up with one woman, about 10 years my senior, who worked in medical records. We had great chemistry, but she was not interested in crossing the line. It was an excellent lesson in humility for me. But to add insult to injury, she explained how she had had a lengthy affair with one of the other techs, a guy 5 or so years younger than me. I sat and wondered "What's he got....?" I later learned that several of the girls I worked with had a thing for him. One of them married him!

I wandered the furniture store for maybe 1/2 hour. It was long enough. My thoughts would follow me in the car and homeward bound. The pharmacy had moved to an industrial park further north a few years after I had exited in 1997. I'm not sure if it still exists at the time of this writing. I don't look back on those years with any fondness. More, curiosity. Embarrassment, too. As crappy as it may have been, it was a necessary phase. I may be tempted to feel those years were wasted while I stew in regret, but then those who would damn the ideas of recalling the past would be right. And you know what? They're not.


*Not the real name

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