Monthly Archives: March 2013

Pharmacy People – Forever Young


There are definitely certain advantages to working at a pharmacy. And before we start making methamphetamine jokes, I mean for those who enjoy their jobs and perform them legally.

For example, I can go in any day of the week and get a free consultation on my current medication, on potential future medications I may need to take, or the risks of mixing loratadine with over-the-counter pain killers like ibuprofen (there really aren’t any).  I can learn exactly what my grandfather’s medication does to help him, what insurance companies are really doing when your co-pay is over fifty dollars, and how many drug reps it takes to sell one box of lancets to a stubborn haggler. I can even learn the per-pill price of every medication we carry and realize just how much good health costs these days, at least for some.

I also have the advantage of getting to know my community (Houghton students, gimme a C!) and its members quite intimately  While some of that intimate interaction does involve hearing play-by-plays of colonoscopy preparation and being shown horrendous rashes in order to diagnose a creeping ailment, not all of it  is disease and horror. Occasionally it just involves a hello and a chuckle with the same man who comes in at noon every day to buy his newspaper. He scatters two quarters, a nickel and a dime into my hand with a sprinkling motion and emits a the manliest “tee hee hee” you’ve ever heard before wandering back out into the afternoon.

Or perhaps it’s the elderly woman who met me when I first started working, and even though she’s been confined to bed rest for some time, she is always so thrilled when I answer the phone to write down her RX numbers. “Is this my special friend?” she asks before laughing and demanding I let her know how I’m faring at the job and what’s new with the bustle of Akron.

There’s also the regular Lottery players who exchange small talk and success stories while I print them their usual tickets, and who never leave before slipping me a dollar to share their good fortune. Lottery creates a split atmosphere, as some people are obnoxious with half-hour that passes with them at the scratch-off table or how much change they need from me before they’ve run their luck out for the day. But they spend money, and in the business of making money you take any and all who are willing.

Growing up in a relatively large city outside of Cleveland, I never understood the “small town atmosphere” that so many novelists encapsulated in their stories. I never understood the characterization of citizens like I do now that I’ve been living in a town with a population of 2,856 and working at a local business. There are many, many characters and many, many plot lines.  There are categorized villains and jokers and nomads. It’s quite easy to learn names and begin recognizing people when I see them lined up in front of me daily and I can see just how different they all are. Being at the pharmacy, however, has also made me very self-conscious of my good health, happiness and youth. Almost every day, I have elderly people shuffle through their bag of many drugs, sigh wearily and look at me with narrowed glances .

“Never grow old. It’s just awful. Stay young forever.”

What in the world am I supposed to do with that? It puts me in the most awkward position. What’s my best response to that? Let’s see…

1. “I will, I will! Curse your age, I shall defy it and stay young for ALL ETERNITY.”
2. “Ok, thanks for the tip. Did you want your receipt in the bag or with you?”
3. “Uh… well… how do I stop it?” 

I just become exceedingly aware of the fact that I am young, fit and not on any regular medication.

I do my best to relate to everyone who comes in my door, but there are times when I don’t know what I can do except accept them where they are at and give them at least one smile in their day.

Today in particular, I was sent on the delivery to a few of our residents who are unable to get out to pick up their medications themselves. One woman began to relate to me the regrets of her youth and her poor choices and her failing health and while I tried to encourage her, all I was thinking  was “not me, never me, I won’t regret and I won’t want to do it all again.”

These people are lonely. Most of them live with either a disabled spouse or no spouse at all. I do my best to enjoy my brief visits with them when I can, simply to remind them that while they may not have much around them, they do matter. And since they can’t do it all again, we’ll make the best of where they are at now.

I know we all grow up with this sentiment of every children’s book or television program tattooed on our brains – the one that says “Be the best you can be! Reach for the stars and follow your dreams!” Most of us can’t appreciate that sentiment. Either we keep trying and are blinded into non-retrospection or we let it fall apart and live the depressing reality of a dead-end street like so many of the kids I grew up with.

However, when you’ve seen the people who didn’t live lives to be proud of and who really don’t feel like their life led anywhere good, you begin to find the sincere motivation to wake up each day and say “I will live a good life. I will stay healthy and have everything in moderation, I will do well in my marriage and find joy in all things and happiness when possible.”

Like New Year’s Resolutions, we can all be good liars. But let’s strive not to lie and not to cheat. We can be human and fail and not do our best some days, but the difference is found in the will to get up and do better next time. You can’t really regret those choices you’ve made in life because then you can never learn from them. We all wish things had never happened, but if we’re always wishing things had never happened, we’d never have grown and learned the way we have. We would not be the people we are.

I want to look back at my life when I’m eighty and not want to trade those spent years for anything in the world.

I said there were many advantages to working at a pharmacy – like being constantly reminded of how other people live and how you can learn from their example, both good and bad.

One day at a time. Just one long youthful day at a time.