Founders Day

This Post was originally published on November 2nd, 2014

Happy Founders Day.  If that means something to you then you will probably enjoy this essay, if it doesn’t then it will probably give you a glimpse into one of the things that makes me tick.  Either way I suggest that you take a few minutes to read and learn a few things. 10 years ago I decided to rush Phi Delta Chi, the nation’s oldest pharmacy fraternity.  At the time it was a very logical decision, many of my friends were PDC, I lived in unofficial chapter house, I felt that school was sucking the life out of me and I knew that PDC would be an opportunity for me to push myself to try new things and build some lifelong friendships.  I think that turned out to be an understatement. The rushing and pledging process were tough, but nothing worthwhile in life is easy.  I made it through and became a brother in January of 2005.  From that time on PDC dominated my thoughts and life for the remainder of my college career and for a time after graduation.  I wanted to be super brother, I went to every event that I possibly could, from the lowest study session to several grand councils.  I filled my weekends with road trips, keg parties, and professional projects to the point that I could barely work or complete my schoolwork, which might be a reason why it took me 7 years go get my 6 year degree.  I was devoted to the point of obsession, which probably explains why both of my tattoos are PDC related, and why I had very few non PDC related friends. Our chapter was very unique.  We are one of the few all male chapters remaining and whenever you cram 20 alpha males into a small group it can make for great brotherhood, but also a lot of internal strife.  There were always factions and cliques and someone was always mad at someone else for sleeping with his ex (or current) girlfriend.  There were fights and factions, but the fact was that we were a bunch of kids and we were trying to find the best path and make our chapter the best that it could be.  This might sound a bit depressing, but I don’t have time to detail all the good times.  There were far more good times than bad, but even through the adversity we were able to form some of the strongest bonds of any PDC chapter.  In grand council 2007 there were 19 active brothers (out of 24) making us the largest chapter in attendance, the second largest chapter was our alumni association which sent 12 brothers.  These strong bonds kept me from getting burnt out and walking away, no matter how tough things got, and have kept me in touch with brothers almost every single day. As an alumnus I was extremely active.  I worked so much during the first few years that I didn’t make many friends and found myself alone in Plattsburgh and Burlington.  I would head back to Albany every other weekend to hang out with brothers and crash on people’s couches.  Eventually I got burned out by this and cut back on the travel time, now I only make it back for certain events.  I still remain active in the collegiate and alumni chapters and actually gave the keynote speech at the recent rush dinner.  It is nice to be recognized for putting in the time to maintain the bonds of brotherhood, but honestly I just enjoy hanging out with the guys.  Albany was my home for so long that I found it tough to move on.  While I am mostly settled in Middlebury, I still feel the pull to go back and relive my youth.  Fortunately I have been able to realize that nothing can change the past, but you need to grow up a bit and worry about the present a little more. I was fortunate to attend a lot of regional and national events and meet a large number of brothers from around the country.  Most of these people were wildly different from me, but shared some of the same values and experiences.  I actually met some of my best friends at these short events, people who make my life brighter and who I don’t think that I could live without.  That is a big reason why I still go to these events.  Want to do something embarrassing? Try explaining to your boss when you are 28 years old that you need a week off to fly out to *sigh* Omaha to attend your fraternity’s national meeting.  Or to non college friends that you are driving 16 hours from Vermont to Tennessee to attend a ski weekend, when you haven’t skied since 1994 then driving back 2 days later. Or that you are skipping Vermont’s Funniest Comedian contest in order to go to Andy’s Sports Bar to sing Come Sail Away at the top of your lungs, drink all the beer you can and eat all the wings you can with college students from 1-6pm simply because you have attended wingding twice a year since freshman year, and this is the time that you take the lead for consecutive attendance, but you need to keep going for 2 more years so that you are able to overtake Goose for the overall attendance record.  Yeah its kind of exhausting. Over the past 10 years Phi Delta Chi has been very good to me.  I am grateful that 131 years ago on a cold, rainy, shitty day 11 students took the initiative to start something that turned out to be bigger than themselves.  I am thankful that I was influenced to rush and pledge, and for everyone who has impacted my journey along the way.  I have been able to surround myself with some great people, and create a kind of second family.  I have had the opportunity to go to places that I would never have gone, and most likely will never return to (You Only Omaha Once: YOOO).  Phi Delta Chi has pushed me to better myself, my profession, and the world as a whole.  If you are a brother I hope that it has inspired you in that same way, if you are not then I hope that you can take some inspiration from the changes that I have made.  It hasn’t always been easy, but adversity builds character, and I am living proof that having character can make up for other shortcomings. After years of having PDC be my only outlet I have found that I really enjoy other things.  Recently I have started pursuing some of my passions, meeting new people, and seeking out a full life.  While it may not be my sole focus, it is a huge part of my life and I look forward to having to awkwardly explain to my boss that the day after my 30th birthday I need to fly out to Albuquerque in AUGUST to go to another grand council.  I guess that is part of the burden of being leaders in pharmacy, brothers for life.

The People of Retail Pharmacy Part III

This Post was originally published on July 27th, 2014

In the third part of my series on stereotypical pharmacy customers I am going to explore some of the craziest and most frequent visitors.  While I will try to poke fun at a few things, addiction is a serious problem for us as a nation and as a health care system.  Everybody that I know has had addiction impact the life of a loved one in some way or another, and I know the struggles that those in the grips of addiction face.  Some may call it a disease, others may feel that it is a deserved predicament, but sometimes when dealing with serious issues the best way to cope is to make light of it.  If you are offended I am sorry, not that I have offended you, but that your closed off world view doesn’t allow you to see that these are real people who everybody in retail pharmacy deals with on an almost daily basis.

The Shakespearean Actor

Nobody will ever claim that pain is fun, in fact being in pain sucks.  That being said our brains have an amazing capacity to deal with pain.  We always have patients who show up and act like they are in so much pain that delaying their script by 15 minutes is tantamount to torture, even though they are trying to fill it 3 days early.  It is amazing to see these people sitting in the waiting area visibly writhing in “pain” and making audible moans, yet see them pop right up and trot out of the store once their name gets called.  I have legitimate sympathy for people who are coming directly from the ED or those who are gritting their teeth and dealing with the pain, but I can tell what a person in pain looks like, and especially with frequent flyers I can tell when they are trying to put one over on me.  As the Bard said, the “lady doth protest too much methinks”

Just Need to Pass the Bar Exam

I love being told how to do my job, especially by someone who probably didn’t finish high school.  There is nothing like having someone try and argue pharmacy law based on some half cocked idea that they were given by another junkie.  “You have no legal right to write anything on MY prescription”, ok lets discuss the fact that the prescription blank is property of the doctor issued to you so that you can bring it to me and I can keep for the time period required by state law, but if you have any issues I will gladly call the police and they can clear it up for you.

The Story Teller

Dude I don’t need the story.  It is my job to fill prescriptions, just bring me a prescription and I will fill it as long as it isn’t early and there are no red flags.  Telling me an elaborate story just gives me more opportunity to hang yourself.  Keep it short and succinct and have a back story if I ask you.  Probably shouldn’t have put this one out there, now people will know how to pull one over on my.  Oh and if you are looking for needles you don’t need a diabetic grandma, just tell me that you want to shoot up but would rather not get Hepatitis, I will sell you all the needles that you could ever want.
…But Matt Would Fill It

The pharmacy manager at my store in Winooski was an awesome guy, he had been there for almost 10 years and knew all the customers and they loved him.  When I started the drug seekers smelled blood in the water.  They thought that they could get me to dispense things by uttering the simple phrase “but Matt would”.  Guess what, Matt wouldn’t.  He had a wife and kids, he valued his license and his income, I may not know him that well, but I know that he wouldn’t fill a CII 3 weeks early for cash.  Once Matt got fed up and quit I think that the Winooskites were going to build a statue to Saint Matt outside of one of the crack houses where he was depicted passing out Oxycodone to the masses.  You can pull some things over on a new pharmacist by playing one against another, but as long as you have a good team then you can spot the bullshit and shut this all down.  After hearing “but Matt would” several thousand times I became immune to it, and once he quit the same people started pulling the “but Owen would” excuse on my new partner, and they cycle continues.

Mr Nice Guy

You want to be friendly, awesome, I can be a friendly guy.  You think that by being friendly you are going to get me to jeopardize my license and livelihood, think again.  I will do my best to help you out, but within the parameters of the law.  Once I have refused you then shit goes sour.  Why do you no longer want to be my BFF?  No, well then I am going to throw away the friendship bracelet that you made me.

“Can You Hear Me Now”

Guess what I can hear you.  Yes you on your cell phone telling people that you are at the pharmacy getting your Oxy and quoting them prices.  Its called discretion, when doing illegal things you should probably use some.  I am the pharmacist, I am master of my domain.  I have the ability to simultaneously be on the phone with a doctor, type things into the computer, check prescriptions, and overhear your conversation, all while doing a computer based training.  Even if I take a break from my omnipresence my techs are pretty damn good at picking up on what is going on and alerting me to what I may have missed.  If you don’t want to respect our abilities then I suggest that you take your business deals out to the parking lot… oh and stop pretending you are in pain.

Persistence is Next to Godliness

I will give you credit, you don’t give up easily.  Maybe when I was younger I would have folded under the pressure of you grilling me, but not today bitch.  I make my decisions based on the legality of the situation and the feasibility of fulfilling the prescription.  If I don’t have it there is nothing that I can do.  If my company or the state board says that I can’t fill it then there is nothing that I can do.  I want your business, and I will do anything I can to help you out, but this is not a negotiation. Yelling and screaming will get you nowhere.  Oh and if you are trying to pull anything over on my and your friend is the one screaming at me then its even more of a red flag.  I have no problem cordially inviting you to fill your prescriptions elsewhere, not don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.

The Fall From Grace

Drugs can do some pretty serious damage to a person, and it ages them beyond recognition.  Just a few weeks ago there was what appeared to be a good looking girl with her back to me and I noticed that she had a nice figure and a short skirt and long blonde hair.  I was obviously intrigued and wanted to see what she looked like, but when she turned around I was face to face with a snaggle toothed meth monster.  This is pretty common, and I always get a kick out of the 40 or 50 year old women who look like they are in their 70s because drugs have just ravaged them.  For some reason it always seems to affect women more than men, possibly because I don’t find men to be pretty.

Cough Syrup Kid

Kids hate cough syrup, until they hit the 16-20 age range.  You really aren’t a junkie, but I am going to scorn you anyway.  No we don’t have any bigger bottles of Delsym.  No I don’t know anything that will make it taste better.  No more questions.  Go back to the suburbs and bother the pharmacist there, but watch out you might run into your mom’s friends picking up their Valium.

Everything I Own Smells Like Weed Guy

I know that this is probably breaking news to everybody, but there are some folks in Vermont who smoke Marijuana.  I don’t partake, but I have a pretty laissez faire attitude to those who do.  It is true that pot can be a gateway drug and for a lot of the drug seekers that I have dealt with over the years this is very true.  I was never shocked when people coming in trying to get their narcotics early reeked of weed, but it is actually impressive how they were able to get the smell to permeate everything.  Paper is porous, but how did you make it reek like a Phish concert during the mile drive from the doctor’s office, seriously, the time is printed on here, it was issued 17 minutes ago.

“Are You Going To Need All of That?”

It takes balls to ask an old lady if she needs all of her Percs.  Please stop offering her money to supplement her social security check or else I am going to have to ask you to leave.  I only ever whisper to the patients about 3 things, psych drugs, boner pills, and narcotics, but then again maybe someone can interpret my whispering to mean that grandma has something good.

Itchy and Scratchy

Meth is a hell of a drug.  Tin foil, coffee filters, and drain cleaner in your card and you want to buy sudafed? I may not have seen Breaking Bad (yeah yeah I know its a great show and I you loved it and I should carve out enough time to watch it on Netflix) but I know enough to refuse the sale.

Places to Go, Things to Do

God I wish that I was as busy as you are.  I just have 3 jobs, 2 camps to do work on, a very labor intensive beer habit, plus I am trying to run, take pictures, and do all that work/life balance shit and maybe occasionally sleep, but if I get a prescription I am ok waiting 15 minutes for it.  God forbid it takes me 16 minutes, you have places to go, things to do, and drugs to consume, plus you have customers waiting in the parking lot.

The Posse

These people all seem pretty trying, don’t they?  Well imagine all of them coming together in a group.  Drug seekers aren’t solitary creatures, they tend to work together to try and beat the system.  They talk among themselves and when one person figures out a way to get what they want you often see several people pulling the same trick.

Addiction is a terrible problem, and it isn’t isolated to one race, class, group, or economic class.  There will always be addiction so maybe this was in bad taste, but if you walk into any pharmacy in the country you will find some of these folks.  There are many faces of addiction, and these are just a few of them.  I hope that this wasn’t in bad taste, but I was always told to write what I know and to speak the truth.

The People of Retail Pharmacy Part II

This Post was originally published on March 9th, 2014

The second part of a series almost never lives up to the hype of the first, but I figured that I would give it a shot.  Here are some of the people that I see every day that I work the bench.

Ms Call From the Parking Lot

Everything is going fine when you are on the phone with her until you ask when she wants to pick up her refill, then BAM she drops the bomb, she is waiting right outside and wants it immediately. Yes she knew that she needed this med, yes she knew that she was going to stop by and get it, yes she knows that it takes us a few minutes to get it ready, but no it never crossed her mind that she should let us know before she hit the parking lot. She might also tell you that she will be in “later” and show up within minutes, because it technically is later.

  • Accessories: Cell phone, misplaced sense of time and space

The Foreign Lady

Not to be confused with the Ambigiously Foreign Guy, this woman is in her 30s or 40s and speaks English well but with an accent. Not only does she speak English, but she is able to yell in English. The fact that a product is not commercially available in the US is solely my fault, and I am clearly not smart enough to know how important this medication is to her. If she is looking for a prescription that is available over the counter in her homeland she simply cannot believe that I am not willing to break federal law and just give her what she wants. She may have commuted from Montreal and is upset that I can only provide her with a 500 count bottle of vitamins when she drove all the way there just to buy a 3 year supply.

  • Accessories: Well stamped passport, Some sort of scarf or ascot or whatever

The Travelers

Prepping to leave on a trip is stressful, there is so much that you need to pack, you might even want to bring your meds with you. You have known that you were going away for months now, the fact that you waited until the day before you leave to get your refills is totally my fault. Yes I do know how important this medication is, that is why I provide it to you, it is not my fault that the insurance won’t cover it early. Its Sunday and your flight leaves tomorrow at 8AM, maybe you should have checked to see if you have refills remaining when you Doctor was in the office. Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.  I just wish that I had Medicaid so that I could go on as many vacations as you can.

  • Accessories: Packed suitcases, bottle with no refills

Johnny Come Lately

There has to be a special circle of hell for people who drop off prescriptions within 5 minutes of closing. We all have the one, the guy who just realized that we are closing and that he needs to get his scripts. I sympathize if if someone just got out of work and is rushing home, but if you decided to take a break from playing video games and come in now then you are just getting on my nerves. This is even worse when it becomes a pattern and they know that they are keeping you from going home to your loved ones (even if the only loved ones waiting at home are beers).

  • Accessories: No comprehension of time or etiquette, prescription dated last week

The Dirty Old Man

Congratulations bro, I haven’t seen anybody that proud of buying condoms since that teenager rode his bike over here. I hope that I am that virile when I am 94 years old, but seriously if you wink at me again I am going to have to ask you to leave. AAAHHH now I am going to question if that was a “Look I still got it” wink or a “What are you doing after work” wink (#vermont). I understand your gripes about how your Part D insurance wont pay for Cialis, but I do think that Obama has better things to do than sit around and maliciously deny your claims so that you have to pay out of pocket.

  • Accessories: Box of condoms, motorized scooter

No Deductible Lady

What do I mean that it is going to cost $100?  I mean that your insurance said that you had to pay $100. No I assure you that I am not just pocketing this money. You may say that you have “never heard of such a thing” but I can assure you that we had this same discussion a mere 365 days ago. Ma’am I can print out proof that you paid the same deductible last year. Oh you don’t trust our computer records over your own memory, I am shocked. You can feel free to go to whatever pharmacy that you choose, but you are going to have the same problem everywhere because the pharmacy doesn’t control the copay. If you want I can waste more of my valuable time getting your insurance company on the line so that they can tell you something that you ignored when you got your new cards. See you next year so that we can have the same discussion, its basically tradition now.

  • Accessories: Gigantic purse filled with every card known to man, insurance paperwork sitting on her desk at home

The Stoner College Student

Yeah man I am the pharmacist bro, yeah dude I can totally answer your question. Shut up, I am not your brother, I am a trained professional. Answering questions is part of my job, but I am not going to tell you the best way to get high off readily available medication, that is what the internet is for. I don’t know what Vaporub is the best to put on when you are on Extacy, or which bottle of Robitussin will give you the best robotrip, that is not what I do. I can however point you toward the Visene, its in aisle 6.

  • Accessories: Some sort of smoking device, Hoodie emblazoned with the name of his mid level liberal arts college

Religious Lady

I have no problem with religion, in fact I find it to be pretty interesting. Just because I spend my Sundays at work or at the bar watching football does not mean that I am a heathen that needs to be converted. This lady is probably one of the best annoyances that we could have, she is very sweet. She generally calls in way ahead of time, and is very patient, but she is pushy in her own way. I respect that she is someone who lives what she preaches all week instead of just an hour on Sunday like most people. That being said ending every phone conversation with “bless you” doesnt make up for that fact that she tries to cram her beliefs down the throats of every person she encounters. Since we no longer heal only using faith then should also be a separation of church and medicine.

  • Accessories: Church hat, dozens of tiny biblical pamplets that she leaves at the register

(Note: This statement does not apply to nuns. While nuns are technically religious ladies, they are also married to Christ so they can basically get away with anything)

The Neglectful Parent

I am not a parent so I am really not supposed to judge your ability to take care of another living thing, especially after the horrible death that my houseplant suffered. I suppose that every parent loses their temper from time to time, but there are pretty tell tale signs that this isn’t an occasional thing and you are just a shitty parent. Thanks for letting your kid run around and destroy everything on the bottom 3 shelves. I really appreciated that, maybe if you yell at him louder while reading that magazine in the waiting room you he will stop doing it. Seriously if you swear at him and threaten to hit him again I am calling Child Protective Services. I feel bad for the kid, with you as a roll model and god knows what he caught from all the cigarettes that you smoked during the pregnancy he is clearly is in for a rough life. Now please stop him from terrorizing the No Deductible Lady, and for God’s sake keep him away from the Dirty Old Man.

  • Accessories: Buy one get one free cigarettes, WIC card

Look for Part Three of the Trillogy coming to a Facebook near you in a few weeks

The People of Retail Pharmacy Part 1

This Post was originally published on February 22nd, 2014

Today I was dealing with a difficult patient on the phone and once I hung up the tech that I was working with said “Was that NAME REDACTED? She is one of a kind” but in reality she isn’t There are literally thousands of people just like her terrorizing pharmacists across the nation. I was inspired by a blog post that I read a few weeks ago where an artist made renditions of Barbies to represent different parts of Massachusetts. I have worked in 42 different retail pharmacies (yes I counted) during the past 8 years and here are my ideas for Barbies/action figures that represent some of the stereotypical people that I have seen.

Pajama Girl

You know that 19/20ish year old girl who stumbles into the pharmacy around the crack of noon. She has managed to plaster on every cosmetic known to man but somehow pants have eluded her.

  • Accessories: Iphone, hoop earrings, EBT card

The Talker

We all have the patient who is there for the conversation. In my mind I always picture the guy who swings by just because he was in the neighborhood and he might as well as stop in and fill his 10 medications, none of which he can remember the names for, what they do, or when he last filled them. Not only did he add to your workload he has the feeling that making conversation when you are trying to do your job will totally make you work faster and more efficiently. Another version of this is the lonely old lady sitting at home looking for attention who calls the pharmacy on a regular basis just to have some human contact.

  • Accessories for the visitor guy: Hawaiian shirt (or some other strange fashion choice), too much time on his hands.
  • Accessories for the lady on the  phone: replaces the Hawaiian shirt with a bathrobe, neglectful grown children

The Hypochondriac

No ma’am I am sure that you do not have Stevens Johnson Syndrome. No I don’t think that you should go to the hospital. No that antibiotic gave you a tummy ache, you are not really allergic to it. No I understand that you are worried, I am not brushing you off, I just have other people who I need to help, real people with real illnesses.

  • Accessories: Constant sense of worry, computer with access to WebMD

College Girl

Not to be confused with the Pajama Girl. This girl may be wearing pajamas and a hoodie, but she will eventually go places, places that require real pants. This girl is not that bad once you get her birth control set up on automatic refill, but that first time you just want to slam her head through the window of her Daddy’s beemer.

  • Accessories: Sense of righteous indignation, last year’s insurance card

Ambiguously foreign guy

Every store that I have ever worked at no matter how small or rural always has at least 1 foreign guy, some stores have tons of them. There are two options, the “I LOVE AMERICA, AMERICA NOMBER ONE”, or “I don’t understand a single word that you are saying so I am just going to nod.” I generally like these guys mostly because they never complain.

  • Accessories: Leather Jacket even though it is the middle of the summer, Tenuous grasp of the English language.

The Curmudgeon

Comes in both male and female versions. No matter what you do you will never satisfy this person, but you have to try or else they will call and complain again.

  • Accessories: Your boss on speed dial.

Natural Hippie Lady

Yeah you know who lived shorter lives than us? Everyone who lived before penicillin. Natural does not equal good. Some natural supplements and vitamins are very useful, but they are not the only thing that helps. Trust me lady that Saint Johns Wart wasn’t plucked off the plant in capsule form. May be a grown up version of the College Girl

  • Accessories: Unvaccinated child with strange name, funny hat

The Vacationing Couple

Getting sick on vacation sucks, I sympathize, but seriously you are grown ups, get your shit together. I am not a marriage counselor, its not my fault that you picked the wrong place to hike and now he has poison ivy. No I can’t just make it go away, there is an urgent care down the street, repeating that you are on vacation doesn’t change my recommendations.

  • Accessories: Disgusting rash that she will gladly make him show you, emotional baggage, bored texting teenagers.

Mr. 1cc Longs

If you have ever worked in a pharmacy then you know this guy, all we can do is take solace in the fact that he isn’t sharing needles.

  • Accessories: Package from the previous time that he was here (yesterday), diabetic Grandma

The My Stupid Kids Are Sick… Again Parent

I am sure that the first time you kid is sick must be terrifying, but after that it must lose its allure. This person is obviously exhausted and run down, you cant help but sympathize, hell I may even throw in flavorRx for free.

  • Accessories: Bags under the eyes, crying child, look of despair.

Drive Thru Versions

The Old Person

I feel bad, these are the people who deserve to use the drive through, but the chances of an accident are far too high, just let us deliver it for you. He/She can’t hear a single thing even though I am yelling into a microphone and the speaker is 12 inches from their head. “What? I said what is your birthday. What? BIRTHDAY? Earth May?” Yeah we have all been there.

  • Accessories: Drivers License that hasn’t been renewed since the 80s, Life Alert
  • Car: 90s Buick LeSabre

The Businessman

Yes sir I understand that you are in a rush, but it is still going to take 15 minutes. Yes it will make me work faster if you critique how I do the job that I got a doctorate in by evaluating what you can see while looking through a piece of bulletproof (is it bulletproof?) glass.

  • Accessories: Nice suit, Sense of urgency, bluetooth headset
  • Car: Some imported luxury car

The Smoker

The real reason pharmacies installed drive thrus so that you don’t have to put out your cigarettes. No I will not sell you cigs any through the drive through, Yes you have to walk all the way to the front register to get them. Just think back to your younger days when you used to walk all the way back to the pharmacy while wearing your pajama pants.

  • Accessories: Pigpen style cloud of smoke, at least 1 child in the backseat
  • Car: Some piece of shit with overflowing ashtrays

I Ain’t Payin’ No Copay

I am not trying to be racist here, but after all the stores I worked at in Albany I do assign this tag to a person of a certain race in my mind. You know the guy, there is no way that he is paying his copay, because why would he, the government is going to pay it for him. This type of waste is the worst part of working retail pharmacy. Seeing people take advantage of the system while you are working 12 hour shifts and losing 35% of your paycheck just sucks.

  • Accessories: Obnoxious amount of jewelry, Kids eating happy meals.
  • Car: Brand new freshly washed car.

Note: the race the I was referring to was white people you racist.

As you will obviously notice I left off drug seekers and junkies mostly because it would be too easy. Hell I can devote an entire post to that, maybe someday I will.

I hope that everybody enjoyed this, I certainly enjoyed coming up with these. Please add your own stereotypical customers in the comments.