Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Prescription Lies

Now that the airlines have figured out how not to be a bunch of big fat liars when it comes to arrival and departure times, we need to get other industries to follow suit.

Oh, sure, we could target Amtrak, or doctors, or dentists, or appliance service companies. They all have tremendous room for improvement.

You seriously want me to believe you can't pin down to within a two-hour window what time of day you'll be dropping by to tell me you don't have the right parts in the van to fix our washing machine? I've really got to wait around in the hopes you'll show up sometime between 8:00am and 4:00pm? That isn't an appointment, it's an entire workday! You might as well schedule yourself to stop by sometime between April and June.

As frustrating as it may be to wait two hours past your appointment time for a doctor who would happily charge you $50 if you arrived at his office ten minutes late, the most important first target of the timeliness initiative must be the Walmart pharmacy.

Last night, I arrived at Walmart well before 6:00pm and handed over three simple prescriptions to the young lady working the Drop Off counter. While at the store, I planned to pick up some grape juice -- apparently our kids are trying to turn their insides purple by drinking thirty-seven gallons of grape juice each week -- so I asked the young lady how long it would take for them to prepare my prescriptions. Her answer: thirty minutes.

I peeked over at the six people busily at work behind the pharmacy counter. I glanced around me at the two people waiting for their prescriptions. I decided the young lady's time estimate was reasonable and sauntered over to the grocery aisles.

Twenty-five minutes later I returned to find a changed landscape.

Instead of six employees filling prescriptions, there were now only two. Where one coughing elderly man had sat alone on a metal bench waiting for his name to be called, three such men now sat. They hacked and wheezed in unison, creating a 30-foot no fly zone for anyone interested in avoiding the mystery grab-bag of contagion they were spreading. Three women hovered with their shopping carts around the pharmacy registers. They all shot dirty looks my way as I approached one of the registers to ask about my prescriptions.

"The pharmacist has yours finished but he's still working on your wife's," the cashier told me.

The pharmacist. You mean the guy in the white lab coat who, the entire time I've been shopping, has been standing there with an empty canister in one hand, a bunch of capsules in the other, and staring blankly at the computer monitor like he's never seen one before? That pharmacist? Well, how much longer does he think it will take?

"About twenty more minutes," she says.

Okay. I can handle another twenty minutes. The store is big, there's plenty to keep me distracted while I wait for twenty more minutes of my life to pass me by. Only it took a lot longer than twenty minutes. At the end of twenty minutes I was told it would be another ten minutes, then another ten, and then only five which actually lasted fifteen.

To make a long story short, at 7:30pm I left the store with my prescriptions. What started as a quick trip to the store turned into a two-hour adventure in waiting at Walmart.

I realize I could have left at any point but once you've invested enough time you have to see it through. Like watching a bad movie, you know it's only going to get worse the more you watch but you're more than halfway through and might as well stick it out to the end.

Next time, no matter what is prescribed, I'm just going to pick up a bottle of Flintstone chewable vitamins and pretend they are whatever medicine my doctor ordered.

© 2011 Mark Feggeler

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