Friday, December 18, 2009


Played the piano today. I was so nervous, thought I'd have to bailout, make some total lame excuse, like a car accident or a lacerated thumb, the usual. But then as luck would have it, Rob was fretting over his miserable job outlook, my son became unhinged when he couldn't find his flute, of course minutes before the school bus arrived, and wonder of wonders, my lower back went out. Completely out, as in tried to sneeze and I thought I'd die. So just like that, an honest to goodness, built in excuse. But Jewish guilt forced me to stand up, walk out the door into the freezing cold, and ever so slowly lower myself into the car. Please, save the applause... I did what any Jewish girl would do. I SHOWED UP.

Played like a charm. Without a hitch, even Benedictus. This is a special needs high school and my page turner had turrets, so I knew I needed to be calm, for him, for a gymnasium full of parents, grandparents and teachers, for those kids singing their hearts out.

Yes, we are getting to some semblance of a drug reference. Advil really deserved all the credit. Sorry folks, that all I got today.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Piano, writing and pharmacy

So far nothing in the job department. Apparently this crumby economy has hit pharmacy big time. Not that job searching over the holidays helps. Once in a while an independent pharmacy shows interest but the only hours available seems to be on weekends and nights. I've been saying no to these off hours, retaining some semblance of self, but who knows how long I can keep that up.

Meanwhile, I keep looking, each day, here and there. As I said, I don't mind, it adds a bit of socializing to my mostly solitary days of writing. I know it would help with the loneliness if I could be out there, dispensing in retail, for those two days a week. I'm not asking for much!

Had a wonderful weekend. R came over with her family for Hanukkah, did a scavenger hunt for the boys' presents, had them running all over the house. B was thrilled with his yo yo. Rob and I doing pretty darn great. Playing piano for the school choir this Friday, she threw at me five pieces, Benedictus is actually beautiful, but now I have to practice like mad, the usual, needing the money. All over the place. I just want some pay for the writing and then all this other crap would be dropped in a heartbeat. Well, maybe not the piano, I do love that... despite the nerves.

Friday, December 4, 2009

My brother quotes Voltaire, I stick to Doris Day as in 'what will be will be.' I should be down in Florida with my brother and sister overseeing my father's new aortic valve, but instead I'm stuck in New Jersey on the phone. I call every few hours, mostly keeping the lifeline open.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

This I Believe

Life is good, life is great. What a relief, not having to study anymore, to spend my days writing, playing piano, yes, yes, looking for a job. Rob and I had a fight, he wants me to work three days a week, but to me three days is just cutting too much into a writing life. Yesterday got a piece into This I believe on NPR online. It's what I know I should be doing, and doing often, as in at least 3 days a week. That leaves two days for pharmacy, that's the bargain I tell Rob.

I really want to write all morning, read in the afternoons, and mostly muse about. But I do feel guilty. Rob works hard, is worried about his job, and we do have repair needs on this house. So I guess it's a balancing game, will take some finesse, if I just plod ever so further along each day in these different areas, not to be too cliche but ... we'll just see where the process takes me.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


I passed. Don't ask me how, it was a complete shock to me. They really must have skewed the curve, but who cares, it's over. Beginning to throw out notes, index cards, scraps of paper with Schedule drugs scribbled on them. And yet, the elation has only lasted a day. Maybe it's that certain Thanksgiving weekend blues, or just the trough after the high, but whatever, it didn't last.

I've been thinking. Wondering about what type of job to get in pharmacy. No chains as you know by now. I figure I'll search high and low, scour the streets of New Jersey, to find that independent pharmacy with a kind owner, who gives out a decent lunch break and has a well placed chair for tired feet. I''m thinking ethnic, maybe a Pakistani drug store in Paterson, or a Portuguese pharmacy in Newark, that is assuming it's okay that I don't speak their language. Crazy? We'll see.

Tomorrow I'll start looking. Craigslist, I hire, my Rutgers alma mater. This part is the fun part, meeting people, testing their sensibilities, seeing if we mesh. Yet why do I think the actual 'working' will eventually morph into just one more Acme.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Selling shoes in Bloomingdales?

It went poorly. Basically studied for two and a half months straight, on average four to five hours a day (counting six to seven in the last few days), and maybe, just maybe, there were 10 out of 90 questions from the Board's Laws and Regulations website, the Abood federal book, CDS guidelines, etc. Called the NJ Board of Pharmacy to ask if there is some type of tutorial service for the next time around, but the director was dismissive. "Our staff has gone from 14 to 8 and frankly do you expect me to spend time on this?"

So now I have to prove my worth at home, you know, stay-at-home mom, with no likely wage earnings in the near future, etc.

Maybe you didn't fail, my son and husband say. I guess miracles do happen. But it's unlikely, by question 20 I was mostly guessing and deep breathing, by question 50 I was a guessing ne'er-do-well, thinking let me get the hell out of here and take my mother-in-law for her orthopedic shoes.

OK, so herein lies the rub. A year and a half ago I passed the Mass exam with a score of 89 (granted I over studied), so now how is it possible that after working a thousand hours as an intern and still studying my tuchas off, that I fail, and fail miserably. I hate this lousy profession!!!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Seeking National Lampoon

Seeing the headline in Newsweek magazine last week, "How do you solve a problem like Sarah?" made me think of a little ditty to sing at a pharmacy if and when I actually find a job. Something along the lines of "It's been a hard days night" while dispensing Viagra, or "I just had a case of urea" to the tune of West Side Story's Maria. Actually, now that I think of it, Walblues already does it with their annoying soundtrack of brain dead songs like 'He ain't heavy he's my brother' ...all you need is a Schedule IV appetite suppressant to go with it. Why do I think people wouldn't laugh. More to the point, that they'd call headquarters and get you fired. Let's face it, the 70's are gone, the days when National Lampoon inspired a mischevious smile and then you and your best-of-all best friend doubled over in laughter. Where the hell is the doubled over laughter anymore?

Ok, back to studying.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

CVS...caught ya!

What more do we need to hear of these chains to understand that the system just isn't working. This week CVS Caremark lost bigtime with a $875,000.00 settlement to NY State for selling expired products-eggs, OTC (over the counter) drugs, etc. This isn't the first time, they were found guilty of this exact negligence back in 2003, but I suppose they needed a heftier fine to have it hit home. But that was small potatoes, the stock plunged in the last few days by 20% with a billion dollar single day loss.

So let's just take a moment and think about this. If the chain had simply hired a few more people --Walblues too has cut it's staff-- well, hmm, conceivably, some of those employees could have checked the stock, helped customers, actually improved the bottom line. But as things go, they are now forced to pay what they might have paid with improved customer service... and too late, you can't take back the tainted public relations.

Let's keep vigil on these chains, call Andrew Cuomo in NY or our own state's attorney general whenever we get a whiff of rotten eggs or tylenol melting in it's container or lumpy baby formula. But still, it's not as though they're in the health care business.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Almost there

Yes, yes I know, I've been a no show for quite some time. I'm starting to sound like those other bloggers, you know the ones with the big followings, but even with my small attempts I do feel guilty for letting anyone down. Actually there's not much to report, at least not within the pharmacy world, mostly just studying piecemeal, two hours here and there, around my birthday, a trip to NYC with my son, to Philly for a memoir festival, and now finally, it's just me and my law notes off to the library. I set a date for the test, November 23, 8 AM.

I've been trying to get refreshed with these outside activities, knowing each Monday it's back to the grind, but especially in the last few days, that hasn't worked. If anything, today I'm finding comfort in staying away from people, complex relationships, jealousy, etc., and glad to simply play robot with my books. Maybe later I'll share more on these feelings, but for now it really is a must that I get going and study.

Friday, October 30, 2009

And God said onto Moses, "let there be lunch"

So here it is, Section 13:39-6.4 -no not of the bible- of the NJ State Board of Pharmacy bylaws: Meal Breaks. A sole pharmacist on duty may take a 30 minute meal break while working in a pharmacy. A sign shall be posted in the pharmacy stating "Pharmacist on meal break, but available for emergencies and counseling." So why, dear reader, do these aforementioned pharmacists not demand their rights from the chains that bind, and take those precious 30 minutes. Because they are afraid of getting fired, that's why. But the CVF and Walblues managers are laughing it up in some Applebees restaurant (they too are getting screwed by the tippy top tier management who are truly chuckling on some island resort in Tortola.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


There's something about this constant rain and memorizing mundane pharmacy laws that makes me either want to cry or eat an entire tin of ginger snap cookies. At least they're not as fattening as a column of double creme oreos.

Today I ventured back to the cubicles at Seton Hall where I could see the human form and secretly pity others plodding through some gargantuan textbook. I just couldn't bear to be alone in my house one more day. My husband printed the entire laws and regulations section from the NJ Board of Pharmacy and off I went, resolute and focused. I lasted three hours.

I got home around 2, flipped on the TV and came upon the history channel documenting the Nazi seige of Rome. Watched footage of a handful of Italian partisans sabotage a German tank parade. "Ten Italians for every German killed," Hitler decreed. Once again I feel pharmacy and WWII are brutally in sync.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Feeling better today. And once again sorry for... was it yesterday's tirade? Can't keep track of time these days, each day passes into the next with all this studying. Just finished section 4 of NJ regulations- after three numbing hours- and now off to meet R for lunch. Gorgeous day, kind of happy, realizing as painful as the studying is, it still beats working at Acme. Therein lies the dilemma, the paradox, that after all this work, it's only to return to the misery of working in a retail pharmacy hellhole.

Driving to the Windsor Diner in Westfield for lunch, passed an A & P advertising a newly opened pharmacy. Had an aha moment. Maybe, just maybe, that might be a suitable, palatable workplace. I mean, it couldn't possibly be as busy as an Acme or Walblues. And there are all those memories of my mother and I shopping there (well the one in Asbury Park) in the 60's, happily snacking on cheese-nips. Could it be a sign?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Moo cows

Something tells me cooking blogs get more hits. I mean, really, who exactly would find a pharmacy blog interesting except maybe a clutch of retail geeks that would have been happier doing research at a pharmaceutical house and a smattering of chain store 'slave to money' types who sold out long ago and are just plain miserable. Sorry, but I'm not in a great mood.

Let's face it, I'm not real adept at enticing readership, call it lack of leadership, or after this, insulting the readership. As you can see, studying brings out the absolute worst in me. Please have mercy on me today. I'm a wreck.

Rob and I were up at five this morning talking about how we both aren't good at the corporate game: the ingratiating, the maneuvering, the deception needed, to lure people onto one's band wagon. It takes a certain amount of guile, a bit of the charm, and then the crowds gather. Rob's company sent out a list of the front men in the now downsized firm and it was full of these snake charmers, no surprise there, but what really irks me, is that the moo cows always follow.

It's especially apparent in these women magazines, or in these cooking blogs, just read the comments, "Oh Molly, I so know what you mean about your friend Mav!! You are just so lucky to have these wonderful people in your life." Oh save me the rave. Meanwhile Molly's blog seems to have gone to sunnier pastures, and now where do all her loyal cow fans go?

By the way I almost married a snake charmer. But after two and a half years I just couldn't do it. He was so funny, handsome, had tons of moo cow friends, yes, even rich. Maybe I got scared of living on the tip most summit, I just naturally gravitate to safer ground. Boy did I ever hit ground.

Or, in other words, a comment now and again from you would help.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Demerara sugar makes the medicine go down

Sitting in my pajamas reading the cooking blog Orangette, wishing I could just stay like this all day, maybe attempt her banana bread recipe with Demerara sugar, take a hot bath midday to offset this October chill. I'd drink a strong cup of coffee late morning, with of course that oven-warmed, sugar-glistening bread.

But guilt calls, in the form of the Abood pharmacy book chapter 5, and Rob's fretting voice this morning over bills. I know this layoff will be a slow drain, hitting us more and more as the weeks and months go by. I'm trying to keep it at bay, buying groceries well, cleaning up around the house (in preparation of letting the cleaning lady go?) and sending Rob off with bagged lunches. But I know it's an uphill battle, and eventually we'll be standing in the hallway angry and yelling, and he'll say those dreaded words, "why are you taking so long getting your %%$$## pharmacy degree!"

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Abood and me

Yes, I know, writing a confessional on being a pharmacist is kind of moot when I'm no longer one. A temporary setback. Memorizing mundane DEA rules for two excruciating hours till I could scream with boredom, wanting to hop on a train to New York City and escape to a really expensive lunch, wonderful book in hand, and then a movie. You know, kind of the life I had.

Thankful for the Abood book on Federal pharmacy law. As boring as the subject matter is, he does try and spice it up and really does a rather good job considering.

Got an e-mail response from the district manager asking if I was done with my internship. Unfazed as to knowing I wasn't even working. So, it's clear, the seemingly corporate decisions of cutting me from the payroll were from Sally and Rachel, rather unilaterally. Creepy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Elusive Date

Well, I never did hear from Rachel. Another pharmacist confided that she overheard her saying I wasn't needed on Monday, something about hiring someone else. It seems that the grapevine is the preferred method of corporate chain store delivery these days. Confused. And once again, hurt. Handling rejection has never been my strong suit.

Or playing hard to get; admittedly I called Rachel a few to many times over the last few days. In desperation, sent an e-mail to the district manager saying I'd worked only one day in the past three weeks and just curious, was this sanctioned?

So, nothing left to do but study. Mostly rote memorization of the Schedule IV appetite suppressants reminding me of my own dieting shortfalls. Went for a walk, carrot stick in hand and thought of starting a new blog on crash dieting. A few titles came to me, 'Confessions of a crash dieter' (already taken), 'Over the Hill to Skinny'- get the double meaning? 'Tribulations of a Fatty.' Day one, ate one carrot stick, walked one mile, lost one pound. Day two, ate two carrot sticks, walked two kilometers, lost two pounds. Sort of like Julie & Julia, only instead of 365 recipes in a year, 365 pounds in a, oh forget it.

Who knew I once tried a Schedule I drug? No not heroine. No not LSD. I was 25, madly in love, or so I thought, only now I think it might have been the MDA, the love drug.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The brain squish

OK, so I guess I started off too quickly, studied too much, too soon. My head felt like it was stuck in some medieval vise, about to implode--self-imposed implosion always being the worst. Basically, I need to build up momentum. So this week I brought the draconian down a notch. Now I'm studying at home instead of the library which was too loud anyway, with all the whispering and annoying finger tapping on laptops till I felt like I was dropped into a vast stenographers' pool.

Of course at home there's other distractions, like my mother-in -law calling every half hour asking where her son is. "He's at work," I tell her. I feel guilty as hell, that I should drop everything and visit her, but I turn off that part of brain and study. Or I take my son for his yearly checkup, arrive just in time, then sit and wait for an hour. I did yell at the doctor. Again felt guilty. And I know this is all because I have to get this thing done, if I don't do it, it will just fall back on itself and be one huge, wasted, forgotten effort. You know, Sisyphus as hapless, perennial pharmacy intern.

Meanwhile I got home yesterday from the Jersey shore house--where I actually installed my first toilet seat, mowed the lawn, then sat in my car at Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park and studied for 2 hours- only to hear Rachel's clinical voice asking me to call her at Acme. Great I'm thinking, Rob's job is hanging by a dendrite, and now the commandante is going to ax me. Last week I told her I couldn't work on Yom Kippur, could she fit me in any other hours? Asked her again as I was leaving, "Can't you fit me in at all, as it is I'm only working one day a week, seriously I'll remember nothing in two weeks. " I guess we know where that went. So now she's pulling the same stunt, unless of course I'm fired. I'll let you know.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Typing and filling

Reality has settled in over the last few days. A rather sobering affair that reality. So now I know the road ahead, which is to study four hours a day, take the MJPE, PASS MJPE, and get the hell out of Acme as fast as possible.

I worked yesterday, another manic Monday, but surprisingly no one bothered me, except for Rachel saying "what did you do?" when the paper ran out at the cash register. "I didn't do anything!" I snapped back at her. But she was busy giving shots all day and I was mostly left alone filling, then later typing and entering Rx's which went smoothly in that coldly efficient, robotic way.

The hours go by, but I feel sorry for everyone around me. Sorry for the pharmacist Harry, in his late sixties, who has worked in this god forsaken profession for over 35 years, his reddened eczema-scabbed hands and arms to show for it. Sorry for the menopausal clerks with sunken eyes and aching backs who barely say hello in the morning. But mostly sorry for myself; I have a comparison, I know deep down that this is complete drudgery work, that everyone's in it for the money, whether it be the minimum wage, or the $52.00 per hour pharmacist going rate. My little secret...that my old writing life and those years in the print business were pleasureable, yes, even magical.

But who cares, now I'm just one of them. When people approach the counter they see a woman with pursed lips and tri-focal glasses straining to read the computer, or to hear a voice on the phone amid all the chaos. "Are you new?" someone asked yesterday. No, I tell him, I've been here 1000 hours. And counting, I'm thinking. But I get it, I have that look like everything is an effort.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

That's Life

Well I guess you could say the inevitable happened. I could hear it immediately in my husband's voice. Not quite getting fired, but a slow-bleeding death of half pay with the possiblity of no health insurance. Our finances and life as we knew it are definitely over. I panicked, screamed and ranted that no way would I work a full 40 hour week in pharmacy, that I wasn't prepared to be the breadwinner, not in such a choking, ulcer-inducive profession. But a few hours later I calmed down and now, a day later, I'm considering exactly that. What else can I do? It's been such a roller coaster, but I can't let my family fall apart.

So, this morning went back to my old haunt at the Seton Hall Library, same floor, same cubicle, same vaguely familiar Federal pharmacy law I'd studied over a year ago. I guess it beats just sitting around fretting. Proactive is my new motto. Oh right, Just Do It. Speaking of which, one bright point... we rented the Jersey Shore house. And still eating lots of raspberries. Driving home from the library Frank Sinatra's 'That's Life' came on the radio and it made me smile. I haven't yet cried.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tired of the fight

I'm recuperating from yesterday. My feet ache, though only a bit, and I'm just slightly hungover with that heavy, depressive feeling I get each time I work an 8 hour shift at Acme. It's that disconnect of nonstop frenetic work, while in earshot of the easy banter of coworkers who can count pills and giggle about boyfriends and schmooze with customers. It just weighs on my soul. Entering nearly 400 scripts and basically not one word from anyone, unless you count chastising the still inept intern.

I guess that's where the spoiled pops up again. I never held a job before where I truly had to WORK. In all my other jobs, albeit in my twenties (the last time I worked on a daily basis with people), whether as a cashier, or a teacher, or a camp counselor, I made connections with my fellow workers. You know... friends. Those days, when a conversation had a beginning, a middle and often a punch line, when a sentence meandered along with a noun, a verb, yes, even a predicate adjective, within some context of structure and form, and aah, just the memory of it...coherency.

"When did your mother die?"... ringing phone, second ring, third ring, "Hello, I'm sorry can you speak up...sure, date of birth... yes it's ready, yes it's the brand...and what did she die...No, Claritin doesn't make you tired... how did she die... sorry? yes flu shots are being given now..."

At times I tell myself I'm still in the early stages of the learning curve - though I'm about to be kicked out as a seasoned pharmacist- and I still need to focus, on every little thing. Maybe it will get easier with time. Or is it the way my neurons are wired. I just can't seem to multi-task like the others. My brain doesn't work that way. When the quantity is for 90 pills and I subtract from a full bottle of 100, I always have that moment of confusion. Wait... what are those ten doing in the pill counter and why are there four left behind. This would all be fine and well if the powers that be hired a few extra hands so that I might pause and think and breathe deeply instead of spinning like a tightly wound top from phone to computer to filling.

I know, I'm still fighting the system, I need to get with the Stockholm Syndrome and side with my captors.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A bisel angel

My blog is getting hits. I don't know who's reading this, or why, or even how you're finding it, but it's like a little angel is telling me to keep writing. Maybe I'm crazy, maybe this is all a joke, a gossimer-like figment, and will just as soon disappear. But for now it keeps me going, this little blog, this small confessional. I guess I'll see where it takes me. I do know it's not only about pharmacy. More like tomorrow is a new day, a fresh start in a world that could use some changes. Good Yuntiv, a good year to you.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Misery squared

Wowie!!! I actually made $4.98 so far with this blogging. Is it possible that I could actually make a living as a writer instead of a drug pusher? I know, I know, don't get too excited here. Seriously, I have not a clue how this blogging thing works, mostly I think Google is in denial ... let's not tell them all the page impressions are from my own hand. Whatever, it's half a lunch!!

Anyway, in keeping with my last post entitled 'misery', I did some more soul searching and figured if I'm truly that miserable with my pharmacy gig and my finances in general, I might as well jump in whole hog and embrace the misery. In other words, while I'm poor and stressed out-- and in keeping with the confessional theme, slightly overweight-- I might as well start studying for the MPJE, while eating oatmeal with blueberries and raspberries, while listing our rental property every 3 hours on Craigslist. In the words of Nancy Reagan, Just Do it. Not that I'm a republican.

What pisses me off is I already took the Massachusetts law exam a year and a half ago. Failed by one lousy point then spent 5 months in an isolation cubicle at Seton Hall library studying in total panic mode. For that exam I got an 86 which prompted my nine-year-old son to say, "You overstudied."

Then it was on to the NJ Board of Pharmacy pleading with them to allow me to take the exam then, rather than after the 1000 hour internship, claiming 'menopausal brain' as my defense. They'd have none of it, so here I am studying the same exact gruel, only I don't remember jack shit. I just don't know how to study for this exam. If you don't memorize every single amendment, from the Delaney clause to the Medical Device Amendment, then how can you be sure to pass such an arbitrary, nitpicky, test. So it's back to the grind...please pray for me.

By the way, who exactly is reading this blog? Just curious, feel free to comment.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Let's see, how best can I say this. Well, at the risk of sounding overly melodramatic, something along the lines of selling my soul each and every time I walk through those electronic doors at Acme. That paycheck is my sole motivation. Every ounce of my being wants to turn the car around and head in the opposite direction of pharmacy. It's simply force of will. In other words, needing the that my husband's architecture job is in jeopardy, and our investment property on the Jersey shore is not renting out, and temple fees for Hebrew school, on and on. I might as well be a stripper or a call girl, except for that glaring problematic issue of menopause. I truly don't know how people can do this full time, day in, day out, for years. It's such mind-boggling misery.

Today the computers were down, on this, a Monday, which by all accounts is expected to be a tough day. But they raised the ante once again, short staffed us, threw at us hundreds of people wanting vaccinations, with an ever so blatant chain-wide shutdown of basic computer functions... like, well, searching for the person's name in the computer. "What should I do?" the elderly couple asked who both needed Trilyte for their colonoscopy. "Go to CVF." I said, handing them their scripts.

And here's the rub...I seriously may have to do this more days a week. When and if I pass the law exam, the adult-mom-wife in me may need to weigh the stresses of our finances and jump in, or as it were, dive in head first fracturing my without a clue skull.

There's alway work-at-home mail order, as in Medco or Caremark, no?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The laws a-callin'

Since I never quite grasped the inner workings of corporate pharmacy (which I'm sure you've noticed by now), I was naive, or was it just plain lazy, about noting my internship hours. Sure I knew it was getting close, but I figured I'd continue working through the 1000 hours, plod through my small, parttime job and simply 'look into' studying for the MJPE exam, that obtrusive elephant of the NJ state pharmacy law exam.

So I was caught offguard when Sally informed me that my hours must be coming to an end and that next week would be my last. Typical of Acme, where the left side knows not from the right, I'm still on payroll at the Greenwood store. Which makes me think, it might well have been an arbitrary decision on Sally's part to cut me off. Or, in other words, a kick in the ass. Strange as it sounds, considering how deeply I disliked the place, I felt hurt, sort of like being banned from the family get-together or dropped from a guestlist or, well, fired.

Anyway, I left a box of lemonheads, my favorite pick-me-up sugar high when I could just puke from on-my-feet exhaustion, sitting on the pharmacy counter with a note of goodbye scribbled next to a lopsided smiley face. I figure my coworkers will read into it what they may. Some might laugh, some snicker, or it may just wind up getting tossed into the garbage which is really the apt metaphor.

Friday, September 4, 2009

An apple a day

Just as I thought. Now that the government is offering free Swine flu shots, Acme has jumped to the forefront and tried to grab some of the money action. In their typical trickle down business plan, the powers that be decided to tweak the ant hill, move things up a notch, and not hire any extra help. It actually looked quite comical seeing Sally running back and forth between flu shots (eventually it will be flu and swine, as word has it that Acme is getting positioned early) and pharmacy duties, all in different rooms. The piles of unchecked prescription carts grew higher and higher as the pharmacy took on the look of that Lucille Ball episode where Lucy haplessly fills chocolates on the ever faster and faster conveyer belt. Even Tasha, our most even-keeled tech, was completely flustered. "It's busy," she said, never looking at me.

Then there's the health department problem. There must be some not very obscure health code violation for giving influenza shots in a small, cramped, unkept cafeteria; maybe not quite as dirty as before, though I didn't inspect that closely as I ran out to grab some precious half-hour sunlight and eat in my car... but I did happen to peer into the still ever grimy refrigerator. Not to mention adding a certain queasy digestion to the tuna and pizza, peanut butter and salads as we employees eat face to face with needles and cotton swabs. And what of that microbial drop of blood that lands in our, oh never mind.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Walkout at Acme

Another Monday horror show at Acme Drugs. The usual, not enough help, phones ringing till my head explodes, constant aching feet that sends me ducking in the closet to switch back and forth from Danskos to running sneakers. By mid afternoon, I no longer look people in the eye when I take their scripts. Just hold out my hand and ask for date of birth and pick up time. A blur of faces. Couldn't eat lunch, not a chance, just too busy. At 3PM turned to comandante and tried to get her to see things from the socialist viewpoint of the working class- but she remained the hard and fast techno-robot. Simply looked at me in astonishment that I would ever suggest such a renegade perspective as management caring not one twit for us.

"Why don't they hire more help?" is my usual line when I am ready to scream. Such blasphemy. The staff looks at me as though I just turned off the soundtrack, or raised the temperature to a habitable 71 degrees. Hey, here's a thought, a walkout for the 1600 plus Acme Stores at one designated time. A unified message of hiring more help, lunch at a suitable time, and heck, while we're at it, cleaner bathrooms with toilet paper in the ladies stalls. Pissed off, fed up customers are welcome to join us.

I could see it now, splashed across the six o'clock news, us with placards, marching in circles at faceless mini-malls across America. They'll broadcast salaries of the CEO's and upper management, made on the backs of the swollen-footed, bladder-retentive pharmacists and techs.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A reprieve from pharmacy

Sorry I've been so remiss about this blog, but with my son home, in that neverland between camp and school, and our family actually pulling off two cheap vacations--biking in the Laurentian Mountains in Quebec, then a week at Laurel Lake in the Berkshires-I'm pretty well spent. It should have been two straight weeks away, but I tried to fit it around my pharmacy job and kept popping in to do my 8 hour shifts. Speaking of shifts, something did shift. I felt it immediately. Maybe it's a bit of the absence makes the heart grow fonder, but when I walked into Acme Drugs I felt like I was back in high school, the clerks all smiling and yelling "Hi Marsha!" down the aisles. Even Sally smiled at me. I basically just looked at her and said " I had a great vacation," which prompted her to ask where I'd been, and before you knew it, we were talking about vacations. Wonder of wonders.

But still I do wish I could make my living this way, by writing, instead of standing for 8 hours straight which actually turns into 9 and gets me home from my night shift at almost eleven.
I know, I know, I should be happy to even have a job in this god forseen economy. I guess now is the perfect time to put it out there... I'm spoiled. But I spoiled myself, by my own devices, carving out a working life that allowed me to stay at home and put in two to three hours a day. That was my print broker business, in my thirties, when I lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and spent mornings cold calling design firms, or visiting a client, then the afternoons reading, often at the Mozart Cafe, or watching some obscure foreign movie at Lincoln Center or The Quad. Looking back, it truly was magical. Control over one's time will always be my mark of success. I just don't know how I could ever replicate it. Did I do something wrong? How is it that such an on-my-own-terms life has morphed into a frantic serving up of pills to 350 people, and that's on a quiet day. This economy really fucked things up. Or was it your basic industrial-age wipeout by the internet. My two loves- writing and my small, little print business-no longer viable.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Comandante pharmacy manager

It's Monday, my day to work at an Acme Drug in a nearby N.J. town we'll call Greenwood. This store is a mirror image of the Thursday store with children's cough medicine to the right, makeup and ladies' hair dye to the left, a wall of vitamins below the pharmacy counter. An identical soundtrack drones out the greatest hits from the 40's and on, with salespitched voiceovers by Leeza Gibbons. It's a parallel universe where even the pharmacy staffs resemble one another: tough-talking techs from East Orange and Newark typing in a mean staccato, a moody pharmacist delegates in a steady grimace. All to the exact bone-chilling degree of temperature.

"Put another nickel in, in the nickelodeon" plays for the third time. I think of my mother and how she loved Teresa Brewer. I would never share this with anyone, after all these months I know enough to keep these thoughts to myself. Bringing up the death of a mother, or what one did over the weekend, or that your ten-year-old son just left for sleep-away camp and is terribly missed, would only be cut off by the ringing phones... or met with terse stares from impatient coworkers. Acme Drugs in their relentless bid for increased sales volume has eliminated any chance of intimacy.

Today my boss is Rachel, a tall, blonde girl with gleaming white teeth, in her early twenties and fresh out of pharmacy school. Like Sally, she doesn't hide her distain for me, resents any of my questions... mostly trying to decipher the doctor's sig (written directions), or his refill amounts or the drug itself. "You should know that," she'll say harshly. Often it's easier to simply call the doctor who literally spells it out for me. "N-I-A-S-P-A-N" he says kindly.

As luck would have it, Sally never gave me a code to enter into the cash register so on this day I'm actually performing pharmacy duties, mostly entering prescriptions in the computer. "When is your internship over?" she asks. It's her question to me each Monday. "We really have no budget for you here," she adds.

That night my husband and I fight. He tells me I'm difficult, that I can't get along with people, that I need to learn to better communicate. Later on we watch a National Geographics documentary on the early years of the holocaust, before the gas chambers, when Jews were killed one bullet at a time. I can't help feeling that Acme Drugs is my Babi Yar, that I'm the persecuted Jew and Rachel a dead ringer for the aryan comandante. I'm miserable.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Was a sunny day

It's 80 degrees, a beautiful summer morning with a gentle warm breeze. In a few hours I will be working in the windowless deep-freeze of the Acme chain pharmacy, filling upwards of 400 prescriptions at breakneck speed or is it reckless speed. You will approach the counter impatient as all get-go, with a crazed glint in your eye, and demand attending to. When informed your insurance won't pay for Cialis or Viagra, you will rant and spew forth invectives as your suburban neighbors look on, then I will politely point you in the direction of the baby aisle where you may purchase a pacifier. Later the techs and pharmacy staff check out your profile and bingo... tricyclic antidepressants. Knew it!

But mostly it's not the customers who stress me out, it's the pharmacy manager (better known as my boss) for this 1000 hour internship. Sally, a tall West African woman with a quick smile and hearty laugh, gets all glum when I walk in. It's understandable, saddled with this menopausal intern who after 30 years of side-stepping the profession is now in dire need of her tutelage.

So she won't play in the sandbox with me. A thirty year hiatus in pharmacy amounts to resurrecting the dead. The last time I donned the white jacket, the major drugs of choice were Digoxin and Inderal, and Talwin, the addicts drug of choice. Now I need to learn over 1500 drugs with sound-a-like names in look-a-like white oval shapes. When I walk in her smile fades, her posture straightens and often she points me to the register. How in God's name can I learn how not to kill you dear reader, when I'm mostly learning how to give change? "I'm a pharmacy intern, not a cashier." I say to her. The techs look away from there pills and revel in our tension.

I send off an e-mail to upper management: Is this the best use of your money, training a pharmacy intern on the register? I get no response. Send it off again. I call the district manager. He skirts, he slides, he's a slippery devil. It's to no avail, I get it...stop complaining.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Confessions of a Pharmacist

I'll start with avoiding a lawsuit. I'm rather naive about this sort of blogging ritual but the one thing I keep hearing is not to name names. So to avoid any messy litigation, the chain I work for will herein be named CVF or maybe Walblues, no I think it will be Acme drugs. Fictitious, but seems to make its point. In the future if I hear from any well-meaning lawyers out there, maybe I can actually name the chain pharmacy without losing my house, my cat, my son. Big brother really is watching, lurking somewhere behind men's hair dye, around the corner from chondroitin and Maalox.

I began working for Acme Drugs 850 hours ago which in part time parlance is about one and a half years ago... as a pharmacy intern, and in just a few months, will have completed my 1000 requisite hours. Then it's off to a pharmacy law exam which if I pass-never a sure thing-will magically turn me into a full fledged pharmacist. Basically there was a hiatus from pharmacy of approximately 30 years, working as a high school biology teacher (4 years), print broker (15 years), and NY Times freelance writer (3, unless you count rewrites). Of late, in this uncertain, last gasp economy, the broker business has plunged into freefall, the NY Times a tailspin (online and not paying), and that left the one lonesome annoying burr in my sock... pharmacy. But the surprising truth is... tada, drum roll... I really don't hate it. I sort of find it, well, total gravitas, in an overwhelmingly solemn way. The job is important. Nothing fancy, no cocky editors, no frou frou design firms checking 4- color dots. This shit is real. I could kill anyone of you out there by simply being in the middle of a really funny story, with a snappy punchline, as the techs double over in laughter and ... oops, procardia, not prozac... hypotension, fainting, dead on the floor in your suburban split level.