Back in December I wrote about how pleased I was that my doctor had changed most of my prescriptions to generic ones and all of them to 90-day refills, which meant I’d only have to go to Wal-Mart once every three months. Sounds really good on the surface, doesn’t it?
The reality was slightly different. When I went to the Wal-Mart pharmacy to get the prescriptions filled, there was a problem with one of the two meds I take for high blood pressure. It was explained to me that Wal-Mart was having trouble getting this particular medication from either of their two regular suppliers. The pharmacist gave me three pills (instead of 90) and told me to come back the next day. She was sure she’d have some then.
Given the condition of my achy knees, my (politely masked) reaction to that instruction was the same as it would have been if she’d told me to go home, hurl my body to the floor, and roll around until I’d bumped into every piece of livingroom furniture –- hard -- at least once. Nevertheless, I went back the next day.
"Oh, I’m sorry," she said after I’d stood in line for half an hour. "They still didn’t send us any of that. In fact, I don’t know when or if we’ll get any more. Here, take these six pills to get you past Christmas, and I’ll fax your doctor tomorrow and see what she suggests."
Needless to say, I didn’t hear from the doctor, and I didn’t hear from the pharmacy. It was Christmas, after all, and then New Year’s right after that. What kept me from panicking was that I hadn’t waited until the last minute to fill my new prescriptions, and I still had a couple weeks’ worth before they parceled out those nine pills.
So, I made it through the holidays, and this past Monday, when I saw that I’d be out of those pills by Friday, I called Wal-Mart. The lady said they’d found a new supplier for the drug I needed. She said she’d order it "right now" and it "should be here tomorrow." I called again Tuesday afternoon. Lo and behold, they not only had the right medicine, but they’d already filled the prescription and it was waiting there for me. Things were looking up!
After work I stopped at home just long enough to let Butch and Kadi outside for a minute, then continued on to Wal-Mart. Bad idea, going there right after work. The pharmacy line was so long that it turned a corner and stretched back across three aisles. I stood in the same spot for about 15 minutes, shifting from one foot to the other, bouncing slightly to keep my knees from stiffening and locking up, realizing I was fidgeting like a child in need of a restroom. Finally, the line started moving. Ten minutes later I turned the corner and saw that I was the eighth person in line. Good. I had a goal then. I could count each customer and measure progress in minutes per person.
By the time I was the fourth person in line, another pharmacy clerk showed up. As the first clerk rang up first-in-line customers, the second clerk asked for names and birthdates to pull prescriptions for people farther back in the line. When I was the third person in line, I gave him my information and watched him find my prescription and lay it on the counter by the first clerk. When I was the second person in line, the second clerk was getting information from the customer behind me. We were moving faster.
And then it was my turn. I stepped up to the counter with my money in my hand and gave the first clerk my name. She picked up a prescription bag, checked the name on it, did a double-take when she realized the name wasn’t mine, looked quickly around the counter and then at the second clerk. "It was right there," he told her. "Did you give it to the last customer?"
We all waited again. We waited while the first clerk burst through the door of the restricted pharmacy area and ran down the aisles in search of the last customer she’d served. The clerk might not have been attentive to detail, but she did earn some approval points for agility. She caught up with the customer who had my prescription and, after a total of about 45 minutes of standing in line, I finally had the elusive pills, and I could go home.
My knees hurt so much I couldn’t sleep last night, but there was a smile on my face as I tossed and turned. I survived the pain-inducing trips to Wal-Mart, and I don’t have to go back for almost three months. Are there any questions about why that makes me so happy? It's all a matter of perspective.
Michael Bergdahl: "From Sam Walton's Darwinian, capitalistic perspective, survival of the fittest was the natural order of things."