I woke up the other day, as I tend to do every day in an effort to prove that I’m still alive, in one of those jovial moods that I sometimes find myself caught up in. Now, for those of you that don’t know me all that well, a lifetime of working in cold environments and at night has given me an aversion to sunshine bordering on porphyria. I literally have trouble functioning in hot weather and am much more suited to the cold weather and the night. This condition means that I’m not really a morning person anyway and am much less so when it comes to summer, so I’m not one to greet the sun in any shape or form. As I’m sure you can imagine, this makes those few rare summer mornings when I wake up and face the day with a smile few and far between. They should be cherished as something rare, much like a celebrity who doesn’t accidentally get out of a car with no knickers and a crotch length skirt on when her new album is about to be released.
On these occasional mornings when I find myself waking up and smiling, despite the horrific burning of the sun, I like to make the most of the day. I feel good and want to share that with people. The opposite also applies but it would be tacky of me to mention the things that have suffered due to me waking up and feeling rough. So I woke up in a good mood and immediately cuddled up to Kim and offered to nip into town and get her Grandmother’s pills for her. The woman is 83 years old and tops up her prescription medication with some over the counter painkillers, because at 83 there are a lot more aches and pains than you can handle on a day-to-day basis. The woman had called us earlier in the week and asked that we pick them up and I figured that I may as well nip down town to get these things alone while Kim stayed home and took care of some of the housework. Okay, this is sounding less helpful all of a sudden. Basically I split the chore and took away something that neither of us really wanted to do on a hot day anyway.
I regretted my decision a little on the way down town as it was easily more than ten degrees hotter than I can really cope with. Still, I had a bottle of water and kept to the shade. There was even a little cool breeze that helped. All in all I was happy to help despite suffering for it a little. At least, that is, until I got to the shop. I don’t know what things are like in your respective countries, but over here shops have this nasty habit of turning the heating on even in the middle of summer. It started in newsagents as the heat would make you thirsty and you’d buy a drink to cool down. Somewhere along the line it moved from those places to all shops so now even clothing stores have heaters running full blast as you enter the door and no cooling air conditioning in the place. I can only assume that they mix this with the thumping music to disorient people so they can’t remember seeing something cheaper elsewhere or realise just how much they’re paying for something that can only be politely described as tosh.
So there I am in the pharmacy, waiting in a queue full of people so that I can buy this soluble paracetamol and codeine painkiller for Kim’s gran, and wondering if the smell of burning meat is actually me or the woman standing directly under the dusty air conditioner that has that wavering heat wave aura around it. The young woman ahead of me bought the caplet form of the item that I’m there for and went on her way, quite happily. In hindsight I remember seeing her skip but that is more likely my mind adding the contrast between the treatment I received and that which she received. I move up to the counter and ask for the soluble form of these pills and the woman behind the counter gets them down then stops and looks at me. If you’ve ever had that look then you know exactly what sort it was, but let me paint you the picture so you understand. As mentioned before I don’t handle the sun well and am already sweating like crazy when I got to Boots to use the pharmacy inside. Inside it smells like the sweat of a billion people crying out all at once, and the heat has been turned up. By the time I got to the counter I was dripping with sweat and when I saw that appraising look from the woman behind the counter I knew immediately what was coming.
“Are you on any other medication?” she asked me, the sneer on her face saying quite plainly that she was sure I was and that it was something I’d bought on the street.
I considered lying to her, just a quick “No” to speed up this transaction but wasn’t going to lower myself for the prejudices of another so I explained to her that the powders weren’t for me but that the woman they were for had them approved for extra pain relief by her doctor.
“What medications is she on?” she asked.
“I honestly couldn’t tell you.” I said. “I know she’s been using this for additional pain relief for almost ten years now and her doctor is fine with it but I don’t know what she is specifically taking.”
“I have to have a list of medication before approving this.” she explained, talking over my head to the queue behind me to imply that I was the one causing the problem here.
“That’s funny.” I said. “The girl ahead of me had no problem buying the caplet form of the same strength medication. Just like I’ve had no problems getting these here for this woman whenever she has been unable to come out and get them herself.”
“Well we have to have a list of the medication.” she said and the conversation went on for a good fifteen minutes with her refusing to serve me unless I fulfilled some arcane requirement that I have never faced at that or any other branch of Boots before.
“You never have before and you just showed you still don’t by serving the girl in front of me.”
“I can ask the pharmacist if he’ll make an exception.” she said, acting long-suffering for the queue again and ignoring the very plain statements I was making in what I can only assume was English but which had been seemingly misunderstood as if I had been talking the secret language of fish to her. And then she went to the actual putting pills together section of the pharmacy and, in full view of the gathered queue and myself, stood there for a second or two before coming back to tell me that the pharmacist had said no. Now I get that she is only treating me this way because she thinks I’m a drug addict and has no other explanation for a man sweating on a hot day, but she could at least have pretended to ask someone a question.
By this time I was seriously uncomfortable with the sweat that was coming off me, and the rising anger at this woman had made the heat in the shop even more unbearable. I demanded to speak to the pharmacist myself, and watched her go over to the pills section again. When I saw her once again stand in the middle of the section and not speak to anyone at all I realised that the pharmacist must be one of those psychic ones you hear about so often. “You guys seeing this?” I asked of the queue, some of whom were at this point sweating as much as I was. “Bloody ridiculous.” I said and stormed out of the store with what had started out as a good day utterly ruined.
I have no doubt that Boots has a rule like that in place just as I have no doubt that it is one of those discretionary rules that allow people working in shops to refuse service to people if they feel that person is trouble in some way. She thought I was some sort of drug addict because I was pouring with sweat and she has obviously never been able to make a man sweat without plying them with drugs in her life, so that was the truth to her that allowed her to act absolutely disgustingly towards me while enacting a rule that enables her to effectively refuse me service.
It actually reminds me of many moons ago when I had toothache. Long term readers will remember that my toothache eventually turned out to be an infection on the nerve of the tooth at the root. I didn’t find out for seven years as I couldn’t find a dentist and I was in absolute agony by the time I finally got one to take me (the tooth shattered when they tried to pull it and they had to pull the root itself out by the nerve). I’m sure you can imagine I was going through painkillers back then like they were candy, but there had been a new rule introduced that stopped people from being able to buy more than two packets of painkillers in a single shop due to suicides that had hit the news.
Of course, that didn’t really stop me stocking up on the painkillers I needed to get. I just spent more time going round the town and buying from multiple stores instead of buying in bulk. Had I been one of those people who had decided that enough was enough and it was time to end it all, the inability to find the means in a single shop wouldn’t have stopped me. I know there are some who think that those committing suicide are giving up and therefore are defeatist already, but the fact is that there are very few people who make that decision lightly enough to be put off by having to visit two or three shops. So if the rule isn’t really there to protect people then why is it in place? Simply to protect the businesses in question from culpability for these suicides. The people behind the counter weren’t able to recognise that someone has problems because the majority of suicides are able to hide what they’re thinking quite well, but the relatives and loved ones they left behind needed someone to blame and sometimes that blame became litigious. By stopping anyone from buying enough to kill themselves in one place, no one place can be held responsible for someone ending it all.
Now I don’t want you to misunderstand me here. I’m sure there were some people who made rash decisions and were put off by having the immediacy of their decision removed from the equation. I’m all for rules that protect the public like that and I understood that the painkiller rule was there for a reason, even if that reason was more to protect the shops from lawsuits than it was to protect vulnerable people (in these particular cases the shops were the vulnerable people in my opinion). That whole not drinking and driving thing for example. I’m behind that a hundred percent as it totally makes perfect sense in a not dying a flaming death kind of way. But when a rule gets in the way of someone doing something as harmless as buying a single box of a non-controlled medication? When needless pedantry stops an 83-year-old woman from managing her pain in a doctor approved manner? When a rule is down to the personal prejudices of an employee to enforce or not, then those discriminatory practices shouldn’t be allowed as far as I’m concerned. Kim’s grandmother had to go without her medication until someone else was able to get out there and find it for her.
On a side note, we were the last people to get her that medication and we got it from that same Boots last time. We simply asked for the same stuff and had it handed to us. At that point I was having a rough day and the woman behind the counter was polite and helpful to the point that I cheered up a little. This time I started having a really good day and was thoroughly miserable by the time I returned home. I’ve been fuming for days about this, and need to get it out.