JP at Large: Oh, the characters we meet!

April 4, 2005

The guy on the telephone sounded panicky. And he sounded like he didn't have his false teeth in. I told him to slow down and tell me his concern. He had used the word mistake in his opening sentence, and that got my attention right away.

The guy on the telephone sounded panicky. And he sounded like he didn't have his false teeth in. I told him to slow down and tell me his concern. He had used the word mistake in his opening sentence, and that got my attention right away.

"The two extra pills you gave my mother are too big for her to swallow," he said. "Why did you give them to her?" Oh gawd, what now? I looked to see who had filled the Rx. Double oh gawd. I had.

"Sir, what is the color of the new pills?" How was this possible? The correct medicine was blue and had a distinct appearance.

"Don't take them," I said. With a calm I didn't feel, I said, "Tell your mother not to take them."

"Why did you give them to her?" He paused. "You did, didn't you!"

"What?" I said, "What did I do?"

"You made a mistake!"

"Sir," I said. "Please bring in the bottle so I can see what happened."

In the late sixties in California, a place where skimpy bathing suits, tanning oils, and swimming pools played a significant role in the enjoyment of life, I had a woman accuse me of ruining her weekend. She said the medicine I had given her made her embarrassed to wear her bikini. She had to wear pants to her poolside barbecue and was too embarrassed to accept a date to the Sonoma coast because everyone would be in bathing suits.

"Can you tell me why you can't wear a bathing suit?" I asked. In the sixties there was no computer, so I had to dig out the hard copy. I smiled. The poor woman had made a huge mistake. Counseling would have helped her, but at the time, pharmacists were not expected to counsel. In fact, pharmacists were generally discouraged from counseling. We were dispensers!

"The backs of my legs are purple and it won't wash off. I look like hell in my bikini." She started to cry, and I had to swallow the laugh I had been holding in my throat. Theprescription was for gentian violet, a fungus medicine that, indeed, would seriously stain anyone's skin.

"How did you use it?" I knew what the answer would be.

"I did what the instructions said. I mixed it with water and used it at bedtime. Even the bottom of my bathtub is purple."

"You sat in it, didn't you?"

"How else was I supposed to use it?" I explained that she needed a douche syringe and that sitting in the solution was not a good idea.

The guy with the extra pills came into the store. He marched up to the pharmacy counter and was, indeed, not wearing his false teeth. He sputtered at me and slammed the prescription vial onto the counter. I poured the contents into the counting tray. I picked up the two extra "tablets." "Your mother tried to take these?" The guy grunted. Affirmative.

"These are desiccants," I said.

"I don't want no see-cants in my mother's medicine."

"They keep the pills dry," I said.

"No see-cants! Okay?"

"Okay," I said, holding up my hands.