Quantum leap

May 15, 2011

Companies get their professional staff to do what they want by instilling fear. The result is thousands of pharmacists who are afraid, all of them, of one thing or another.

I was on the phone with a pharmacist in Pennsylvania who was being surly and uncooperative.

My request for the transfer of 4 prescriptions for a woman who now lived in Galveston had taken close to 15 minutes. He had put me on hold twice. When he finally got around to attending to my request, he berated me for not having the prescription numbers.

"Hold on," Charles said, and I was on hold for the third time. I looked at my colleague and held my palms up and shrugged.

"Is that You-Know-Wrong Pharmacy?" he asked. We had flipped a coin to see who would call Pennsylvania. I lost.

"Hello," I said. "Hello, Charles, talk to me." Charles was back only for 10 seconds and then I was on hold for the fourth time. "Geez," I muttered, grinding my teeth. I was about ready to give up the ghost when Charles said, "I'm here."

"Charles," I said, "Why is this so hard?"

"I hate giving transfers," he growled.

"I hate it too, but it's part of the job, man. We can respect each other, make it as easy as possible, and end up still standing if we do it right." I told him that I would always give a pharmacist on the line my immediate attention, but I rarely got that kind of preferential treatment when I had to make the call.

"You're nuts," he said. "I don't have time to be polite to anybody."

"You must hate your job," I said.

"If I worked in a regular job, maybe I could be polite, but I don't. I work in pharmacy. You want the copies or not?"

"What's the difference between a regular job and your job?" I asked.

"They watch everything I do. They time everything. All right?"

"That is no reason for you to be rude to me."

"I got a family," he said, "Three kids depend on me."

I wondered what that had to do with his attitude toward me. "What are you afraid of?"

"Listen, my wait time is a half hour right now. I've been written up twice already. I can't afford a third one." He took a deep sigh. "I'm sorry. You really don't deserve this. You are just doing your job."

I had finally found him. The poster child for pharmacists who do the job from fear.