Soundtrack to a pharmacist's life

February 1, 2009

A pharmacist has a musical flashback.

Key Points

» I was at work recently and had warm thoughts of my first girlfriend. She was my first lover. My first a lot of things. Strong feelings surrounded me. I wanted to see her. What was this all about? I have not seen her since 1962. The music was this: "Well, bless my soul. What's wrong with me? I'm itching like a man on a fuzzy tree. I'm in love. I'm all shook up."

Nowadays my employer plays music that makes the well-heeled crowd feel good while in the store. When boomers with money feel good, they're more likely to spend some cash. So the store plays tunes from the 1950s through the 1970s. It doesn't play hip hop.

I was checking a prescription for Lexapro when I heard: "See that girl with the diamond ring. She knows how to shake that thing."

When I was a first-year pharmacist, I had a collection of Ray Charles albums. Back then, I worked on Main Street, at a time when five drugstores in a two-block radius did well. Back in the prescription rooms, it was a 40 percent business. In 1965, 100 prescriptions would get you $400 profit, and you paid your pharmacist only $135 for the whole week.

One day in August 1964, I was weary of the elevator music, so I put Ray Charles on. From violins to Ray's singing about shaking something. My boss had me on the phone in minutes, yelling, "What are you thinking?" I put the violins back on. I still can't imagine harps make people feel like buying anything.

My current company's music loop plays Roberta Flack way too often for me. Roberta reminds me too much of the early 1970s. Back in a time mixed with cigarettes and wine. Almaden Mountain Red Burgundy was my first wife's choice.

My job was the center of my life. It was the normal part. My pharmacy practice was my lifeboat. At All-Med Drugs I dealt with sober people. I saved cash in an envelope in a drawer at the pharmacy for my escape.

I divorced her in the 1970s and tried to reinvent myself. I ached to be like John Travolta. I was in the dating world again. I wanted some Saturday night kinda fever, but my dates wanted pedestrian events. A meal and a movie. A drive to the Sonoma Coast to the beach. A quick kiss and goodbye.

My work uniform was a long-sleeved, colorful, blousy shirt and the pants were too tight. How was I ever going to navigate this peculiar landscape? Stayin' alive! I'm a dancin' man and I just can't lose. Got wings of heaven on my shoes. I found my occasional date among my customers. They were kind to me. They knew that "here was a damaged man." But I wasn't too managed for long.

Fast forward to 1999. She may be the face I can't forget. The trace of pleasure or regret. A pharmacist I knew, a determined match-maker from Hong Kong, was Victoria's boss. She schemed, "Let's get a pharmacist and a tech together," and that was that. We were married three months after that date.

"Who always seems so happy in a crowd. Whose eyes can be so private and so proud. I'll take her laughter and her tears."

Victoria walked down the aisle to Elvis Costello. "And make them all my souvenirs." And I cried when I saw her with her handsome sons. I just bawled.

JIM PLAGAKIS is a community pharmacist in Galveston, Texas. You can e-mail him at jpgakis@hotmail.com and cc us at drugtopics@advanstar.com. You can also check out his Web site at http://jimplagakis.com/.