Pharmacy never changes in the final part of our “Best of the 70s” series.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Nowhere is this as obvious as in pharmacy. Pharmacists have always had to deal with the angry, the confused, the totally unaware, the supposedly witty.
You told us your worst stories, now take a look back at what pharmacists had to deal with more than 40 years ago. (We apologize if this number makes you feel old in any way.)
Back in the 70s, Drug Topics ran a semimonthly column called “Silly Syndrome.” Pharmacists would send in their wackiest stories, and we combed through and picked out the best to share with you. These stories were so good, we couldn’t just narrow them down to 10-we needed to make three different lists just to contain it all. Here are 10-plus a few bonus ones we just had to sneak in-more of the weirdest experiences that pharmacists had (and let’s it face it, probably still have) to deal with.
And if reading these makes you remember that one time you made a whole town gossip about a customer or when you had to tell a patient to stop taking the instructions so literally, then let us know in the comments below!
They really will drive us stark raving mad eventually. The ones who engage us in conversations like this:
Oldster: “How much money did I spend here last year? I need to know for my tax returns.”
Me: “Do you have a charge with us?”
Oldster: “Heck no, I always pay cash.”
Me: “Well, I really have no way of knowing how much you spent with us.”
Oldster: “That’s very strange; I thought you pharmacists kept such things in mind for us older folks.”
Pharmacy dull? Are you kidding? Picture me, a pharmacist, tending his lonely outpost against the onslaughts of ill health on a warm summer’s night. Suddenly, the door bursts open. A wild-eyed young fellow propels himself into the store and scurries into the phone booth (old-fashioned wooden type). Quick as you can say “chlordiazepoxide,” the first chap is followed by a second chap, obviously in his cups, wearing a topcoat over his pajamas and waving a pistol in the direction of the phone booth. Wittily, I call out, “What’s going on?” The interruption stays the trigger finger of the intruder. “Lousy Peeping Tom,” He mutters in reply. “Peeped in my bedroom window.” As if I’d seen it all in a dream, I whip out a dollar bill and, going up to the would-be assassin, tell him to take it down to the corner bar and have a drink while I figure out a way to get his tormentor out of the booth without putting holes in it. In two minutes it’s all over-drunk and Peeping Tom disappear into the night. And me? Back to the dull (they say) routine of counting and pouring.
It’s not just doctors’ writing, sometimes it’s their imaginative abbreviations on prescriptions. An Rx for an asthmatic patient crossed our counter recently, reading: “tab i tid SOB.” Not knowing if I’d come upon a doctor who’d flipped out, a really difficult patient, or a newly minted bit of medical terminology, I pursued the matter to the point of getting the M.D. on the phone. “Oh sure,” he replied jauntily. “SOB stands for shortness of breath.”
Grandma Wilson, one of our favorite customers, couldn’t seem to remember when or if she’d taken her blood pressure pills. One day her daughter announced she’d solved the problem, and asked if we’d save an empty birth control Dialpak for Granny. Quite a neat solution, we thought, that would certainly remind the old lady to attend to her medication. A couple of weeks later we happened to hear from the daughter how her genius had been thwarted. Seems everything went along fine until Granny popped her Dialpak in the midst of a church social. Bell Telephone made a fortune that night on calls to her house, confided the daughter, and it was all she could do to convince the busybodies that Grandma hadn’t stumbled on the fountain of youth.
Are drug manufacturers trying to get us clobbered? It seemed so recently when a hefty middle-aged matron bellied up to the bar, so to speak, and ordered a bottle of Lente Insulin. “U-40 or 80?” I asked. “You crazy?” she bellowed. “I’m 50. How old are you?” Well, we got that straightened out much later.
Pharmacists may complain too much about customers who don’t follow Rx instructions to the letter-but customers who do can really shake up a pharmacist too. Not long ago, for instance, I dispensed some Combid Spansules to a customer. Since the doctor had indicated that the prescription could be refilled, I made a note on the label saying, “Please return container for refill.” Imagine my surprise when a few days later the customer showed up with a handful of empty capsules and a request to have them refilled.
There are health professionals and health professionals. Take the loud, overbearing fellow who returned an oral thermometer to me the other day with: “You guys got a helluva nerve selling me a no-good thermometer.” Putting the alleged no-good aside, I proffered a replacement and was met with: “If one’s bad, they’re probably all bad. I want my money back.” Fighting down my natural inclination, I asked the fellow if he knew how to use an oral thermometer. Without actually taking off like a rocket, he seemed about to. Grabbing the thermometer, he shook it and plunged it into his mouth backwards. “I wasn’t an orderly in an Army hospital for nothing,” he screamed as best he could.
A little boy ambled into a pharmacy and asked the pharmacist for a box of Tampax. “Are you sure that’s what you want?” asked the pharmacist, looking him straight in the eye. “Positive,” answered the kid. “It’s for my littler brother. The ad says you can swim and ride a bicycle … and my brother can’t do either.”
Patrons are often painstaking in their efforts to follow medication directions. Take the customer of ours, for instance, whose instructions on her eye drops read: “On drop in each eye 3 times a day. Do not use when cloudy.” A few days later, she called in. “It looks like rain today; O.K. to use my eye drops?”
Last Father’s Day, a suitably scuffed, grimed, and enthused young man of seven marched into our store, straight up to the counter, and waved a dollar bill at the pharmacist. “I want to buy my daddy a present of vitamins.” “What kind?” asked the pharmacist. “The kind that will make him listen to me,” chirped the future opportunist.
One day a customer zoomed in with a problem that really stopped me. Seems her little girl had ingested a large quantity of small ants on a piece of picnic cake. What to do? Desperately rummaging in my mental file, I groped for the name of the acid found in ants. Unable to hit on the answer know to any 12-year-old-“formic”-I put the question to my laconic fellow pharmacist. “What acid is found in ants?” he replied, savoring the question. “Antacid!”
Maybe it’s an old joke, but to our clerk it’s a new way to get overdue accounts to pay up. On statements to customers with long-unpaid bills, he writes: “Please remit. We’ve carried you longer than your mother did.”