Whistle while you work - that is, if your mouth isn't full


A 10- or 12-hour work day. No meal break scheduled. No BREAK scheduled. What's a hungry pharmacist to do?

Not very professional

My meal was a tuna salad with mashed garbanzo beans, celery, onion, and sour cream. I could feel tuna residue between my teeth. She continued to stare at my face and frown.

"It is 7 o'clock," she said. "Why are you eating?" She must have been a teacher, because she started to lecture me. "Eating in front of a customer is not very professional."

This was a middle-aged woman who probably had a rigid set of rules for everything. Her clothes were rigid. Her hair was rigid. Her mouth was rigid.

My Diet Coke was beside the computer. I took a swig and smiled. "Pharmacists eat while they work because they wouldn't eat at all if they depended on getting a lunch period."

My giant-size Snickers bar lay on the counter beside my Diet Coke. Recklessly I opened it and took a huge bite. Like a teenage exhibitionist, I chewed. How dare she suggest that I shouldn't eat?

My mouth filled with the seductive flavors of nougat, caramel, and chocolate. The salty crunch of the peanuts added a sublime high point as I swallowed. My mouth begged for more.

"It is rude to chew in front of a customer."

Folding her arms across her chest, she dug in for a fight.

"Our other pharmacist had a meeting today. I've been here since noon, and I'll be here until 10 o'clock. I'm eating at 7 o'clock because it is the first chance I've had and I'm really hungry."

"They have to give you a lunch break."

"Not today," I said. "I've been a pharmacist for 40 years. All my scheduled lunch breaks would add up to maybe 5 years total. I'm used to eating on the run, standing up, back behind the counter where no one will see me. I apologize for chewing in front of you."

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