I need cotton balls.
I need cotton balls, and this need has
filled me with such dread I can feel the blood freeze in my veins.
Because needing cotton balls as I do means I need to make a trip to the
corner drugstore. And I'm fairly certain that if I step foot in that
place one more time, I will lose my mind.
I hear there was a time
in American history, when drug stores were hangouts. Places filled with
knowledgeable, friendly folks who were happy to fill a prescription and
fetch you an egg cream.
The only hanging out I've ever done at
drug stores is in the snaking lines at the cash register, waiting in
vain for some counter cud-chewer to comprehend why the 80-year-old
cancer patient at the head of the line does not want to go home with
only half the medications his doctor prescribed.
Now, I make no
claim to brilliance: I volunteered for a life of journalistic poverty.
I still don't know all the state capitals and sometimes I mix up my
right and my left. But I'm not in charge of dispensing life-sustaining
medication to people. And all that I ask, is that the people who are be
smarter than me.
"Um. Yeah," I had one vacant-eyed clerk tell me recently, "they, um, don't make this medicine."
"You mean, the medicine my doctor prescribed?"
telling me you have no record of the medicine my doctor prescribed?
That he just made up the name of a drug, wrote it down and sent me here
as a joke?"
"Oh. Um. No," she said. "It's in the computer, but we don't have it."
"So they do make that medicine," I said.
"Um. Yeah, I guess."
"Mind ordering it?"
"Let me get my manager."
sure not everyone who works at these chains is stupid. There are
probably some future MacArthur fellows populating the drugstore
workforce. And for all I know, I have even interacted with these folks.
I don't remember them. Because, unlike any other service industry,
ineptitude in a drugstore stands out as an affront to humanity. We can
all live with a flighty waiter or a bookstore clerk who has never heard
of Salinger. Or, even, a newspaper columnist who doesn't know Hartfort
from Helena. But we really, really need some bright bulbs at the
Drug stores are all we have when we have nothing – in
the middle of the night, when our health is poor, and for some, when
our lives are in jeopardy. How sad, then, that in our darkest hours, we
are forced to contend with people who pretty much scream, "We Dare You
Not To Have An Aneurism In The Face of Our Stunning Stupidity."
when all I need are a few cotton balls – cotton balls I stupidly forgot
to pick up with the groceries earlier this week – I think: "I can't do
it. I can't go in there." I will shred up an old T-shirt and use the
scraps until the next supermarket trip. I will rearrange my schedule
and go to Target tomorrow. I will…
"Sweetie," I say, throwing my arms around my husband. "Mind heading out to the drugstore? I need cotton balls."
"Sure," he says.
smile. I watch him from the living room window, waving as he disappears
down the street, and I think to myself, "Stupid people aren't all bad."