The pharmacy smelled like sweat, dust and strong chemicals. The technician I had just hired was standing at the end of the counter. She was talking to her boyfriend on the telephone. It was against company policy to be on the phone while clocked in. I did not care.
“I can’t stand it,” she said, “I just want to quit right now. This is awful. I can’t work in a place like this.”
Her boyfriend calmed her down and I told her to go to lunch early. She was the noon to nine tech. The old veteran tech stayed with me. I could feel rivulets of sweat running down my ribs. The computer was very slow due to the heat. This was around 1982. Computers needed to stay very cool.
The air-conditioning was down. The pharmacy, because of the lower ceiling, was the hottest place in the store and I am not exaggerating when I said that it smelled like sweat. It was Pay ‘n Save in Pittsburg, California, a city close to the Sacramento Delta and far away from the cooling of the Pacific Ocean. It was the day after the 4th of July holiday and there had been rare episodes of lightning. The air-conditioning service men refused to get on the roof. 103 degrees outside, under the sky. I went and took a thermometer off the shelf. 105 degrees.
The store manager was not a pharmacist and he liked to micro-manage. He took me aside and I noted that the smell of body was worse on his short, corpulent figure. The computer, a DEC about the size of a large suitcase, moaned every once in awhile. I was secretly wishing that it would just die.
“Don’t tell these people how hot it is,” he said, then,”How hot is it?”
I told him and added, “We need to close. These conditions are intolerable. We can’t work in this heat.”
The veteran technician (actually a clerk who had been taught to input Rx information. There was no such thing as a technician in California in 1982) stepped up, “Jim is right. This heat is too much.”
“Mind your own business and go back to work.” He looked at me. You just fill prescriptions and gimme that thermometer.”
This incident was close to the time when I realized that I was institutionalized. There was no word for it then, but I exhibited an egregious inability to look out for myself and the ones I supervised. I hate writing this confession because I was such a wiener in those days. I had control of the Rx pricing and the pharmacy I managed produced the highest percentage gross profit in the entire chain. I liked the big quarterly bonuses. I liked it that I was known in Seattle. (It got me a transfer to Whidbey Island in 1984). I thought I was hot stuff. I was a slave who was dominated by his sense of duty. (One of Buddha’s four temptations)
Joe’s Apartment video I was so institutionalized that I cringe when I think about it. I never wanted to rock the boat. I wanted it to stay the same and I put up with an enormous amount of disrespect. There was no dignity there. I had self-respect only because I put so much importance on keeping that gross profit high and the bonuses. Integrity? Don’t ask.
That 5th of July in 1982 was a nightmare. The lightning stopped around dinner time and they fixed the air. It took all night to get the store cooled down. The second pharmacist was a large woman and she suffered until nine, taking my lead. I left at five exhausted. On my drive home, over the ridges to Pleasant Hill, I did not question my behavior. I was so institutionalized that I CONGRATULATED myself on toughing it out. I was a good soldier, one of the Pay ‘n Save battle troops.
I was not stupid. I was just as smart as I am now. I lacked the experience that helps me distinguish bad from good in the retail pharmacy world. I know what to look for now, but I am still institutionalized to a degree. If my employer said “no uninterrupted meal break.” I’d eat my salty snack standing up because that is what I have done most of the time for the last 40 years. I do get a meal break at my present job, by the way.
So… I’m still institutionalized, but I have learned how unhealthy it is, how undignified. There are things I will not tolerate. Being managed by a non-pharmacist, clueless store manager about pharmacy business for one and I dearly want another shot at locking the pharmacy up and walking out the door when the air-conditioning is bust.