Early Pharmaceutical Reqirements or, 16 hours, a new record!

The pills were like the LiteBrite pegs my cousin Max had, shiny, mooth, colorful, abundant, and forbidden.

The pills were like the LiteBrite pegs my cousin Max had, shiny, mooth, colorful, abundant, and forbidden.

Pharmaceutical Requirements

The job with the shortest duration, even shorter than the maid week, lasted two days.  It took a couple of weeks to land the job, and get through what passed for a background check (they put your application in a secret place and let it “age,” and then called you back later to see if you were still interested).

This job suited me mainly because:

  1. I could walk there
  2. I was always interested in drug interactions
  3. I could wear my own clothes (vs. the Ponderosa polyester).

The first day at the pharmacy, while technically, I could have walked, I got a ride. This, imprinted in my memory, because when I opened the door; the pharmacist was standing there eying my transportation warily. I knew it was a strike against me but hey, could I help it if I Florida didn’t believe in vehicle inspections?

The pharmacist himself was a big, overbearing kind of guy, and fortunately a wall separated his area from us. He was loud, and everyone’s personal business was broadcast throughout the place routinely. It was a small operation with one cashier. This odd combination of details made it a very challenging environment.  Add the fact that everyone but me smoked cigarettes. I mean, all day, continuously, in the pharmacy.  This was near the beginning of folks just thinking that smoking  in public places should be restricted, but the idea of asking someone to put it out would like telling a kid he couldn’t have Happy Meal at a McDonald’s.

The prescriptions were all hand written, and then typed in duplication achieved by little sheets of carbon paper. (Ask your parents). We used an antique manual typewriter, (“fewer mistakes,” was the excuse). We had a little list taped to the typewriter, a cheat sheet, with about six items on it such as “bid” (2x a day) and PRN  (as needed).  Sometimes we needed the symbol for “without” (the sine) which we had to achieve by typing an “s,” backing up a space, and typing a little dash over the “s”.  If you screwed this up you had to do the whole label over.  Never one to downplay my own importance, I saw it as being entrusted with people’s lives. Make and error and maybe someone dies. OH! I was so narcissistic I can hardly write this post.

After learning how to type the scripts, there was the filing.  Again, amazement that this was a manual job; it was the 80’s for crying out loud! To augment my misery, scripts were NUMBERED.  They were small, covered in carbon grime and stuck to your hands. You had to figure out where they went numerically, and you were expected to do each day’s filing on that day. Only this day, my first day, they were about 3 weeks behind. If a doctor (or, more often, a lawyer) called needing information from one of those little yellow smudgy copies, everyone would stop what they were doing and rifle through the stacks, putting the filing further behind. Ever my father’s daughter, midway through day one I was still confident that given a couple of weeks, I could fix this place.

It was a thrilling moment that afternoon when I was finally permitted to touch some pills. The little turquoise trays with pill-sized holes in them thrilled me then the same way my LightBrite did 13 years earlier.  I was concerned with making an error until I realized the pharmacist would check each bottle, the label, match it with the copy of the script and then throw all the script carbons in the file pile. I didn’t expect to make a mistake, but I was glad to see quality control measures in place. People’s lives were at stake!

I know you are thinking my undiagnosed ADD was the death of me at this job. Cigarettes contributed to the early demise of my before-it-began pharmaceutical career. I wanted to throw up from what I thought was the heavy smoking.  Two days later I woke up two days late, and too nauseous to go to work.  While it didn’t always seem like it at the time, it was the beginning of the best decade.


8 thoughts on “Early Pharmaceutical Reqirements or, 16 hours, a new record!

  1. Loved your post! A brilliant post culled from just 16 hours of work (and I hope they paid you!). So grateful for a smoke-free world nowadays … and you made me remember my own Lite Brite, which has brightened my day immensely … Thanks for sharing!


      • When I had a break between clients yesterday, I decided to see if LiteBrite still exists. It does … and you can download stencils online (a nod to the 21st century, I guess). You can also download a “LiteBrite” app for your phone. I decided not to do this — although it might amuse the NSA the next time they’re pawing through my cell phone records. (I used to keep my LiteBrite pegs in a TV dinner tin. My mother worried I would eat the pegs — I guess because she thought the TV dinner tin would confuse me. I outwitted the tin, ultimately, but I believe I tried at least once to feed them to my cat.) Thanks for good blogging!


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