Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Great Man?

A few days ago, I put a face to a name I've known well since I started this job. See, normally, I'm great with faces. New customer comes in to drop off three emergency room meds and comes back at their pick up time, I'll remember that they're getting a Pred Pak, a Z-Pak and Cheratussin AC with directions for the Mucinex D that's behind the counter, so I hope to Dog they have their State ID... but I won't remember the name to save my Inherited from the German Side of the Family Arsch unless it's also the name of a close family member or otherwise enters into conversation.

But the face? See them once, and I've got it.

So it's odd for me to hear a name, like Mary or Clark Duncan and not know a face to go with it. In this case, though, two names went with one face, because Mr. Duncan picked up several times a week for Mary or Clark Duncan like clockwork.

I was surprised to say the least when two women, one clearly in her 70s or older and one somewhere in the middle of life, came in and asked for Mary Duncan's medicines. After I got through the basics, I asked if Clark was all right.

The younger woman burst into tears. The older one said simply, "Yes, now. He's passed on."

Well fuck. Stepped in that one barefoot!

By the end of the transaction I of course apologized and offered sympathies on behalf of the pharmacy, and set his profile to 'deceased' which stops all automatic phone calls and such to the phone number on file. Last thing a widow needs to hear is "Mr. Duncan has two days to pick up his medication before it's returned to stock."

But the thing that kicked me in the gut was that I didn't have the heart to tell these women, the younger one especially who went on and on about how wonderful "Dad" was... that to us, "Dad" was by and large a jerk. He was a tosser, and I don't mean that in the British sense of the word. Rather that he had a habit of taking whatever was in his hand and tossing it onto the counter-- and often right across it onto the floor at my feet. Usually, it was a piece of scratch paper with a name and some prescription numbers on it flipped in my general direction as he barked the word "Tomorrow" and walked away without a moment of eye contact or bothering with manners or courtesy. He was just generally impatient, and explaining things like Prior Auths was difficult to say the least. He didn't want to stand still and listen to anyone, just throw paper at us and walk away.

So, what makes someone a "wonderful man"? Because, to be honest, my opinion of him wouldn't change much from knowing if he was a deacon at church or helped with a food bank or any of the rest of the things they usually put in an obituary. The only time I remember him *ever* being more than stony and in a rush was when I wished him "a nice Christmas". He actually stopped and said thank you to that. I'd been waiting on him at least weekly for over a year by that point, and didn't know until then that his eyes were brown, because he'd never looked at me before.

This makes me wonder what else I don't know about this former customer of ours that made others mourn him so openly. And then I wonder if he'd care if anyone missed him or wished him well in whatever lies beyond the flat line when he never bothered to learn our names or look us in the faces, even though we all knew him.

Knowing how much most of my customers appreciate my ability to recognize them as individuals with names and frequent prescriptions and families and lives, it's a little bizarre to me to see someone so unresponsive to those measures called "a wonderful man".

Was he? I couldn't tell.

1 comment:

  1. I feel you there. I am a tech at a fairly busy pharmacy, and about 90% of our patients are the elderly, who are mostly on maintence meds. This means that in the 2 years i've been there, I see these people monthly and get to know them as either blatant assholes or sweet old know what I mean. When I have to face the widow/widower of someone who has been consistently rude and all over the last 2 years, it breaks my heart because I don't quite know what to do or what to say.