Thursday, January 15, 2015

Pretty Sure I Saw Racism at the Pharmacy

True story...I've had a sickness of some sort (it's been called bronchitis, pneumonia, even whooping cough) since early December. I've taken three rounds of antibiotics, got better for the course of treatment, then I'm sick all over again.

Started feeling it coming back yesterday, so I decided to be proactive and call the doctor today. Apparently it's a sinus infection this week, and they're trying a different antibiotic along with still more codeine cough medicine.


The doctor faxed the Clindamycin script to Walgreen's, but the Phenergan with Codeine is apparently a controlled substance, so I had to deliver a paper copy, show ID, promise there is no meth lab in my basement...

I should probably mention that my pharmacy is sort of in the ghetto. It's an inner-city kind of drugstore. I almost never leave there without some sort of story...

For example, today there was a guy talking in rapid Spanish on his cell phone, quite loudly. I know enough Spanish to infer that he was getting hell from his wife/girlfriend/maybe even mother for not coming home last night. His excuses were increasingly creative, and when he got called up to the pharmacy and said, "Te amo" into the phone, he got hung up on. Poor guy's night got even worse because he was apparently one day early for his nicotine patch prescription. He was pretty irate because he'd been waiting for awhile and it took him that long for Walgreen's to inform him that he'd have to come back tomorrow. I felt like stepping in and saying to the pharmacy tech, "Come on, dude, he's in deep shit with a female in his life. He wants a patch instead of a cigarette. You'll give it to him at nine in the morning but not now?", but I was already pretty pissed off about something that happened to me earlier.

So I mentioned that my Walgreen's is an inner-city one. I enjoy going there because I almost always encounter interesting people. I am usually an ethnic minority and I perhaps have a higher grasp of the nuances of English grammar, but none of that really matters. I've had men that don't speak English get something off a shelf for me. I've held the newborn baby of a young Hispanic mother while she went to the bathroom (must be my honest face...she didn't speak English, either). I've crawled around on the floor picking up a display of boxes an old man accidentally knocked over (tears of gratitude on that one).

So, yeah, this is my store. These are my people. I have never felt unsafe or in danger there. I've never felt disrespected or looked down on there. 

Until today.

I knew it was busy from the moment I had to park my car in a spot not right in front of the store, so I wasn't surprised that there was a line at the pharmacy. There were four people ahead of me. 

My cough sounded wonderful, and the young African-American kid in front of me kindly offered to let me go ahead of him. I thanked him but told him he'd been waiting and that was fine. He asked if I was sure (I suspect he didn't want to catchy my pestilence), and I said that I was but appreciated the gesture.

And then the game-changer walked toward the pharmacy...

He was a middle-aged man wearing a camel hair suit coat, creased khakis, loafers that I'm pretty sure had "Gucci" stamped on them. He was wearing a Rolex, and he carried himself like he was better than everyone else.

He carried himself, in fact, right past the long line and to the front of the counter, where he stood drumming his fingers on the Walgreen's sign and looking expectantly toward the pharmacist. "Picking up for Jones," he called in a calm voice that was loud enough to carry over.

And I'll be damned if they didn't stop what they were doing and get this guy his prescriptions! 

Never mind that the waiting line was five people deep. Never mind that those of us waiting had shown patience, tolerance, and, yes, kindness to each other.

It wasn't until that moment, as I started coughing so hard I thanked God for pantiliners that catch leaked pee, that I realized I was going to have to wait even longer to even *drop off* my codeine cough medicine, never mind get to bring it home and take it.

And why?

Because this rich-looking white guy thought the rules didn't apply to him...and the idiots at Walgreen's backed him up on that!

I was appalled!

Anyway, I finally got my prescription dropped off (and heard the saga of Unfaithful Nicotine Patch Dude), but I was so disillusioned.

It got me wondering if I had worn a dress and nice shoes (I have both, although I don't often wear either) and put my one-carat diamond earrings in, replaced my trusty Vera Bradley purse with the more stylish one with a Coach label, straightened my hair and put on makeup (I can still look pretty good when I try; I just don't see the need to try very often)...could I have pushed my way to the front, gotten my medicine, and been treated like I was superior to the other customers?

Sadly, I'm pretty sure the answer is yes.

Racism (or maybe it's classism??) still exists, make no mistake about it. I just wish I hadn't had to see it...

Has racism ever reared its ugly head when you were least expecting it?