She forgot to refill her prescriptions over the weekend. She called them in, but according to the automated pharmacy message it will be a few days until they are refilled, and she will be out by then.
I’m going in for a blood pressure check-up, so she asks me to stop by the pharmacy to see if I can have them filled today. Which I am happy to do.
I stop in, ask about the prescriptions, and the assistant says that the pharmacy can fill them immediately, so I go to my appointment – mercifully brief and devoid of any bad news – then come back and go to the pick-up line.
It is clear that the pharmacy doesn’t do a lot of Medi-Cal business, because the process always goes something like this:
Assistant: “That will be [insert large amount of money here].”
Me: “We’re waiting for our Medi-Cal to come in. Please bill me.”
Assistant: “One moment please.” [To people in the back]. “I have someone here – say’s he is still waiting on Medi-Cal. What do I do?”
[From the back]: “Mumble mumble rhubarb rhubarb responsible for payment.”
Assistant: “OK sir, we have a ‘we believe you’ policy, but you need to understand that if your Medi-Cal does not come through you are responsible for payment. Do you understand?”
Assistant: “OK.” [To people in back] “I need an override here please.”
Pause while someone in authority comes up and fiddles with the register for a moment.
Assistant: “Here you are, sir. Have a good day!”
Me: “Thank you! You too!”
So that’s the script, and I am pretty used to it now.
But today is different.
Today right after we get to the part about the ‘We Believe You’ policy, someone behind me speaks. They aren’t terribly loud, and honestly I might miss it if the assistant’s eyes don’t widen and the assistant didn’t lookover my shoulder, causing my brain to do a reanalysis of what had just happened.
It’s just one word.
I look back, and this is the part where I should be telling you that I see a very terrible person standing behind me – possibly with an open-carry shotgun, a Confederate flag tee shirt and a hat saying “Make America Great Again.” But in truth the person behind me is not particularly remarkable. Older than me by maybe 10 years, a bit overweight, dressed casually but not slovenly, clean and erect and clear eyed. The only noticeable characteristic is the scowl which quickly morphs into a sneer when we lock gazes. This person knows very well that their comment has been overheard, wanted it to be overheard not only by me but by others. The eyes that I look into are filled with triumph.
And of course THIS is the part where I write about my biting rejoinder, my witty response, my angry rebuttal. The comeback that flattens this person, and makes everyone in the pharmacy cheer for me. The glorious public humiliation of a troll.
But that doesn’t happen.
Instead, I lower my gaze, and turn back around. What, seriously, was I going to do? Make a scene in the pharmacy in front of the octogenarians? Get into a fight and be escorted off the premises by hospital security? Spit? Scream? Make rude gestures?
The assistant and the pharmacist (there to punch in the override) are both looking at me and in their eyes I see pity and embarrassment. They are witnessing me being humiliated and they feel bad. Not bad enough to say anything of course – what can they say? But their looks say it all – they feel sorry for the poor unfortunate, what a shame that people do not treat him with dignity. And honestly, the pity in those gazes cuts me deeper, hurts me more than the antipathy I had seen in the eyes of the stranger behind me.
I pick up her prescriptions and leave, my ears and cheeks burning.