On the Front Lines, Behind the Back Wall

A downtown Portland pharmacy worker speaks out

March 13, 2020

As a worker in a retail pharmacy who will never get to stay home during a pandemic (unless I’m lucky enough to catch it), let me just finally proclaim that people are disappointing me right now. And I don’t mean because they’re scared of COVID-19. It’s ok if you’re anxious about pandemics or even just a regular ole hypochondriac. That’s not what disappoints me. What disappoints me is that the majority of people aren’t comprehending or following simple instructions surrounding it.

Did anyone hear the part about masks are only for sick people? Too late now, all the healthy people wiped them out a month ago. Did anyone hear the part about hand sanitizer isn’t as good as soap & water? Too late now, the hand sanitizer got wiped out two weeks ago and I still get screamed at several times a day for not having any in the store. Sometimes cancer patients want masks and hand sanitizer. Do you know what it feels like to tell them to basically go kick rocks? It feels really fucking bad. But don’t worry, because you won’t have to tell them, I’ll get to handle it for you. And be yelled at some more.

Oh and after I’m done getting yelled at for that, lemme take a couple of phone calls from people who say “the TV told them” they have to get 6 months of medications filled “just in case.” The TV never told anyone that because it doesn’t fucking work that way, but people are literally hearing it that way. But just because it isn’t so, that won’t stop the yelling.

IF PEOPLE CAN’T COMPREHEND OR FOLLOW SIMPLE INSTRUCTIONS, THINGS COULD GET VERY, VERY, VERY BAD.

A customer who wanted hand sanitizer yesterday seriously asked if it’d be OK to just wipe herself down with Lysol wipes she got last week. No. NO! And she was just someone that asked out loud. People are likely actually doing it. Are you? Don’t! 

And now people are hoarding toilet paper? Last night two coworkers and I rang up an entire wall of toilet paper in under 2 hours for no fucking reason other than absolute blind panic. And don’t you dare tell me it’s because “What if I have to quarantine for 2 weeks?” You can miss me with that excuse when you bought 2 months’ worth. Not to mention there hasn’t been any hoarding of pet food. If you’re that scared, wouldn’t you want to make sure your pets eat while you’re quarantined? I’d be using socks to wipe my azz before any one of my five kitties ever missed a meal, believe that.

Oh and just curious, what kind of adult doesn’t own a thermometer? I’m a fucking loser and I’ve had my SpongeBob thermometer for well over 20 years. Get your shit together. Well, not now, because it’s too late. Thermometers are all gone too! 

It’s very clear that the majority of people are very irresponsible, and on top of that very me-me-me, mine-mine-mine, and I’m gonna be side-eyeing A LOT of you after this goes away. 

And let me be clear here, I’m not one to make blanket statements like “people suck,” because I think that reinforces that and makes it so, and I refuse to reinforce that and make it so. But people are, by and large, really fucking disappointing me right now.

PS: if you legitimately need anything, just ask me and I’ll try to help. Despite my disappointment, I love you anyway. 

photo/Ann-Marie Keene

March 23, 2020

So, today…

The first patient I had at 9 a.m. told me to go fuck myself several times during a way too long argument after I asked him (politely) to have a seat while I typed up the paper script he handed me. After a bit of back and forth about the media overblowing things so it was fine for him to just hover at my counter and stare at me (and keep yelling), and then me not going fast enough (how can I type when you keep interrupting me with the yelling?), and a few more “go fuck yourself”s, I firmly told him I’m not going to be spoken to like that, handed him back his paper prescription, and told him he’d have to go elsewhere.

Man it felt good!

The rest of the morning was pretty ok. I came up with an idea for giving people curbside option for picking up meds (*pats self on back*) and it seems to be catching on. But, people seem to get especially stir-crazy by the afternoons now and flood into the store. If you’re one of these types, knock that shit off.

During the start of that afternoon rush, my fellow tech had her knee fuck up on her and I guess the pain was so bad she PASSED OUT and fell into a wall of drugs. My boss called 911 and the paramedics came. People were dead-azz looking me in my face and asking me how long their Rx would take WHILE THE EMTS WERE CLEARLY INSIDE THE PHARMACY AND DEALING WITH HER!!!

Y’all. Yes I’m fucking serious.

Anyway, they carted her off to the hospital and we had to get right back to the madness, but now we were one person short. Just practice for when one of us “gets it.” Yep. That’s exactly what it felt like. A test-run. (Side-note: my leg would have to be dangling by a single tendon right now before I’d let anyone take me to a hospital. And even then I’d still try some tape first.)

So anyways, if you’re bored at home and tired of homeschooling your kids and complaining on Facebook all day, you can apply for a job where I work. Or a grocery store. Or maybe apply for a job at the hospital where it’s certainly even more exciting!

Or you can sit home and watch TV guilt-free (when are you ever gonna have that chance again?), or learn a new skill on YouTube, or pick up litter outside (wear gloves), or ask someone in your neighborhood if they need anything right now — even if they just need to talk. (6 feet away, of course!) Or be creative and think of something else. Give ideas in the comments for others!

Ann-Marie Keene lives and works in downtown Portland. These two posts originally appeared on her Facebook page.