Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Coming out of my funk and a weight loss update

After being in one of the worst mental funks of my life for about a 2 day span, I feel like I'm finally coming out of it and returning to baseline. These things are always triggered by something stupid, and they do blow over (at least mostly) after a little bit.

My mood completely bottomed out yesterday due to a craptastic day at work. We really need to get better clerks. They drive me insane. For nearly a 2 hour time span yesterday, every single customer that came to the counter required the assistance of a pharmacist. It was stupid stuff too. Stuff that we shouldn't have had to help on. Stuff that they should have known how to do. Our script count wasn't even that high yesterday, but it seemed like we did 1,000 scripts instead of somewhere in the high 300's.

This brings me to another disturbing trend. Our volume has dropped precipitously since the previous year. A couple weeks ago, we were down 20% from the previous year. That is a huge fall. One of the factors is that a major chain opened up right next door to us a few months ago. However, their increase in script count doesn't entirely coincide with our decrease. I think mail order must have a lot to do with it. Maybe even the high gas prices and shaky economy are contributing because supposedly most of our stores are down (not like we are though).

We were the only show in town for a long time. That's why we were filling nearly 3,000 scripts per week at one point, which is incredibly rare for a store like us. Now that a big chain competitor just opened 1/4 mile away from us, people have an option, and for some insane reason, a lot are choosing to go to our competitor. They did offer a coupon. I guess that must have given our customers an incentive to switch. People are crazy about those stupid coupons. Within a year, another big chain competitor will be opening up a store that's about a 1/2 mile away from us on the same road. It'll be interesting to see what happens to our script count them.

Fortunately for me, if our store does get cut down to a 2 pharmacist store, I'll be one of those pharmacists. I really don't want to change stores. I live so close to it now. I save a ton of money on gas, and if I really had to, I could walk to work or ride a bike when the weather is warm (although walking would take me about 30 minutes).

In other news....

4/19 - 172 lbs
4/23 - 170 lbs
4/26 - 169.5 lbs
4/30 - 166.5 lbs

That's 5.5 lbs in 11 days. I'll take that, especially considering I haven't done anything radically different. I just stopped over-eating. I have a fairly quick metabolism, so I really have to eat a lot of food to maintain a weight around 170. I ran into problems because I would order a large pizza and eat the whole thing in one sitting. I'm just retraining myself to eat proper portion sizes.

In addition, from the start of the year, I've completely cut out soda (I only drank diet anyway, but now I drink none at all), and I'm now working at drinking nothing but tap water and milk. That's my plan for home at least. When I go to a restaurant, I might order a diet coke or some other beverage (I can actually count on one hand the number of times I drank soda so far in 2008). When I'm at home, I plan to drink tap water and milk. I'm going to try to give up bottled water because it's a waste of money and resources to drink water out of a bottle. We've all been conditioned to drink bottled water now. When I was a kid, I used to drink tap water all the time, and there was nothing wrong with it. No, it doesn't taste quite as good as bottled water, but taste is something you can get used to.

That's all for now.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Completely Lost

I don't even know where to begin...

Over the last few days, a whole mess of stuff came together that has left me feeling lost, alone, anxious for the future, and with a feeling that I'm heading hopelessly down a wrong path in life. I get like this from time to time, but this is a lot worse than normal. I can't seem to get a grasp on my emotions in order to pull myself out of it.

I guess I'll run through a laundry list of the stuff that's bothering me. I don't really know what else to do.

Earlier last week, I ran into some girl I went to high school with. She was in my pharmacy when I spotted her, and I went out to talk to her for a few minutes. She's a really friendly person, very cute, effervescent, and very pleasant to be around. She just moved into the same apartment complex as me, and she invited me to a housewarming party she was having on Friday.

I thought this was great. For one, I don't know anyone who lives in my apartment complex, so it was nice to see a familiar face. Secondly, she's a nice girl who I wouldn't mind at all to take go out with her a few times... at least I thought that at first. It's stupid to say, but it sounded like it would be a good opportunity for me.

Well, I went to the party, and within minutes, I realized dating her wasn't an option. We wouldn't mesh at all. She's too lively, too much of a partier for me. That's fine... my hopes really weren't that high anyway. Then, she mentioned, "Oh, Mike, I ran into your ex a little while ago."

Oh great, I'm thinking. Just what I wanted to hear about. Apparently, she ran into her at a restaraunt. She was with her boyfriend, who she's been seeing for quite a long time now. If the wound from my breakup didn't hurt enough, she made sure to throw a whole freaking pile of salt into it. Now, for the last few days, all I can think about is who this guy is, and if there's any way on earth she can possibly (and I hate to even say it) be in love with him.

It just kills me because I don't understand how one person in a relationship can be absolutely sure they're perfect for each other, while the other person doesn't think even close to the same way. It's one thing if the relationship was only a year or two. Our relationship was nearly 6 years!!! At the time, it was more than 1/4 of our lives. And it wasn't like we broke up on bad terms. No one cheated. No one lied. No one really did anything to hurt the other that badly. We were still friends... best friends! We still loved each other. If you spent 6 years with someone.... If you planned to marry someone, wouldn't you try to make things work? Wouldn't that person be bound to you in some way or another, especially if you still considered them a great friend?

When I initially asked her to get back together, she was still single. I told her I realized my wrongs. I was dead serious about it. She knew it. She even admitted she still loved me. Why wouldn't you give that a shot then? I never understood that. I never will. What did all that time together mean? 6 years is a long time! The second things got tough, she bolted and never turned back. It makes me question whether she ever really loved me in the first place, or was I simply the only person she thought she could get? After all, I was the first person to really notice how wonderful she was. To everyone else, she was the tiny, smart, innocent asian girl in class. I saw beyond that. I think I made her believe in herself. I made her feel sexy, which then got directed outward to other people. Other people, particularly her law school classmates, started to take notice, then I found myself on the outside looking in.

That's how I always feel, and not just as far as my ex is concerned. I always feel like I'm with the group, but I'm just not really a part of it. I'm sure it's mostly my doing. I just don't know how to connect with people. I get along with everyone. No one really has anything bad to say about me, but at the same time, I'm hardly worth mentioning. I don't stand out in a crowd. If I'm in a room full of a bunch of people, I tend to fade into the background. I don't make good first impressions. In fact, I make incredibly poor first impressions. It takes a long time before someone warms up to me. I know I mumble sometimes when I speak, and no, I'm not the best looking guy in the world. I'm certainly not aging well; My hair is quickly greying, my hairline is starting to recede, and I'm developing wrinkles at 26 years old. I know I don't always say the most friendly things. I'm not big on saying hello or goodbye to people, nor do I make meaningless small talk often. I don't play games. I don't flirt. I refuse to do stupid stuff like that because I feel it's insincere. I feel like most guys put up this big facade when they first meet women, and they try to make themselves out to be better than they really are. I'm not like that at all.

I know I have many redeeming qualities, but they just take a long time for them to come out. I can be pretty funny in a dry, sarcastic way. I'm very smart. I'm socially aware. I can talk intelligently and passionately about deep social and philosophical issues. I listen well. I'm incredibly dependable. I'm trustworthy. I bitch and complain about a lot of stupid little things, and I like to argue for the sake or argument sometimes. However, I'm always there when someone needs me.

I feel like I'm better than most guys in this regard, but those aren't things that are readily apparent in a person. You have to take the time, observe, and get to know them before you realize those things. That's why relationships take so long to develop for me. It's why I can't be with someone always looking to go out and have a good time. I don't know how to wow anyone. That's not my style. I don't have any glitz or glam. I don't wear thousand-dollar watches. I don't drive a BMW. I don't know my way around the local bar and club scene. However, if you spend enough time around me, you'll realize that I can do things and be impressive in ways that most guys can't.

Take the pharmacy for example: If you're only around me for one day, you wouldn't think anything of it. However, when you see me interact with the customers and continually do my job the right way time and time again, you start to get a sense of my dependability. I'm 26 years old, we're a 4 pharmacist store, and I have customers who will only talk to me. One older gentlemen goes out of his way just to speak to me. Sure, it's kind of annoying when he cuts 4 people in line to walk up to the counter and signal me to come help him with something. However, he means well, and he's a really nice man. Sometimes, I'm really busy at work. Sometimes, I'm trying to do 10 things at once, but if someone has a question, I always stop and give them my undivided attention. I never hesitate to step out of the pharmacy and help someone choose an OTC product. On nearly a daily basis, some either thanks me or makes a comment to one of our tech about how nice I was when I was helping them.

I complain all the time, but I keep on doing it because that's the way a pharmacist is supposed to act, and I truly want to help people. I don't take shortcuts. I won't be lazy. I just keep on going. That applies to how I treat all people. If I say I'm going to do something, I always do it. My word is gold. If I do forget something or make a mistake, especially if it was something important, I fess up to it right away. I don't shy away from blame.

Anyway... I got on this long rant, and now I can barely remember how I started all this. Basically, the point is that I feel hopelessly lost because I can never get that opportunity to show my greatest character traits to someone. I don't like to date because dating shows off all my bland traits. I never get anywhere by dating.

Blah... I just have so much on my mind that this would take 30 pages to even scratch the surface. I'm going to quite here.

Oh yeah... On Saturday, I was 169.5 pounds. I ate a lot of crappy food this weekend, but I still lost 1/2 a pound, so I'm still on the right track.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Weight Update

4/19 - 172 pounds

4/22 - 170 pounds

It's a modest start for sure. I should actually weigh less; One of my friends dragged me to Chili's last night where I ate a huge bacon burger and fries. I can still feel it just sitting in my stomach this morning.

It's actually pretty amazing how much weight you can gain and lose during the course of a day though. At one point yesterday, I weighed myself and was 167 lbs. It was several hours after eating breakfast. Fluctuations of 3 pounds in a day seem pretty normal. For this "challenge," I'm going to be weighing myself first thing Wednesday and Saturday mornings.

As for my method: I didn't start working out yet. I've still been lazy. I've played basketball in one form or another every day since Saturday. I suspect that when (and if) I start getting back to pushups, dips, bicep curls, crunches, squats, and heel raises (I call these calf exercises heel raises instead of toe raises because you're actually raising your heel) my metabolism will start to pick up even more so, and the pounds will really come off.

It has just been so nice this past week that I want to go outside. I can't run because my back tends to really tighten up after only a few minutes. My lungs and legs can take it, but my back gets so sore and tight that I can't continue. I've tried everything to help alleviate the tightness. I once heard that stretching out your hamstrings is a great way to help back pain. Well, back in college I got myself flexible enough so that I can bend over and not only touch my toes but put my palms flat on the floor. It didn't help.

Barring any other unexpected restaurant trips, I should be at 167 by Saturday. That's my goal. One step at a time.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I wish some people would stop bugging me

You know... I wouldn't feel so bad about my life if it weren't for everyone constantly making me feel like shit for sitting around and not doing anything on my days off.

Take my mother for example: It's a pretty nice day out today. In fact, the past 4 or 5 days have all been pretty nice. My mom calls me today. "Where are you? You're at home??? You mean you didn't go out today? It's so nice. Why don't you call someone and go somewhere?"

Well, maybe I just didn't feel like going anywhere today. I had a fairly busy day yesterday. I hung out and went to the beach with a bunch of friends. It's too cold to go in the water, but we spent most of the afternoon hiking along the beach. Then we got seafood for dinner and finished the night playing poker. I thought that was a pretty good day. I was relaxed. I got some exercise. It was nice. Today, I just felt like sitting around and watching the NBA playoffs today. Do I have to go somewhere every day? Is there something wrong with just wanting to be by myself?

I feel like I'd be much happier with myself if I didn't have to constantly explain myself to the people around me. My mom tells me that they always call me into work instead of anyone else because they know I don't have much of a social life. You know what? That is true. I don't have much of a social life, but for the most part, I don't want to have a very active social life. I like to occasionally hang out with friends, but I don't really like going to bars. As I stated in an earlier entry, I hate clubs. I don't like going to concerts. I'd rather watch sporting events on TV than actually be there in person.

Give me a warm day and a basketball court to myself, and I'm happy. Throw in the occasional dinner and some nights of playing cards, and I'm satisfied. I'll date someone when I'm good and ready to. If I'm never ready, or if I never meet anyone who I feel is worth my time, then that's fine. I'm really OK with that. I just hate having to listen to family, friends, and coworkers ask me why I don't do more things or go out on more dates. They make me feel ashamed of myself for just being who I am.

That's about all I wanted to say. I just want people to stop pestering me.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

My own weight loss challenge

Tonight, I stepped on the scale and found that I weighed 172 pounds. This is the most I've ever weighed in my life. I think it's about time I do something to lose some weight.

Back during my freshman year of college, I remember flipping out because I hit 164 pounds. That was the most I had ever weighed at the time. That figured shocked me into action, and a few months later, I had myself down to 154 pounds and in the absolute best shape of my life.

I'm hoping to do the same thing here, except I have much further to go. My goal is to get down to 155 pounds. However, I realize that's going to take a lot of time. Therefore, I'll be taking things one step at a time. Right now, I'd really like to see 165 pounds within a couple of weeks. I'm going to try my best to get back into a rhythm of working out every day. In addition, the weather has finally started to warm up, so I'll play as much basketball as possible to get my cardio in.

I'm just sick of feeling fat. I used to have fairly toned abs, but now I'm just flabby. My arms used to be ripped. Now they hardly have any definition at all. My clothes don't fit me as well as they used to. I'm in terrible cardiovascular shape. I'm just done being fat. I've always been an athlete, and I feel I'm too young to just let myself go.

My plan for motivation is simple: I'm going to post my weight twice a week (Saturday and Wednesday mornings). That way, I'll now only have a record of my progress, but I'll also be holding myself accountable. It'll be my personal challenge. I really want to hit that 155 mark again, and posting my weight to the virtual masses should keep my motivation up.

I'm going to try to clean up my diet a little bit, but the most important thing to me is really the exercise. I just need to make sure I work out daily without fail. A couple months of it, and I should be nice and lean again.

My life is kind of pointless right now, so I figure I might as well give myself some kind of challenge. If I pull this off, I'll be quite proud of myself... something I haven't felt in a long time.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Rent vs. Own

Everyone I know keeps on asking me why I'm renting an apartment instead of buying a house or condo. Some even go as far as to say I'm stupid for throwing money away on rent. I think I'd like to share my rationale on the subject.

The way I see it, it makes more financial sense for me to rent than it does for me to buy something. First of all, when I do buy, I won't be buying something for the sake of buying. I intend to buy a place that I wouldn't mind living in for a good portion of my life. I'm not going to buy some crappy condo for my first home. It's going to be a nice place that has the furnishings and amenities that I want. Perhaps, I'll buy a house first. I haven't ruled that out. I suppose it depends on if I'm still single when I decide to take that leap into homeownership (and there's a high probability I will still be single, so most likely I'll just go for the condo).

I see and hear stories about people buying these houses that they can't really afford. They take out these huge mortgages and end up paying close to $2,000/month on them. That's a lot of money to be paying on just mortgage alone. It really doesn't leave a lot of room to save any money (outside of a 401k). Moreover, you end up spending so much money on the mortgage that you can't afford to go out and buy nice things for yourself or for the house at a moment's notice.

Right now, I pay almost $1,000/month on my little apartment. That's pretty standard for this area. I still have a student loan and a car loan to pay off. Despite these expenses, I live pretty darn comfortably. I can afford to buy pretty much whatever I want (within reason), when I want. If I want a new watch, I can go out and get one. A few months ago, my computer crashed, and I needed to buy a new one. I simply went online and ordered myself a fairly high performance laptop, and I didn't even have to dip into my savings account. When I went to Miami, I paid for my airfare, hotel, and spending money without touching my savings account. That's not to say I frequently make big purchases. I'm just saying that whenever something comes up or something catches my eye, I don't have to stop and worry if I'll have enough money. Oh yeah... Despite what I spend on rent, student loans (I make 3 times the minimum payment every month), my car loan, utilities, and whatever money I need for gas and groceries, I still manage to put about $2,000/month into my savings account.

What I'm trying to say is that I live a pretty comfortable life, and while I may be "throwing away" money by renting, I still manage to save a pretty good amount. My plan is that I when I have a good enough chunk of change saved up, I'll put a pretty large down payment on a place. It'll hopefully be enough so that my monthly mortgage payment is no more than $1,200. I just feel like this is the financial plan that makes the most sense to me for my situation. It doesn't apply to everyone. It just works for me.

Let me put it this way: Let's say I went and bought a condo tomorrow. I don't have a whole lot of money in savings right now, so I wouldn't be able to afford a big downpayment. Therefore, I'd have a pretty high mortgage probably in the neighborhood of $1,600-1,700/month. Since I'm sure that whatever place I get would be bigger than my current apartment, my utility bills would go up. Now, all of a sudden I can't put away that $2,000/month like I do. Right now, the housing market isn't exactly booming, so who knows how much that condo will appreciate a few years down the road. Let's just say, for shits and giggles, that its value increases by $50,000 5 years from now (I can't imagine that being likely). I sell that condo and make a nice $50,000 profit on it. Sounds good, right?

Well, let's take a closer look. At my current rate of saving, I can save $120,000 in 5 years. Therefore, if I stayed in my apartment, at the end of 5 years, I'd have $120,000 in my savings account. If I bought a condo and sold it for a $50,000 profit 5 years down the road, but since I was spending more on mortage I could only save half the amount of money (a generous estimate) I used to, I'd end up with $110,000 in my savings account after 5 years.

From that analysis in which I most likely overestimated the appreciation of the condo and my ability to save money while paying a high mortgage, after 5 years I'd have more money if I rented than if I bought. Moreover, having a substantially higher mortage payment than my current rent payment, I'd have to change my lifestyle a little bit and sacrifice some of my bigger expenses. Sure, I'd catch a tax break from being a homeowner, but even factoring that in, I can't see how it would make more sense to buy.

Like I said, I'll stay in this apartment until I have enough money to make a down payment that will cause my monthly mortage payment to be reasonably close to my current rent payment. By that time (2 or 3 more years) my student and car loans will be pretty close to paid off. That means that I'll be able to have the same kind of lifestyle I do now (as far as leisurely spending), but I'll also be able to save plenty of money for retirement (in addition to my 401k) or for my kids' college (if I ever get married and have kids). That's not to mention the equity I would have if my home appreciated.

Once again... This reasoning can't be applied to everyone. For one, it doesn't make any sense at all for someone making much less money than I do. If a rent payment is too high for you to put any money into savings, then you're better off buying a low cost place that will appreciate over time. In that way, you'd still be paying roughly the same amount in mortgage as in rent, but you'll at least have some equity from the appreciated home. Being married or engaged also changes the way you have to look at things. I know that if I were married or about to be married, I'd be looking into buying now.

As a single guy with no marriage prospects on the near horizon and making pretty decent money, it seems to just make a lot more sense to me to rent.

(I feel like printing off copies of this and handing them out to everyone who asks me about this. I seriously get asked this way too often.)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I don't really want to get into politics here. However, something I keep hearing on the news has caught my attention.

Recently, Hilary Clinton and the media have been attaking Barack Obama over some remarks he made at some convention or meeting or something. I didn't hear the remarks. I haven't read them either. I just keep hearing the term "elitist" used as an insult to describe what he said.

It seems that I'm in the minority here, but my ideal presidential candidate would be an elitist. When did being elite become an insult? I want a presidential candidate that cuts through all the bullshit and just tells the world, "You know what? I am smarter than you people, and I'm better educated. Not only do I think I'm better than you, but I KNOW I am."

I'm sick of all the kissing babies and being political correct. I'm sick of every fucking presidential candidate trying to prove to the gun-toting, bambi-hunting, macho men that are prevalent in certain parts of our country that they too love to hunt. Just once would I love to hear a presidential candidate tell the world, "No, I don't hunt, nor do I have any desire to. Hunting is stupid."

All the presidential candidates try to go around proving they are John Q. Everyman. I just don't understand why the public wants someone who is like an ordinary guy to run this country. Have you looked around lately? Haven't you noticed that your average person is pretty freaking stupid. To paraphrase George Carlin: There are a lot of stupid fucking people. Just think of how stupid the average person is, and realize that half of them are even dumber than that!

I'll give you another example: John McCain has always been touted as being a more liberal kind of republican (note that I said MORE liberal). He has a track record of doing his own thing and taking stances on issues that don't fall in line with the rest of the republican party. A month or so ago, I heard this huge discussion that there were worries that John McCain wasn't conservative enough to catch the republican vote, and Mike Huckabee was, instead, the most conservative republican. McCain responded to this criticism by going on a million talk shows and campaigning all over the place saying that he was, in fact, a very conservative republican, even more so than Huckabee. Then they'd argue back and forth over who was the more conservative republican.

It's this political bullshit that makes me want to puke. Just stand by who you are. Why can't McCain tell the world, "Yes, I'm a republican, but I don't always agree with my party, especially when they take moronic stances on issues?"

Of course, I know why the candidates can't do this. They have to suck up to every kind of voter out there in order to get as many votes as possible. That's all this preliminary stuff is. That's why it's freaking useless to even listen to their policies or their big ideas for this country. They're all empty promises used to lure in voters. This is why I'll always vote for the candidate that is smarter, better educated, and has a track record of making good decisions not just in politics but throughout his (or her; I don't mean to leave out Hilary) life.

Anyway... I'm done ranting about politics. That will be the extent of my foray into the political sphere.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I think we should be able to write letters to rude customers

This idea sprung up from an incident where a customer somehow perceived that we treated her incredibly rudely and wrote a letter to our corporate office chastising our rude and unprofessional behavior. She vowed to never use our pharmacy again because of the incident.

I don't want to go into specifics, but let me assure you that her entire basis of being "humiliated" was a blatant lie on her part. However, her letter made an impact on corporate because they wanted our pharmacy manager to respond to it in some way. I think he called the patient, but I don't know what he said to her or what her reaction was.

In any case, this got me to thinking: It seems pretty common place that customers can write a letter to a manager or supervisor over anything that they perceive to be rude behavior. Usually these letters result in store managers or supervisors kissing the customers' asses and handing out gift cards to try to right the alleged wrong that was done. Well, how come customers are the only ones that can write letters? Why can't we write a letter to a rude customer calling them out for being an asshole to our staff?

How awesome would that be?!?! Can you imagine it? A pharmacy customer acts overly rude and obnoxious to the pharmacy staff. A couple days later, that customer finds a letter in the mail:

Dear customer,

Several days ago, you came to pick up a prescription at our pharmacy. The technician told you that your doctor had not yet called a prescription into us. At this time, you loudly proclaimed that it was the pharmacy's fault your prescription was not ready for you. You called the technician and pharmacist working that day incompetent. You were loud, overly rude, and your tantrum over something that the pharmacy had absolutely no control over unsettled several other customers who were waiting in line.

This kind of behavior will not be tolerated at our pharmacy. We strive to treat everyone with decency and respect, and we expect the same in return. If you are unable to act in kind, you will no longer be welcome to fill your prescriptions here.

We strongly believe that an apology is in order.


The staff of Your Pharmacy

Now, is that not a great idea???

I can always count on Mondays to suck

Ok... So maybe it wasn't that bad. There were just a few things that pissed me off:

When I walked in to open the pharmacy today, I found it in a state of total disaster. A floater had worked during the weekend, and it certainly showed. There were prescription labels left all over the place with little post-it notes attached that basically said some variation of "I don't really know how to do this, so I thought I'd leave it for you on Monday." I can't say for sure, but it looked a lot like the floater stopped filling new scripts for the last hour or so on Sunday because there were a whole bunch of new ones left for me to type. Additionally, the prescriptions that were filled weren't properly filed.

It took me about 20 minutes just to get my bearings and clean up the mess. It's a good thing I got there so damn early, so I had plenty of time to clean up and still get most of the prescriptions from the refill line done by the time we opened. Actually, I was really lucky in that 29 of the 39 prescriptions left on the refill line overnight were for drugs that we have in our ScriptPro. I've never seen that high of a percentage in the morning. Usually, I can count on about half of the prescriptions to be filled by ScriptPro. I just lucked out this morning... which probably means the next time I open, I'll have a morning where only 8 or 9 come out of ScriptPro.

Going off on a tangent- It's sad that I've become this accustomed to having that stupid robot. A few months ago, I had to fill in at another store for a few hours in the evening, and I felt so weird having to count drugs like HCTZ or Lipitor by hand. If you do a good job setting up ScriptPro, you don't have to hand count many drugs at all. The majority of the prescriptions that are not in our ScriptPro are birth control, fosamax/actonel, or albuterol inhalers. Before coming to my current store, I never had a ScriptPro, so you'd think I'd be used to counting by hand (which in most cases means running the tablets through a Kirby Lester, which is a laser pill counter). However, it doesn't take too long to be spoiled by the robot once you start working in a place that has one.

Anyway...Back to another thing that pissed me off today.

One of the pharmacists I worked with took a prescription over the phone from a doctor's office. Let me reiterate that she spoke to the doctor directly when she took this script. I was typing new prescriptions, so after she got off the phone, she handed me the script. I looked at it, and immediately asked her who the doctor was supposed to be because I had never heard of the name she wrote down, and it wasn't in our computer under her spelling or any spelling remotely similar. In addition, she never wrote down the office phone number, so I had no way of calling back to find out who it was. She had no idea who he was either, and said she wasn't even sure if the spelling was right because she couldn't really understand him.

Once again, maybe this a case of that UNCOMMON SENSE I talked about several posts ago, but I'd like to think that the normal thing to do if you get a phone call from a doctor's office you're unfamiliar with is to, oh I don't know, CHECK THE FUCKING COMPUTER TO MAKE SURE WE HAVE HIM ON FILE BEFORE YOU HANG UP THE PHONE!!!! At the very least get the damn phone number, so we can call back. All this dumbass did was write down an obviously horribly misspelled name. It wasn't like it was left on the voice mail this way. She spoke to the fucking doctor himself!!!

Honestly, there's no excuse for that. Ok... Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes we just plain forget. It's human nature. I know. However, this particular pharmacist does this all the freaking time! We've addressed her regarding this bad habit, and she still fucking does it! How stupid and/or lazy do you have to be to continue to make the same damn mistake over and over again.

Most pharmacists that blog get pissed off at their stupid customers. My frustration, on the otherhand, tends to be caused by the bunch of morons I work with. Maybe that sounds mean. I guess it is mean. I don't care. I just don't have a whole lot of patience for stupidity. I don't mind someone not knowing how to do something or making a mistake because they're new and still learning. I don't mind teaching. I just hate showing someone the same thing or dealing with the same mistakes over and over and over and over again. I hate having my concentration interrupted in the middle of checking a prescription or investigating a potential interaction by one of our techs who can't figure out that the printer isn't printing because it's out of paper. It would be hilarious if it wasn't so fucking infuriating to watch 2 or 3 techs all fumbling around trying to figure something out in the computer system, where upon I'll walk over and fix their "problem" in 2 seconds.

I think it would be very beneficial to my stress level at work if there were a small room attached to the pharmacy with padded walls and sound proof insulation. That way, when I get to the point of boiling over with the frustration of dealing with stupidity, I can go in my nice little room, punch the walls, yell at the top of my lungs for a few seconds, and just release all that anger. Then, once it's out of my system, I can return to work refreshed.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Downside of My Job

As I've stated numerous times, for the most part I like my job. If it were up to me, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't take a different job or switch to a different company. However, there is one downside about my job (and it doesn't have anything to do with my specific company but rather retail pharmacy in general), it's that I come home from work absolutely exhausted every day.

I'm a low energy person. I'm not one of those people that can get up at the crack of dawn every morning, cook breakfast, do a load of laundry, go to the gym, and then work 12 hours. It's simply an impossibility for me. In addition, I rarely have the energy to work a full day then go out afterwards. Usually, I just don't feel up to it.

Work is stressful for me, as it is for most retail pharmacists. I'm in a busy store. There's always plenty of work to do. The phone never stops ringing. Customers are always asking questions. I bounce from place to place try to help everyone I can. For the most part, I can manage the workload, but I always feel on-edge during the day.

Like other pharmacists, I have my own little obsessive tendencies when I work. Everything has to be neat and orderly. I can't give myself even a 2-second break until all the prescriptions are properly filed, all the bottles are put away, every refill from the automated line is done, all the calls are made, etc. Basically, I don't let myself relax until I have done absolutely everything. I don't save things for later. I won't stop in the middle of something to grab a bite to eat. Everything must be done and put away.

Then I come home....

Usually the first thing I do is throw whatever mail I received that day on a table by the door to my apartment. As I type this, I have a couple weeks of unopened mail just sitting there. After taking off my shoes and throwing them in a pile near the door, I go to my computer and check my email. Usually I spend 20 to 30 minutes just sitting in my computer chair surfing the internet for nothing in particular before I get the energy to move again. The next step is changing out of my work clothes. Instead of throwing them right in the laundry or hanging them up, I pile them up on my dresser, where they usually stay for 3 or 4 days before I get the inclination to do something with them.

As for dinner... I'm usually too tired to cook myself something, so unless I have lunch meat to make a sandwich, I'll eat chips or pretzels for dinner. If those just aren't cutting it, I'll order a pizza. Obviously, this isn't exactly the healthiest diet.

Basically, I'm this big slob at home. I don't change the garbage bags in my trash cans until they're practically overflowing. I leave dishes in the sink for days at a time. I have a pile of Drug Topic magazines just sitting on my desk. I originally meant to read through them, but I just never got around to it, so now they just add to the clutter. Other than basketball, which I play once or twice a week, I haven't done any form of exercise in months. Because of this and my horrible diet, I've gained 11 pounds since October.

I was never ever like this before. When I was growing up and even when I was in college, I always liked things to be neat. I made my bed every single day. I always hung up my clothes. I never left papers or books just lying around. I used to exercise (push-ups, crunches, and other stuff like that) daily. However, ever since becoming a pharmacist, I just don't have the energy for it. I've tried to get back to my old habits. I'm usually good for a week or two before I go right back to being lazy again.

My job just sucks the life right out of me. All I can do afterwards is come home and crash. I often complain about my lack of a love-life, but I honestly can't see how I could even have a successful relationship without burning myself out completely. I just don't have the energy to deal with going out, or celebrating birthdays and anniversaries.

Alright... That's all I've got for now.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Quick Blurb About Education

I have a few friends who are teachers, and I know and have spoken to several people with young children in the school system. All these people tell me how the emphasis on learning has switched from taking tests to doing these elaborate, hands-on projects. The idea is that we need to be getting children actively involved in the learning process at a young age, and the best way to do it is by giving them creative projects (dioramas, science fair projects, poster boards, etc.). Someone I recently spoke to told me that her son's science fair project takes up 80% of his last marking period grade!!

I think this idea is freaking stupid. I hated projects when I was a kid. I hated them with a passion. I would rather take 100 tests than make a stupid poster or do some other "creative" project. In fact, one time when given the option to either make a crossword puzzle using the words in the chapter of my spelling book or to answer every single question in the chapter, I chose to answer every question in the chapter. I was the only one in my class to do so.... Wouldn't you know, I was also the only person in the class to get a 100 on that spelling test (which included spelling, definitions, using in sentences, etc.).

Personally, I believe that you learn a lot less through projects than you do through old fashioned questions and tests. Chapter questions and well-written tests make sure the students are paying attention to all the details of the subject. When doing a project, you can choose to ignore certain aspects of a subject and, instead, only focus on the things you feel like.

Moreover, let's not kid ourselves.... Especially on the elementary school level, these kids aren't really the ones doing the projects. The parents are doing the projects for them. After all, while kids are plenty creative, they often have great difficulty organizing their thoughts to form something coherent. Therefore, if left on their own, they'd produce pretty poor creative projects. The parents end up being the ones that come up with the ideas, buy the materials, do all the cutting, all the pasting, 3/4 of the research, most of the writing, etc. All the kid has to do is stand up in front of the class and show the work his mommy or daddy did.

I know this was true for me. My mother did all my school projects until I hit high school. Every diorama, science fair project, poster board, and creative invention project, was done almost entirely by my mom. Luckily, we had to do far less projects in my elementary and middle school days than students have to do today. I'm pretty sure I learned a WHOLE lot more than today's students too.

My personal opinion is that elementary school and middle school should focus mostly on math and writing (with an emphasis on proper grammar and paragraph structure). History and science can be those fun little classes on the side, but most of the early learning should be in math and writing (and I'll throw in reading, which goes hand-in-hand with writing). These are the most important subjects because everything else is built upon them. Math is integral in statistics, chemistry, physics, and many other subjects. A good understanding is the only means to mastering these subjects. Reading and writing is quite simply involved in every subject. You can't learn a subject unless you can read well about it, and you can't properly explain a subject without being able to effectively write about it.

That was just my random thought for the day... And by the way... I realize that there are a few grammatical and spelling mistakes in my blog entries. Understand that I'm not paying particularly close attention to grammar and spelling in my blog. I'm just getting ideas out there. If I were to write a formal paper, my grammar would be much much better.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Pharmacy Alliance

I've never addressed this topic, which seems to be running rampant across blogs over the last few months. I didn't really know what to say about it. However, I'm going to try to put something into words, and I must warn you, it probably won't go over very well.

I respect all the pharmacists, technicians, and students that are taking part in this new Alliance. I admit that their intentions are quite noble, and if they succeed in reinstilling dignity, self-respect, and integrity into the profession of pharmacy, it will be better for all of us.

I'm not a member, and here's why: Honestly, I can't see how this is even going to come remotely close to making any kind of difference. What has any pharmacy group really accomplished over the last few decades? We have APhA, ASCP, ASHP, etc. What do these groups really do besides meet maybe once a month and eat dinner (which is usually sponsored by some drug company, which seems hypocritical to me)? I guess they put on their fair share of CE's for pharmacists, which is always good. However, and maybe I'm too young to have an appreciation of this, how have they advanced the profession? Oh wait... that's right. Pharmacists can now give flu shots. Hooray!!! That puts us on the same level as medical assistants! Score one for the home team.

It's my personal belief that the profession will be changed by a few highly motivated pharmacists who will go out and fight to start up a clinical pharmacy program, an anticoagulation clinic, a diabetes or asthma education program, or an extensive community pharmacy based medication therapy management program. Pharmacy groups will not be the ones that enact change because, quite simply, they have no way of affecting the people and companies that are running our profession.

Do you think Walgreens gives a shit about The Pharmacy Alliance (or any pharmacy group for that matter)? How about CVS or Rite Aid? They don't care. They don't have to. Why would they listen to any of our demands? How would we make them listen? Strike? There's no pharmacists' union, so that's kind of an impossibility. Besides, it's unethical for pharmacists to go on strike.

Personally, I like my job. I'm fine with just about every part of it. Perhaps it's because I don't work for Walgreens or CVS. I think my company treats me fairly well. I know I'm paid pretty well, and while I get angry or frustrated with some customers, for the most part, dealing with the public is enjoyable. I often complain about my job, well... because everyone complains about their job. When it comes down to it though, there are probably only a couple minor things I would change (a lunch break would be really nice, and some retail pharmacists actually do get one).

I can't speak for other parts of the country, but in my area, there are plenty of other pharmacies to work for besides Walgreens, CVS, or Rite Aid. Any pharmacist looking for a job has heard the horror stories of working at these places. Therefore, if they still decide to take a job with one of these companies, who can they really blame if they're miserable? Furthermore, what's stopping them from trying another retail company? And if they've tried a ton of retail companies, and they can't find a single one that provides a positive working experience, maybe they just have to face the facts that they don't really like retail pharmacy and are better suited for something else.

In any case... I wish The Pharmacy Alliance luck, and I truly hope they can succeed in getting us extra pharmacist help, lunch breaks, and some more respect from our store managers. I'm rooting for them. I just won't be fighting along side them.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

What if...

This weekend, I hung out with a few friends of mine. We were at a local get-together, playing cards, and having a few beers. It wasn't anything special, but it was a pretty relaxing evening. In any case, while there, I ran into a girl who I haven't seen since high school, and I spent most of the night talking to her, mostly about her 2 year old son who has Down Syndrome. She found out I was a pharmacist and then started asking me question after question about her son's medication. I didn't mind. She was genuinely concerned, and I was glad to answer whatever questions she had.

The reason I bring this up is because I had the biggest crush ever on this girl when I was in high school. We first met in 8th grade, and I thought she was really annoying at first. You see... If you think I'm bad with women now, you should have seen me in my adolescent days. I literally could not speak to a girl. I'd shake like a leaf the second one said anything to me. I couldn't get a sentence out of my mouth. I was pathetic. For whatever reason, this girl (I'll call her Lisa) took an interest in me. To this day, I have no idea why.

At the end of the school day, we had a study hall period during which we were supposed to be doing our homework. I never bothered doing any work, and since I pretty much got all A's, my teachers never worried about what I did. Well, it was during that time that she continually sat next to me and tried to get me to talk about things. Nothing deep, you know. Just the simple stuff that I seemed to struggle with (i.e. my parents, whether I had brothers and sisters, what I like to do in my spare time, etc.). It was small talk, but before meeting her, I wasn't capable of making small talk. By the end of the year, however, she brought me out of my shell a little bit.

Suddenly and completely unexpectedly, I found myself really liking Lisa. She had a really special personality. She's the kind of person you just don't come across very often. I can't really describe it in words, but if you met her, you'd understand. It was no accident that she was voted best personality in both my middle school and high school year books.

The next year was our freshman year in high school, and by some amazing coincidence, we ended up in the same science class. I say it's an amazing coincidence because I shouldn't have taken the same level class as her. My high school had 3 class levels (honors, academic, and basic). Obviously, the honors classes were the best, but despite having the highest science average in my team in 8th grade, I chose to take the academic level class out of concern that taking all honors classes would be too much work. I didn't know what to expect from high school, so I wanted to play it safe. I ended up finding out that high school classes (and pretty much every level class I've ever taken) are pretty easy for me. I literally could have slept through that academic science class and passed with flying colors.

In any case, we ended up in the same class (it was the only class we had together in high school other than one other study hall during my junior year). We also ended up being randomly seated right next to each other. We kind of became pretty good friends. I used to help her out on her homework as well as helping her study for tests. She started going out with another guy on the basketball team, so she used to come to all our games (I only played freshman ball during my freshman year). Presumably, she went to the game to support her boyfriend, but I heard her cheering for me much more than for him. I can remember distinctly shooting free throws and hearing her yell out "Yay Mike!" every time I made one. Of course, I averaged almost 18 points per game and shot nearly 50% from the 3 point line in freshman ball, so she had more opportunities to cheer for me than anyone else. I think there was more to it than that though.

Now, I said earlier that I liked her, but you don't understand what that means with me. I tend not to give out my affection very often, so in order to really get my attention, you have to be pretty special. Lisa was special. I liked her a lot. And you know what? I know that by the end of the year, she liked me too. She would never admit it to her friends, but I could tell. There was always something between us that was a little different. Something that you can't quite put your finger on, but you know it's there. I was still this painfully shy, dorky kid. I was known for 4 things: 1) I loved basketball. 2) I was really smart. 3) I was really shy. 4) I was a really nice guy. I hung out with the "cool kids" because I was good at basketball, but I was never really fully accepted into the group. Deep down, I just wasn't one of the "cool kids." I was basically a smart, dorky kid who just happened to be nasty at basketball. Lisa was, in essence, too cool for me, so she couldn't go out with me even if she really wanted to.... and I'll always contend she liked me.

In any case.... I'm starting to get to the point of this post. Lisa ended up being caught up in the wrong crowd, and we fell out of contact. She was always a smart girl, but she just needed a little push to get her going in school. However, she started hanging out with these pot-smoking, beer drinking deliquints, and she got caught up in that stuff. Her grades suffered. She started getting into some juvenile trouble. Eventually, this smart girl ended up just barely graduating high school, and she never even considered going to college. She took whatever low paying jobs she could find and ended up getting married to some guy that had just as many money problems as she did. She had a kid who had Downs Syndrome (just plain bad luck there). She now is the same age as me and her and her husband live with her parents in a tiny house.

Let me clarify that I don't think this is neccessarily a bad thing. She and her husband aren't bad citizens or anything. They just struggle to make ends meet. Every day is a struggle for that family. It makes me sad because I know that she had so much potential, but her high school days ruined any chance she had of living up to that potential.

That's why I'm wondering what if. I never told her I liked her. Sometimes, I even went out of my way to show that I didn't really like her. Sometimes, I was just so socially awkward that I'd say something that sounded pretty rude to her, even though I didn't intend it that way at all. What if I had stepped up and put my feelings out there? What if I showed her I cared more? Could I have changed her life?

It's a strange thought and not without merrit (despite being ultimately pointless). I remember one time she came up to me proud of herself for making honor roll one marking period. She told me about it, and my reaction was, "So?" What an asshole thing to say to someone! I didn't mean it in a mean way, but I was too socially inept to state my feelings more clearly. I was thinking that it was really good for her, but she has the ability to do that every marking period if she wanted. My shooting her down isn't really the point though. The point was that she told me in the first place. She obviously thought it was something I'd approve of, and she was looking for my approval.

If she ended up going out with me, maybe she would have focused more on school. Maybe she wouldn't have gotten caught up in drugs. Maybe she would have went on to college and got a good job that would enable her to more easily take care of a family.

Anyway... Seeing her and talking to her this weekend made me think about all this stuff. She asked me if I was married yet, to which I of course said no with a chuckle (I didn't want to get into the whole situation with my ex). She looked genuinely surprised and said to me, "I'm shocked. I figured some girl would have snatched you right up." There was a room full of people that she knew far better than me, but she spent most of the night talking to me. I'm not saying she likes me or anything. Despite not having the easiest life, she seems pretty happy with her husband and child. It's just that the way she talked to me further showed me that she used to have more than a passing interest in me back in high school. I guess I also wonder if the thought of "What if.." ever crossed her mind.

I know this was a long post, and I know very few if any will make it through it. However, I write mostly for myself, and there's a lot I wanted to get off my chest. I found it simultaneously interesting, a little enlightening, and sad. It's kind of rare that a simple event can affect someone in so many different ways. I guess that's why I had to write about it.

Friday, April 4, 2008

A Note to All Pharmacy Customers

Once a prescription leaves the pharmacy, you cannot bring it back. I really don't know how to make this more clear. That means that if you get home and decide that you really didn't want to pay $150 for brand name Paxil when you could have paid $10 for the generic, you're stuck with it. Sorry. Try again next month.

I swear people think we're just making this shit up. They don't realize it's a federal law. Did you know we have to destroy any medication that leaves the pharmacy and is brought back to us? We can't use it again. It's not like a sweater you bought and later realized it doesn't quite fit right. I'm talking about medication here.

"But Pharmacy Mike, I never even opened my prescription bag!"

That's wonderful that you say so. First of all, how can I be 100% sure of this? It's not exactly difficult to open a bag carefully and then restaple it. Second of all, even if the bag was never opened, how do I know you didn't leave that bag sitting in your car on a sweltering hot day for 18 hours. How do I know you didn't bring the stuff into a sauna with you (as stupid as that sounds, knowing some of my customers, it wouldn't surprise me)? Hell, how do I know you don't run a basement medication counterfeiting laboratory, and you switched out the real meds for fake ones?

I know I'm getting ridiculous here, but all these things are possibilities, even if they're very remote possibilities.

Moreover, I'm tired of the excuses. "No one told me I couldn't bring it back. Can't I get some kind of store credit." Listen buddy... If no one told you, it's because you didn't ask. It would be hard to find a single person who works in any pharmacy who doesn't know a customer can't return medication once it's left the pharmacy. That might be the first law (other than the HIPAA policies) that employees learn.

Here's another excuse: "My neighbor came and picked up my medication for me, and she didn't know which ones I needed. I don't take this one anymore." Sorry, that's not my fault. That's another thing I recommend; If you send someone to pick up prescriptions for you, tell them how many and which drugs you should be getting. Give them a list if you have to.

Actually, I'm going to go off on a tangent now because I think that is even more annoying than trying to return meds. If you use a busy pharmacy, chances are the staff will not be able to remember every prescription they filled for you, especially if they were all called in at separate times. That means that more than likely, your medication will be in several different bags in our bins. Yes, ideally we'd love to put all of them in a single bag. The reality though is that we fill nearly 500 prescriptions per day, and we simply do not have the time to do it. Therefore, it is the CUSTOMER'S responsibility to know how many prescriptions are to be picked up. It's not the pharmacy's responsibility to make sure you leave with all your prescriptions.

I can't count how many times I get a phone call 10 minutes after a customer left our counter saying that they only were given 3 prescriptions instead of 4 like it should have been. The person always complains about how he thought we "knew what we were doing," so he assumed we would give him all the prescriptions he needed. Now, he'll have to drive ALL THE WAY back to the store (which is usually an arduous 5 minutes away) to get the last one.

Anyway... those were just a few things that were irking me from this week. As I was writing this, I got called in on my day off because a pharmacist is sick. Let's see now... I stayed nearly 3 hours late one day to cover for someone, an hour late the next day because we were busy, and now I'm getting called in for 6 additional hours on my day off. That's a nice 50 hour work week there. Didn't I say I was feeling pretty tired from work a couple weeks ago? This didn't really help the cause.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A little bit about my "duty" as a pharmacist

Yesterday a man walks up to the counter with a couple prescriptions to dropoff and a refill to pick up. The prescriptions dropped off were for a glucose monitor, test strips, and lancets. Pretty standard fair. Nothing overly complicated about them. The refill he wanted to pick up was for Apidra.

Apidra is a rapid acting insulin, kind of like Humalog or Novalog, except hardly any doctor prescribes Apidra. This was one of the rare patients who actually uses it. His refill for Apidra wouldn't be covered for about another week because it was too soon. It turns out the man was going on vacation and needed a vacation override. Once again, pretty standard. No big deal.

I called the insurance and got the vacation override. I went to the refrigerator to grab the 2 vials that the prescription called for and found out we only had one vial. We'd have to owe him a vial. This is not unusual in any way, especially for a medication that hardly anyone uses. We'd get the rest to him the next day.

Anyone who works in a pharmacy knows what came next...

"I'm leaving this afternoon for the entire month, and 1 vial won't last me that long."

Well, this guy had a little bit of a problem then. I offered to transfer the prescription to another pharmacy, which he said would be fine. However, not a whole lot of places stock Apidra, nevermind having 2 vials of it. I called the nearest competing pharmacy. No luck. The man then told me to try a couple other pharmacies in our chain, so I did, and once again, no luck.

Upon informing him that all 3 pharmacies I called did not have a single vial, he said he didn't believe me and wanted me to keep calling around. He was angry, and his anger was starting to get me irritated. I told him that I'd try one more place, but after that, he's on his own. We were busy, and I couldn't call every pharmacy in existence looking for his Apidra.

"You have to. It's your DUTY!," he exclaimed to me.

That was all I could take. I looked at him and told him, "No it is not my duty. It was YOUR duty to call the pharmacy several days BEFORE you were leaving on vacation to make sure we had your medication in stock and inform us that you would be leaving for vacation and needed them filled early."

That didn't sit too well with him. "Give me all my prescriptions back. I'm going to another pharmacy and never coming back."

"Great," I said. I reversed his test strips, glucometer, and lancets, but since the Apidra was a refill, I couldn't hand him the prescription back. "Because it's a refill, I can't give you back the prescription for Apidra. You can call around to other pharmacies, and when you find one that carries it, you can have them give us a call, and I'll gladly transfer it there."

In the end, the man took up 20 minutes of my time and left without us filling a single prescription for him, and you know what, I'm quite satisfied by that. The asshole tried to lecture me on my duty as a pharmacist. While I did respond to it, I could only do so in a semi-courteous fashion. If someone had presented that kind of stupidity to me outside of work, I would have made sure he was well aware of just how much of an idiot he was.

Seriously, how fucking stupid do you have to be to wait until the day you are leaving to come pick up insulin prescriptions? You know... Insulin is pretty important. It's not something you want to be without because, oh I don't know, you might die. I think that would be reason enough for me to call the pharmacy at least a week ahead of time to ensure that not only would they have my prescription in stock, but that they had no trouble getting them filled through the insurance. Hell, I'd probably call the insurance company too just in case there's some sort of problem.

I guess I just have that weird thing called common sense though. Actually, from now on, I'm going to call it uncommon sense because if it was so fucking common, you'd think more people would have it.

In my ideal world, I would have been able to call the guy a moron and an asshole to his face and tell him to take a hike while physically throwing his prescriptions back at him. He thinks it's my fucking duty to drop everything I'm doing and call every pharmacy in the state because he did a shitty job planning for his vacation. I like to think that I have a higher duty to all of humanity to help rid the world of clowns like him.