Friday, October 30, 2009

Sometimes That Old Lady Isn't the One Losing Her Mind

In a pharmacy, this situation presents itself numerous times every week. Some old customer will come to the counter looking to pick up a prescription, except there will be nothing in the bin for him. Upon looking in the computer and checking signature records, we learn that he picked up the prescription he was looking for just 2 days earlier. However, he can't recall ever picking it up and swears to all that is holy that he checked his medicine cabinet a dozen times and that pill bottle just wasn't there.

Usually, this story always ends the same way. Several hours later, the old customer will call in saying he found his medication "way in the back" of his medicine cabinet. Thus, order is restored in the world.

Being so experienced with these situations, we were not at all surprised when the 82-year old Mrs. Smith came in one day trying to pick up a prescription that none of us could find in the bin. The computer said that it was filled 2 days earlier. One of our technicians checked the signature log and told Mrs. Smith that she had signed for the script on 9/25, the day after it was filled. Mrs. Smith couldn't recall ever coming to the pharmacy the day before. Nevertheless, the technician assured her that she must have it at home somewhere and implored her to check her medicine cabinet again.

A couple hours later, Mrs. Smith called the pharmacy saying that not only could she not find the prescription at home, but she had called her daughter, and her daughter said that they had been out shopping all that day and never made a trip to the pharmacy.

A different technician took this phone call. She also checked the signature log (which is a computer print out showing the patient's electronic signature and the date signed). The technician again informed Mrs. Smith that they she definitely signed for it on 9/25. Once again, Mrs. Smith was told to recheck her medicine cabinet.

"Mrs. Smith is really losing it," remarked the technician. "She really can't remember being here at all."

Two hours later, Mrs. Smith showed up at the pharmacy again. You can see she was getting noticeably frustrated. She swore on her life that she had not come to the pharmacy the previous day, and she demanded to see the signature record thinking that someone else must have signed it. Once again, the technician printed out the signature record. This time was no different than all the other times. Mrs. Smith's signature was unmistakable, and she signed for it on 9/25. The tech showed the signature to Mrs. Smith, and despite it being just about identical to all her other signatures, she was convinced that someone must have forged her signature.

Finally, the tech showed the signature log to me and asked if I thought the signature could possibly be a forgery. Let me note, that this was not a controlled substance. It was Benicar, a blood pressure medication. No one goes to a pharmacy looking to steal Benicar. I looked closely at her signature, and I concluded, like the tech, that it wasn't forged.

Therefore, I took the computer print out in my hand and approached Mrs. Smith. "Mrs. Smith, this is definitely your signature. You signed for prescription number 123456 on September 25... TWO THOUSAND EIGHT!!!!!!," I yelled out.

The entire day, we were driving this poor old woman mad telling her she signed for a prescription the day before when she knew she never went to the pharmacy that day. The whole day, we were remarking how terrible it was that Mrs. Smith was losing her mind. In reality, two technicians kept reading 9/25/2008 and thinking 9/25/2009!

I apologized profusely to Mrs. Smith (and fought the urge to strangle both technicians who put the poor woman through hell all day). I don't know what actually happened to the Benicar prescription that supposedly was filled 2 days earlier. I think we must have lost the label somewhere before it ever got filled. Therefore, I quickly filled the script for Mrs. Smith and sent her on her way. Fortunately, she was a good sport about it. I think she was just relieved that she was right the whole time, and she wasn't losing her mind.

On that day, an 82-year old woman proved to be sharper than the pharmacy staff. Lesson of that day: Don't automatically assume the customer is wrong.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Learning from Tragedy

Today, I learned that someone who graduated with me from high school committed suicide. I haven't seen him in years. I think I've ran into him maybe 2 or 3 times since I graduated. We weren't good friends, but I wouldn't hesitate to include him as one of my friends. He was always a good guy. Not overly bright, but he had a good heart. He always seemed like a happy person, so the news that he took his own life is shocking.

People always try to look for reasons or come to some sort of understanding when things like this happen. I certainly can't make any sense of it. I always thought he was one of those guys that had everything you could ask for. He was a good person. He was good looking and athletic. He had bulging biceps and shredded abs since he was 12 years old. He played basketball with me in middle school. Mind you, he had absolutely no basketball skills whatsoever. He was on the team because he was just about the most athletic kid you've ever seen. I'm fast. He made me look like I'm standing still. He could run, jump, and play defense... and that's all we asked him to do. He was happy to contribute however he could.

He was a police officer in a neighboring town, and from all reports, he did a very good job. I used to joke around with friends that I'd feel bad for the criminal that tried to run away from him. Unless you were Usain Bolt, you weren't outrunning him.

A "self-inflicted gunshot wound" is how the newspaper worded it. All my friends on Facebook immediately posted how it was a tragedy. They said things like "RIP" and "we'll miss you." You know... the standard things everyone says when someone dies. I couldn't help but think that if all of us had showed him how much we cared about him when he was alive, he may have not wanted to end his life.

Why do we always wait until after someone dies to show an outpouring of love and support? I'm guilty of this as anyone else. We take so many things and so many people for granted. We fight over little, insignificant things. We don't make enough of an effort to support the people we care about. Then we talk about how it's such a tragedy when someone decides to take his own life at such a young age.

I think it's a tragedy too... a tragedy that we weren't good enough friends to at least try to help him overcome his problems. I'm sorry that I didn't know he was having such great personal troubles. He was a good guy. He always treated others with decency and respect. A part of me feels like we failed him.

I don't believe in heaven or hell, so I can't make such throw-away statements as "I hope he's in a better place now." If things were really that bad for him that he felt the only option he had was to end his life, I can only say I'm sorry. I hope we remember the good in him and strive to cherish the friends we have.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I Hate Buying Jeans

I hate clothes shopping. I really do. Some people absolutely love the process of buying new clothes. I am not one of those people. I'm the type of person that likes to know exactly what I'm looking for when I walk into a store. I don't browse. I don't hunt for sales. Usually a trip to the store for me takes less 5 minutes. I walk in, proceed directly to the item or items I want, pay for them, then leave. No time wasted.

You can't do this with clothes shopping. You have to see what the stores have. You have to try things on. Ask associates if they have other sizes in back. The entire process is irritating to me.

I've been putting off buying new jeans for a while now because of this. I own two pairs of jeans. I've had them for a couple years now. I alternate the pairs. However, a couple months ago, one of them got a rip in the knee. At first, it was a small tear, so I kept wearing them trying to pass it off as something I did on purpose (it may have worked if this was the early '90s). Unfortunately the rip got bigger and bigger, so I eventually had to put those aside as junky jeans that I would only wear around the house.

That left me with one pair. Well, having only one pair of jeans means that they get washed twice as often. That along with wearing them twice as often ends up wearing them out twice as quickly. Of course, being a couple years old, they were already worn out. Without an alternate pair, their condition got worse pretty quickly.

So, today I finally bit the bullet and took a trip to the mall to buy new jeans. This brings me to the overall point of this blog post and probably the biggest reason why I hate jeans shopping. It is extremely hard to find a pair of jeans that fit me.

I'm going to tell you a little something about my physique. As I mentioned before, I exercise fairly frequently, and I eat pretty healthy. I'm 5'9" and weigh 160 pounds. I'm not all shredded like an Abercrombie model. I don't have a 6 pack, but I'm probably only a few body fat percentage points away from one. No normal person would ever call me overweight.

However, I cannot fit into a pair of nice jeans for anything. The reason? For my size, I have a huge ass and big legs. Think of a guy version of Jennifer Lopez. It's not fat. My lower body is all muscle. My quads are ripped with all the muscle groups readily visible. My legs are just very strong for my size, which is probably why I'm as quick as I am.

Of course, this doesn't help me find a decent pair of jeans. If you were to take a tape measure and measure my waist, it would be less than 30 inches. However, if I bought pants with a 30 or 31 inch waist, they're made so tight in the legs that I can't even got them up over my thighs. Today, I had to try on 4 different sizes until I found one that fit. It ended up being a pair with a 34 inch waist. Then, I run into another problem. They fit great in the legs, but they're so loose in the waist that I have to tighten my belt to the last hole just to keep them up. The waist of my jeans end up looking like they're scrunched tightly together with a draw string.

The whole situation is just very frustrating to me, and I find myself asking who are they making these jeans for? Seriously, you would need to have no ass and legs like a toothpick to fit into the jeans that coincide with my actual waist size.

You know it used to just be women that had to worry about clothes made for unrealistic body types. After all, it seems like designers think your average woman has a body like this:

As gorgeous as I think Mila Kunis is, her ass isn't exactly a shining example of the female figure.

Apparently, designers have noticed the trend in women, and tried to copy it in men by bringing skin tight jeans, that I thought we had left behind for good in the '80s, back to the mainstream. The only guys that can fit in them are the effeminate ones. Do women really like their men to be scrawny with chicken legs?

It's not like I'm only talking about top of the line designer jeans here. I'm not looking for Calvin Klein or Gucci (do they even make men's clothes???) jeans. I'm talking about the middle end stores like J. Crew and Banana Republic.

As a guy with strong, muscular legs, the only options I'm left with are to purchase low quality jeans (from Walmart or something) or stick with decent jeans but have to buy them 5 sizes too big in the waist just so my ass can fit into them. I choose the latter option and invest heavily in belts.

I realize this was a feminine sounding rant, but it really was the thing that pissed me off the most today. My next post will have to be about basketball or something to balance this out.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

What Does It Mean to be "Nice" Anyway?

"Nice" is one of those words that doesn't really have a meaning, at least not one that I can tell. Every day, all I hear is "you're a nice guy," or "Mike's so nice." What does that even mean?

Seriously... What does it mean to be a "nice guy?" As far as I can discern, being "nice" is about never saying anything that might offend someone. See, I'm nice because I avoid confrontation. I'm nice because I don't say bad things about others. That's the extent of it though. It just seems to me that being "nice" is about being so bland that people can have no strong feelings toward you whatsoever.

"Nice" shouldn't be mistaken with being "kind." A "kind" person is one who is constantly helping others and putting others before himself. A "kind" person is a giving and sharing person, and one who's always ready to compliment someone or congratulate someone for a job well done.

Being "kind" is a very good thing. Being "nice" just seems to be meaningless. That's me though. I'm a "nice" guy, but I'm often not an overly "kind" guy. That's not to say that I'm a mean spirited person. Far from it. There are times when I'm kind, but not really on a regular basis. I'm just "nice."

The other day, one of our technicians (a middle-aged woman) said to me, "You're a nice guy. If you can't find a girl, it's because you're not looking hard enough." True as that may be, it's not exactly like when I'm super successful when I try to meet girls. It's not like I've never tried before. They're just not that into me.

The reason? There's nothing to me. I'm not interesting. I'm not fun. I'm not outgoing and gregarious. I don't have many interests or passions. I'm just "nice," and that's what I always hear.

eHarmony girl (like 2 years ago now) told me "You're a really nice guy, but I'm not ready for a relationship now." I'm just so sick of the damn "nice" label. I mean, it's good to be nice if there's something else to you. If you're fun and interesting, then being nice is just kind of an added benefit. However, if you're like me, and all you have is being "nice," that's the formula to remaining single forever.

How do I fix that though? It's just the person I am. I can't change it. I can't just decide to be more fun and interested in more things. It doesn't work like that. At least I don't work like that.

It seems that while I have plenty of admirable traits (honesty, hardworking, loyal, smart, nice), the combination of them all just makes me boring.

Obviously, I'm in the middle of a very reflective time. I'm trying to work some things out in my head. It's becoming clearer and clearer to me that pretty much nothing in my life gives me a sense of fulfillment or purpose. I have a job I sort of like but don't really believe in. I moved into a condo that most people would say is very nice, but despite the entire place being newly renovated, it just doesn't feel like my own. I'm thinking I need to make some kind of radical change in my life, but I have no idea what. I'm not really sure what else I could do. Moreover, I know that right now, even if I knew what I really wanted, I wouldn't have the courage to go out and chase my dream.

I'm just stuck in this rut, and I keep digging myself deeper and deeper.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Today My Past, Present, and Future Flashed Before My Eyes

The phone rang.

On the other end was a voice I've heard so many times before. It's been some time since I've talked to that voice, but there were many years when it would be the first and last voice I heard each day.

I didn't know why she was calling me. I guess I didn't care. She was a part of my life I had left behind, nothing more than a fond memory of a more innocent time. We talked for a little bit, just like old times. We always could talk to each other. We were always better friends than relationship partners. Even during the worst times of our relationship, we still had that bond of friendship. It might be more distant since we haven't spoken in quite some time, but it's still there.

After about ten minutes of chatting about some random things, she paused for a moment. The next words out of her mouth would have scared me to death eight years ago.

"Mike... I'm pregnant."

During our time together, those words were quite literally the worst thing she could have ever said to me. We were barely out of our teens and still in college. Neither of us had a dime to our names. An unplanned pregnancy would have altered our lives forever.

She's 28 now. She's been living with her boyfriend for over a year. He's a big city lawyer and makes probably close to twice as much money as I do. The pregnancy wasn't planned, but seeing as they're both adults and financially stable, it's not like the timing was bad.

I heard those words, and I was hit with a wave of emotions like I've never felt before. I was happy, proud, sad, nervous, and scared all at the same time. I congratulated her, and we talked about the whole thing. We spent nearly an hour on the phone just talking and laughing and speculating about her unborn child. It was a good conversation... Really nice.

I hung up the phone, and I couldn't stop smiling for a while. I was happy for her. Overjoyed actually. She's an incredible person, and she's gone through so much in her life. She's one of those women that were just born to be a mommy. She loves kids and loves caring for people. For the last few years, she had been struggling with physical and emotional problems (that she attributes to our breakup). To hear that she finally got her life together and was going to have a baby made me really happy.

Happiness was the predominant emotion, but there was some sadness and regret not to far from the surface. When we were together, we often talked about "our kids." I wanted a girl. For one, the idea of having "daddy's little girl" really appealed to me. Secondly, since my girlfriend was so small (and I'm not exactly a big guy either), I knew whatever children we had together would grow up to be small. It's easier for a girl to be short than it is for a guy. Short, petite girls are cute. Short guys... not so much.

Back then, I always thought that whenever she finally did say the words, "I'm pregnant," I'd be the first one to hear. I'd be the one there to hug her and hold her. I'd be the proud and happy father-to-be. I'd get to tell all my friends "we're having a baby!" I'd get to go to the ultrasound appointments and take care of her.

As I type this, I'm holding back tears. Not because I wish she was still with me and having my baby, but because it's a moment I may never get to share with someone. I may never get that moment of pure joy that you get when you first learn that the woman you love more than life itself is having a baby with you.

Occasionally, I've written about how I don't really know what I want out of my life. I've said that I'm not even sure if I ever want to be in a relationship. Well, times like today remind me of who I really am... Who I'll always be.

I'm that proud father kind of guy. I want to teach my son how to throw a baseball and shoot a basketball. I want to bring my daughter to her dance recital. I want to help my kids with their homework, watch their baseball games, see their faces as they unwrap gifts on Christmas.

There are so many dead beat dads out there. So many guys that don't deserve to have children, but they have several from several different women. Then there's me... Someone with all the traits you'd look for in a good dad, but there's a good chance I'll never be one. And it'll be such a waste.

Every day I look in the mirror and I see an image I hardly recognize anymore. The hair is getting greyer, and the hairline isn't where it was when I was 18. The fine lines, wrinkles, and saggier skin remind me that I'm not young anymore. I don't feel any different than when I was 18, but people sure don't look at me the same way. I regularly get referred to as "sir." No one cards me when buying alcohol. Why would they? I'm nearly 30 years old.

I'm nearly 30, and I'm still alone. I've had one real relationship in my life, and that one ended 4 years ago. As the years go by, instead of becoming more refined and sophisticated, I've become simpler. I'll never wow a girl. I'll never sweep someone off her feet. I'm boring. The only way I'm getting a girl is through pure dumb luck.

For now, I sit in this barren room in my newly renovated condo and type my thoughts out to strangers because there's no one else I can talk to. I'm still happy for my ex, which goes to show that I really don't have romantic feelings for her anymore. I just hope one day I'll get to share that moment with someone, even though I know that the chances of that happening keep getting smaller and smaller.

It Was Too Long to be a Comment

This was supposed to be a follow-up comment to the last post, but since I kept writing and writing and writing, I figured I might as well make it a new post.

I go in early for myself. It has little to do with the patients. Yes, they may benefit from speedier service and because I have more time to talk to them about their medication. While those are positives, they're not why I go in early.

I don't believe there is a remedy to the situation. I think that most people out there just function in this way. It's their nature. Yes, you can try to impose rules and crack the whip in order to get them to work harder and be more focused. However, in the end, they don't become better workers because they want to be. They become better because you forced them to become better. They don't appreciate you for it. Instead, they hate you for making them work so damn hard. They think you're unreasonable.

It's the same thing in every environment I've ever worked in, pharmacy or otherwise. There are always people that fight over who gets to do certain daily tasks. They'll argue about who takes too many breaks, who comes in late, who leaves early, etc. You replace the problem workers with new ones only to find out that your new workers have the same problems.

The situation actually doesn't stress me out that much. Yes, sometimes when everyone else is slacking off, and I'm the only one working, things can get a little crazy for a while. However, I usually don't feel stressed as much as I feel that I'm being treated unfairly. Why am I the only one busting my ass? Why do I bother doing what I do when everyone else can get away with doing so much less while still getting paid the same?

Moreover, why when it comes to being hired or fired does seniority count more than job performance?

We had an intern at our store for several years now. She started before she was even in pharmacy school working as a tech. Then she worked as an intern throughout her entire time in school. She'd work weekends. She'd cover people's vacations. She'd come in when someone would call out sick. She worked hard, and she did a very very good job.

Well, she just got her pharmacist's license. What should have been one of the happiest times for her turned bitter sweet when our DM told her that there are no pharmacist positions in the company for her.

She had worked with the company for over 5 years. She was a great intern, and she's going to have a great career as a pharmacist. She's extremely smart, works hard, is constantly striving to expand her knowledge base, and gets along very well with all the customers. However, she can't get a job with us. Meanwhile, my company has some pharmacists that quite literally begged to be fired still on payroll.

One floater in particular was so bad that several stores refuse to have him sent there anymore. He'd go in 30 minutes late, close the gate 30 minutes early, spend the entire day bad mouthing to customers and staff, in addition to constantly saying how much he hates the DM and everything to do with the company. He still gets his hours. He still collects his paycheck. Our new pharmacist, on the other hand, has done everything right, but simply because she got her license during a hiring freeze, the company has nothing for her.

It also bugs me because if my company ever decided that it needed to start laying off pharmacists, I would be one of the first to go because I'm one of the newest pharmacists. I work harder and do a better job than probably 90% of the pharmacists we employ, but if it ever came time to cut someone, my name would be near the top of the list.

It just goes to show you that if you work for a chain, you're nothing more than a license to them. If they need more licenses they hire more people. If they need to get rid of licenses they just pick the ones they hired most recently. They don't care how hard you work. They don't care how much your coworkers and customers like you. It's all about the chronological order in which they hired you.

That's why I feel there's almost no point in even complaining to management about laziness or poor job performance. They might give those offending workers a slap on the wrist and a stern "you better start working harder" talk. It might even work for a couple weeks. Then, they'll fall right back into old habits. When you bring it back up to management, they'll start getting annoyed and questioning why you're the only one that seems to have a problem. Then, you end up being the one that's on watch. The truth is that management doesn't really care unless enough people come forward that they have to care. If it's just one person, they don't want to be bothered. Managers are just as lazy as every other employee. They just stuck around long enough that someone decided to make them managers.

Of course... I'm speaking generally here. I know there are plenty of sparkling examples of good employees and good managers. One thing's for certain though. They certainly are not the majority.