The specter of the upcoming inventory loomed heavy in the air, the way I imagine radioactive radon gas would. Those of you in any of the retail trades know exactly of what I speak. Preparation starts early for the big day. Warnings are issued weeks in advance. Instructions from corporate build like a mighty river, a tiny stream at first, merging into a greater and greater flow until the current is ready to wash away the unprepared.
Let there be no mistake. People are coming to count your stuff.
I decided to break the mounting tension by playing a little game throughout the day. I would periodically call my local Walgreens on one phone line and CVS on the other, and have them unwittingly compete to see who would answer the phone first.
The first time I reached for the phone to play I looked up and saw a man walk by whose face was covered in shaving cream. He didn't look homeless. I mean, I guess I could understand if one of the local homeless dudes wanted to take advantage of our bathroom to catch up on a little hygiene, but this guy looked fairly affluent and was wearing a shirt with that guy above the breast pocket riding a horse, the kind you pay way too much for at Macy's. Perhaps shaving cream is a new fashion statement or something. I put off the first round of competition so I could mull over what I just witnessed.
A customer told me he was glad to see Easter come because he had given up Vicodin for lent. I looked at his profile and sure enough, his once weekly allotment hadn't been filled since Fat Tuesday. I'm sure he felt the smile of Jesus upon him at home that day, or at least the pleasure of downregulated narcotic receptors.
Opening round winner, CVS, 12 minutes.
I then answered my phone on the third ring and heard, "Yeah, I was just there and I think my belt fell off. Did anyone turn in a belt?" I wondered if she would have waited 12 minutes to ask that and if it had anything to do with shaving cream man.
Enough silliness. There were patients to take care of. "What do I use for this?" said the lady at the counter, who then proceeded to just kinda wave her hand around various parts of her body. I looked to see if her belt was on and waited to see if I would get any kind of clarification. Nope. I was gonna have to play 20 questions. Goody. I like games. Turned out she had ringworm and a belt in the proper position.
Second round went to Walgreens. Eight minutes.
When they picked up I asked them if they had any Deconamine, an old-time antihisamine/decongestant combo. The tech assured me they did, so I faxed a prescription over. The fax was returned half an hour later with the words "What is this med?" scrawled in big black letters.
My keystone tech became very upset that a bottle had been placed on the shelf without the required pen marks on the label to show it had been opened. My other tech seemed to be getting really spooked about this whole inventory thing.
"Don't worry" I assured her. "We're in good hands. Keystone Tech has been through a million of these things. She's been here so long the first time she worked one the total was $500."
"Yup. A nickel was a lot of money back then. The average prescription probably cost like a dollar twenty five."
I love my number two tech. But she can be a bit gullible at times.
Back to work as a customer at the counter once again needed my help. I went through their symptoms and spat out some Claritin-D. It was pretty cut and dried really, but still the kind of thing you would have paid your doctor $50 for ten years ago.
"But she saw Advil on TV" was the customer's reply. And another part of the profession died.
The tiebreaker was shaping up to be a real battle royale. Both outposts of their respective national drugstore empires took their reputation seriously, and was not about to cede any ground to the other. Five minutes passed, ten....15....and no signs of life on either phone line. I started to come to terms with the fact that I might be hearing a blend of odd classical and bland pop music for the rest of the night.
"HEY!!!!!" a mother yelled at her offspring from the drop-off counter. "WHAT IS YOUR BIRTHDAY YOU THINK?"
20 minutes. This was a true slug fest between two champions. They both wanted it.
I noticed most of the people walking by had no trouble keeping their belts on.
And finally, at 35 minutes, I heard it. "Thank you for calling Walgreens, may I help you?" A few seconds later CVS picked up their line. And hung up without saying anything. Those two corporations made more money today than I will ever see in my lifetime. Yet for some reason I still make sure the phone gets answered when it rings. Perhaps I am as gullible as my number two tech.
Wish me luck with the inventory. I guess.