Friday, June 08, 2007

My Inner Criminal

Any of you who have read my posts over time will already know that I am a raging asthmatic. I have a number of prescriptions and a regimen that I adhere to strictly in order to keep myself alive. Although I'm under constant monitoring by my docs, over time I have occasionally bought over-the-counter tablets because under certain circumstances they really help clear out excessive mucus in a way that none of my prescriptions do. This improves my overall condition. Furthermore, I always try to have tablets on hand if I travel, because any change in my environment always exacerbates the asthma. That's a 100% reliable given.

So we were finally getting our summer plans in order, and that included vacation. I started thinking about what we might need to take with us this year and whether anything needed to be upgraded. I riffled through the "family hygiene" Ziploc baggie to make note of what was present and what needed adding or replacing. (The Ziploc contains everything anyone might need--bug bite remedy, children's fever reducer, Dramamine, Benadryl, topical anti-itch creme, extra toothpaste, shampoo/conditioner, combs, sunscreen, yadda yadda, yadda). I noticed that the travel Primatene tablets were absent. So while I was out after regular grocery shopping, I stopped at Walgreens to pick up a small box of 12-24 Primatene for the kit.

For months and months, our local Walgreens has been getting a major facelift. Half the store is blocked off and empty, and the other half is completely mixed up; nothing is where it used to be and even the Pharmacy counter is now hidden in the bowels in a far-back corner. After wandering for a while, I found the cold/allergy section and scrutinized the shelves for Primatene. I looked and looked for the familiar package and started to think I would have to go across town to CVS instead. Just before giving up, I saw a spot on the shelf with claim cards in it. It's like the sort of ticket you get at Toys 'R' Us when you want an extra-large item that they have to bring to the cashier station from the warehouse.

I had never seen such a thing before. The card said I had to present it to the pharmacist. Whuuuuttttt?? It's a frigging over-the-counter remedy that's been around for years. Oh, and I might add that it's less effective than it used to be because they took out a good ingredient that used to make it work better (I can't remember the name of that now). I was in a bit of a hurry, and now I was going to have to stand in line at the pharmacy and wait for them to rummage for a single item?

A kid about 17 took the ticket and scanned the shelves behind the counter. When he came back, with the box (the size of which I had no choice about), he had the audacity to ask me for ID. What the Fu$k??? This is a Walgreens, and a kid too young to be an agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is asking me for ID? It's not a state liquor store and a jug of moonshine, for goddsakes. It's a box of 60 tablets, and by the way, I never wanted more than 24.

So of course I had to argue. The pharmacist flew out from between the shelves and said menacingly, "If it contains pseudophed it's restricted."

"But I'm not trying to buy pseudophed." She grabbed the box, frowned at me, and looked at the ingredients.

"It contains ephedrine. It's controlled." Oooh, the 'c' word! When I lived in New York state, "controlled" items were certified narcotics (such as a kid's Ritalin or a cancer patient's pain meds). These had to be prescribed on a special, separate pad and signed in triplicate. If every item on the form was not filled out in a very particular way, the pharmacy would send the person presenting the prescription back to the doctor to make the doctor correct the form. Every time I would go to get a bottle of pills, there'd be a mistake on the form and it would take days to straighten out. Days that someone was doing without important medicine.

What, I'm an effing narcotics head now and I have to be checked against the America's Most Wanted list?

I showed the boy my drivers license. I figured he was just looking for the date, the way they would at a liquor store if I weren't ancient enough never to be carded.

But, no.

He was actually taking all the information off of my drivers license! He did not even explain to me what was happening. Had I had half a chance to know what this was about, I would have thrown the box back and stormed out in a huff. Shove your frigging Primatene where the sun don't shine! "Hey, what are you doing there with my personal information?" He didn't answer, just acted as if I weren't there. What was I going to do, leap over the counter and chase him down? The kid was slow as molasses. Don't their high school technology courses teach them how to use a keyboard? He kept squinting and squinting some more, until I decided he needed glasses. He was really milking it, squeezing every last bit of information from my license.

We are not free citizens, people. We are objects to be controlled by our information, a jumble of numbers and mere faceless subjects in a maze of databases waiting to betray the honest.

So that's it. My personal information is now in a database somewhere as a person of interest among those who might have the potential to sell street drugs. Give me a break! After I got the receipt, I read the fine print at the bottom, which says,
Federal law limits the sale of pseudoephedrine products to no more than 3.6 grams per person per day and limits an individual's purchases to 9 grams or less per 30 day period. Some states are more restrictive.

But I wasn't buying pseudo ephedrine. I was buying the real thing. Whoopee! Does that upgrade my criminal status to Addict or Drug Lord Extraordinaire? Next, I looked at the ingredients on the box. "Each tablet contains 12.5 mg of ephedrine HCI, USP and Guaifenesin, USP 200 mg." 'Scuse me if that looks to me like a mere pittance.

Because of this 12.5 mg--and never more than two tablets a day, I might add, since the shaky side-effects are overwhelmingly not worth it--I am now a shining star on the National Do Not Sell Registry. What would do if I go back in tomorrow to get another box? What if I decide to raid CVS? Are there DEA officers hiding behind the counter with cuffs, and a waiting vehicle out back?

If I could do the math, I would figure out how many grams of pure evil I actually bought. In any case, I fail to understand how this further violation and degradation of me as a citizen makes the government feel all better about its sorry self in its continued resounding failure in the "War Against Drugs." The people who legitimately need this medicine, who used to just breeze into the store and pull it off the shelf, now can't get it without interrogation and a fight. But what Big Gubmint didn't consider is that the people who really are making street drugs are not doing it piecemeal, by legally and dutifully purchasing one box a month of Primatene. All they have to do is raid a warehouse or truck or a drugstore and steal it. Much cheaper and more efficient.

That's right! I and all my mom-jeans-wearing housewife cronies have a big ring here in our little town, which I might add is above reproach. We go around buying up all the Primatene and NyQuil in surrounding snooty suburbs--patiently, month by month--and once we have a really good stockpile, we smuggle it down to the basement and scrape out the "good stuff" (which is what? I don't even know). Then we dress up like hookers in Land's End garb and sell it on the street. I wouldn't hold out much hope for what I could glean from a box of 12. But imagine the potential from a box of 60. Uh, maybe not so much.

Oh, yeah. I forgot. I don't have a basement.

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At 6/08/2007 8:29 PM, Blogger Nance said...

This is so you don't stockpile it and make methamphetamines. This has been going on for quite some time here in OH. Honey, where have you been?

At 6/09/2007 10:45 AM, Blogger fringes said...

I was outraged the first time that happened to me. You need your medication, so you have to put up with it. As for me, the next time I catch a cold, I will suffer through. "They" are only looking for ways to keep tabs on us. I don't know who "they" are, but that's my theory.

Thanks for visiting my blog and for leaving your energetic comment. Come back soon!

At 6/12/2007 5:44 AM, Blogger Tuesday said...

You are a hoot you know.
I want you to tell them all about it next time and loiter around the pharmacy counter and take up space and be really, really chatty about the issue till all the folks in the line behind you want to drag you away in an ugly crowd scene kicking and still protesting.

Now that's a protest...


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