I’m sure a visit to a pharmacy is not a key event for most people. A repeat prescription. Or your hay fever is playing up. Maybe you long for the discounted perfume of pop singers, or three scrunchies in a bargain bin. The kid will eat only the squishy vitamins, perhaps.
But I love pharmacies. I have never in my entire life met a pharmacist I did not like. Is it in their blood? Is being an exceptional person part of the training? I do not know what I would have done, or would do, without them.
I go to pharmacies a lot because I take a lot of medication. I should rattle when I walk. I know intimately the sizes and shapes of generics (Route 66 sign; hexagon; nuclear bomb) and the melodic ring of the door as I enter the church of indigestion pills, eczema creams and hair dye.
I have written before about the joy of being a regular, and my local pharmacists are the apex. A slice of cake in a cafe is lovely, but it doesn’t silence the noises in my head; or calm the inflammation in my gut; or provide relief from staring at walls at 4am, willing myself to sleep. I even have a yearly NHS subscription card – like air miles.
My pharmacists know me. I joke with them. (A particularly well-packed parcel of pills: “Can you do my Christmas wrapping?”) They accept without annoyance my keen curiosity on price gouging and patents. “Could you just check on the system? I’m intrigued.”
I’m a little bit more with it now, but a previous pharmacist knew that I would always arrive to pick up new medication on the day I had run out. Often, there would not be enough tablets left to fill the prescription, so he would advance an emergency few. He would sigh amiably and potter off into the back.
The compassion on display is a marvel. I imagine that every single public-facing job comes with days of snappiness or tedium, and yet I do not see it in this group of people, who run their fingers down shelves as though in a library searching for a specific book.
I envy the people of Wales and Scotland for their prescription charge freedom; but the NHS offers great value. Private prescriptions are charged at about a tenner or more (my pharmacist: “Posh now, are we?” when I handed over a private script). Please join me in raising a luminous pink glass of Pepto-Bismol to the friendliest, most helpful drug dealers you will meet