While I was waiting for my prescription drugs, scanning the aisles and passing my time, I heard a commotion. I could figure out from the distance that a pharmacist was in a verbal duel with a customer. I walked toward the pharmacy counter and paused at the edge of an aisle, which was a strategic spot where I could do this reporting.
It was windy outside and my drug pick-up still ten minutes away, and since I was in search of a topic to write on, I listened in to the argument.
The pharmacist and the store manager appeared relaxed on the other side of the counter; the lady customer stood across from them, a few feet away from me. Her voice was shaky as she chastised the pharmacist, asking him to be more sensitive, and that Duane Reade’s reputation might be at stake if he failed to tend to its customers.
Fifteen minutes earlier:
The lady wanted to use the restroom. (Having lived in Newport for years, I knew that the restroom in this Duane Reade wasn’t for customers.) When she’d asked the pharmacist if she could use it, he responded in the negative. When she insisted citing abdominal pain, he said he’d check with the store manager. Ten minutes passed before the manager arrived and who replied in the affirmative, giving the lady the keys.
Still standing at the edge of the aisle, my eyes saw Tylenol, my nose smelled VapoRub.
She complained that he’d taken a long time to allow her access; that she was an insulin-dependent diabetic who lived 45 minutes away from the pharmacy. The pharmacist, who was relieved that she’d relieved herself, repeated that the restroom wasn’t for customers (his vocal clarity now bathing in confidence). But, her argument as to why the manager had permitted her silenced him. Refusing to surrender, however, the man yelled, at times, which looked fair given the lady was shrieking throughout this conversation.
The aisle that I’d made my corner was suddenly buzzing with customers. The narratives in their murmurs were mostly divided.
Upping the ante, the lady protested that if she had fainted in the pharmacy during those ten minutes; if an ambulance had to be called in and she’d died en route to the hospital (her choking voice surgically removing any melodramatic pretentiousness); if the law enforcement then questioned the pharmacist, could he justify his decision to deny an insulin-dependent diabetic restroom access?
This terror of a hypothesis whacked a reluctant apology out of him. However, to be fair to the man, most narratives from the aisle agreed that he was not aware of her diabetes.
Who was right? Who was wrong? Restroom policy? Exception? Who deserved the exception?
I believed the lady. Imagine she’d fought with him for 30 minutes. She looked educated? Yes, she was howling.
Had she shared her insulin-dependency fact at the start, he might have responded differently. But her illness was private knowledge, rightly, or should she have revealed it?
He was following the store policy, and might be more upset with the manager than with the lady. Would the manager have patted his back had he been considerate to the lady?
A pharmacy may look like an extension to a hospital – where one can access restrooms – but it isn’t. It’s a pharmaceutical corporate from whom the lady expected a little humility.