Sunday, 7 April 2013

Drugs: hard to say no when they’re free

I went out on my regular, three-monthly run to buy drugs yesterday.

It wasn’t as exciting as it sounds. Those weren’t the drugs you buy on a street corner from a man in a black BMW but the kind you get from a perfectly ordinary pharmacist.

This particular drug dispenser had a sign up declaring him to be the ‘responsible pharmacist’. I was half tempted to ask to see the irresponsible pharmacist instead,if only to see what kind of drugs might be on offer, but decided not to: I’ve reached the age where I’m beginning to realise that such comments don’t make me sound endearingly humorous, just irritatingly condescending. 

Not so responsible pharmacists
The age I’ve reached. Funnily enough, that was precisely the point that preoccupied the responsible pharmacist. 

‘Do you pay for your own prescriptions?’ the assistant had asked me. It’s the form of words they always use, though I’ve never understood why. It only makes me want to ask ‘Why? Who else’s do you want me to cover?’ though, again, I usually think better of actually voicing them.

‘Yes,’ I said yesterday, as I always have.

But the responsible pharmacist intervened at once.

‘You don’t pay for your own prescriptions,’ he assured me. I was about to inform him with some indignation that I always had when he went on, ‘you’re sixty.’

Blimey, as we like to see in the East End of London. Got me bang to rights there.

‘Why, yes,’ I said, ‘I’ve had a birthday since last time I was in.’

How could I have forgotten? We went to Lanzarote specifically to celebrate it. But I hadn’t realised that it meant that I could, from now on, get my daily fix for free. Wonderful.

‘There are benefits you see, sir,’ went on the pharmacist.

That ‘sir’ hurt more than ‘you’re sixty’: a statement of fact is just that and therefore neutral but a deferential title conjures up a wealth of connotations about condescending kindness to the decrepit. But I’d only just come off a badminton court, feeling a lot fitter than I did thirty years ago when I still smoked. No-one venerates me, to my knowledge (though if anyone feels like starting now, please feel free: I shan’t be offended). Despite all that, here I was, aged and venerable. It felt weird.

Still, I went out clutching my free packet. I’m not so old as to start looking gift horses in the mouth, after all.

I suppose it’s unlikely, though, that those guys in the black BMWs on the street corners operate the same kind of system.

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