Friday, March 16

In the pharmacy (aka: just shoot me now and put me out of my misery)


The other day I had to go to the chemist to pick up a prescription for my mother. Had I known what was awaiting me I would have brought a book, a thermos with tea and some sandwiches. They’re big on organised queuing in Sweden and whether you’re in the post office, the bank or at the chemists you first have to get a ticket with a number from a state of the art ticket machine.

So when I arrived at the chemist I first had to make a selection between a ticket from the prescription queue or one from the non-prescription queue. This was simple enough since I had a prescription.


All three booths were open and in each a customer was being tended to.
There were only three numbers ahead of me, which I interpreted as a good sign. So I waited. After about five minutes nothing much had happened, the pharmacists were still busy with the same customers. I waited. One pharmacist got up and disappeared through a door, and she was gone such a long time I was starting to wonder whether she'd taken her lunch break. But she still had a customer waiting at the booth... Eventually the door opened and she reappeared, but then she recognised the lady who was being served in the non-prescription section and went over for a chat. I waited.

One of the other customers finally got up and left. I willed the pharmacist to push the magic button that would bring me one step closer to release. But instead she got up and disappeared through the aforementioned door. I tried to breathe slow, deep breaths into my belly. I looked over to where the other people were waiting, thinking we could roll our eyes together and bond over this snail-paced service, but they all sat staring stoically at something on the floor about two feet in front of them. So I waited.

The pharmacies in Sweden are equipped with a worrying number of chairs, loads are crammed in the waiting space for you to place your weary buttocks whilst waiting, and then you even get to sit down opposite the pharmacist once it's your turn. These chairs send out a very clear message: you ain't going nowhere, just sit back and relax.

The first pharmacist ended her chat and returned to her seat, sent her customer on his way, and miraculously decided to push the button. One step closer. The second pharmacist also returned and sat down. She didn't push the button, instead she started typing on her computer. I waited. More people entered, and one lady went straight to the non-prescription counter (which was deserted) waving a blue piece of paper. She was directed to the vacant booth where the pharmacist stopped typing and motioned for her to sit down.

I wanted to shout. I had been there for 23 minutes by now, and was only one meager step closer. And now some blue-papered lady got to sneak ahead.

Another customer got up and left. Push the button, push the button... but now the person serving the non-prescription section had disappeared, so the button was left un-pushed as the pharmacist got up to tend to those without a prescription. I was starting to wonder whether this was a safe environment for those suffering from high blood pressure.

The blue-papered lady's mobile phone rang. To my despair she started chatting away without giving a moment's thought to the pharmacist (or me!) who appeared unable to proceed further with the preparation of the medications. I wanted to throttle her, all of them. I looked at the time: 28 minutes had passed. It seemed like an eternity.

Eventually the phone call ended, the blue-papered lady got her pills and left, the button was pushed and I was one step closer.

By the time my number was finally displayed I had been in there for 38 minutes. I was dizzy and delirious as I staggered towards the seat opposite the pharmacist, and as I handed over the prescription I was close to tears. The pharmacist smiled at me but as she looked at the yellow slip more closely her smile changed to a frown. The prescription had expired only a few days earlier. I left empty-handed.

19 comments:

Vanessa said...

oh. my. god.
I HATE that kind of thing!!!
Just as well I don't live in Sweden :) The fact that everyone else was calm about it would entirely freak me out!
Hope you and your folks are doing ok.
Vx

sognatrice said...

Hey, sounds a lot like the post office in Italy--without all the orderly taking of numbers, of course. But the expired prescription? That's just mean.

Sharon said...

Couldn't they have made a call to the doctor? I just hate that!

BlueJude said...

Oh Lordy! I woulda LOST it!! I have no patience for that stuff.
If it's any consolation, it's snowing here! AND I'm stuck with three whiny kids at home! Wanna come over? lol

Waspgoddess said...

Vanessa: I know, it felt like I was trapped with a bunch of zombies. But the scary thing was how I just remained schtum myself. I reverted back to that Swedish silent tiger...

Sognatrice: I think there are probably a lot of similarities between Sweden and Italy, bureaucracy being one of them, and whereas Italy is probably more chaotic, in Sweden they pretend everything is perfectly organised, when really it isn't.

Sharon: Oh, that would have been way to easy.

BlueJude: I'd love to come over and hang out with you (and your whiny children). Sounds very cosy with the snow falling outside. And I'm good at distracting children.

meredith said...

That sounds like the post office or any government office in France. But a pharmacy? You would think at least they would have better customer service.

In France, way more people would have tried to cheat their way to the head of the line and you would have found some fellow eyeball rollers.

Bearette24 said...

How frustrating!!! although the US pharmacy always has quite a wait too, and usually no chairs :( It's nuts, I was thinking the number system would ensure fairness in the Swedish pharmacy, but apparently it did not.

Tracie B. said...

well at least there was an orderly line...even if it was a waste of time. i hate the clustering in italy...you get frustrated even BEFORE you realize that you wasted time :)

Kamsin said...

Oh my goodness me! At my local train station the guy that sells tickets seems to take joy in being very, very slow, staring at his computer and pushing buttons. And there is always someone with some complex enquiry or wanting to buy a new travel pass with photo card. Half the time people leave the ticket office with no ticket as their train pulls in before they get to the front of the queue! Anyway, I think people actually enjoy making you wait in these situations, the one small pleasure their job affords them!

Annika said...

Hey sunshine, they found a fabulous way to deal with the lines in the post offices: They took away the post offices! Now we have to do it all online, and for the more serious matters there's a post service in ICA, with regular lines.

In the pharmacies... been there done that. It's always like that, and the most amazing part of it is how calmly we obey the rules. Personally I don't see a reason to discuss my health issues with the pharmacist - I already did that with my doctor who gave me the prescription in the first place. The elderly don't seem to reason like that though.

acumamakiki said...

Oh that's just crap. I'm sorry for that outcome. I hope you're hanging in there.

Loralee Choate said...

I wanted to go ape-shit on these people and I'm just READING about it.

GRRRRR...

Bex said...

Oooooh...things like this make me so mad! I'm sorry! What a pain.

edvard moonke said...

aww poor waspgoddess...

I can never understand why pharmacists take so long to hand over the medicine in the first place... it's totally mad!

Lacithecat said...

That was a classic post!

Oh my!

Cherrye said...

That is a sad, sad post...urgghh

Butt, like (I think, Traci, said)...at least you had a line! ;)

Caro said...

AAARRGGHHH. How aggravating.

paris parfait said...

Oh, no! So sorry to hear about this rotten experience.

daisies said...

oh that would so drive me crazy ... i was feeling frustrated just reading it ...