Coffee heat rising

Adventures in Pharmaceutical Marketing

Okay, so day has dawned. Accordingly, I leave the house at 8:30 to make the 20-minute drive down to the dentist’s office. Because I know which roads the City has kindly ripped up, blockaded, flooded, exploded, and whatnot, I fly in the door right on time, to the minute: 9 a.m.


Yeah. No dentist.

Whyyy, one might ask?

“Wrong day.”

Waddaya mean, wrong day?

“It’s Monday. Not Friday. Today is Friday.”

Evidently I wrote it down on the wrong day on the calendar. Come to think of it, though, it’s a minor miracle that she’s there, because she’s waiting for her out-of-town relatives to show up and meet her there, whiling away the time fiddling with some new computer software. But she’s getting worried, because she thinks they should’ve gotten there by then.

I say the traffic is its usual bitch-ish self: they’re probably tangled up in whatever mess the city has kindly created along any of the several routes whereby they could have found their way to Dr. D’s office. She says yeah, that’s what she’s thinkin’…but she’s still worried. I ask her if she needs me to do anything for her — pick up some office supplies (there’s an office supply store just down the street), donuts, or any such. She says naaahhh….the truth is, all she really has to do is wait for the relatives to surface.

I’ve already made my way down to her precincts by avoiding Main Drag East, whose blacktop the City has bladed off all the way from Gangbanger’s Way down the entire length of the central city to someplace south of the Doc’s office, mile on mile on catastrophic mile. To accomplish this evasion, I’ve driven way out of my way over to Throughway Drag, a long, dreary strip of asphalt that will take you from way, way south of the river through downtown, through mid-town, through North Central and then the blight that is Sunnyslop, up and up and up till you reach the 101 freeway and from there dumps you into tract-littered desert, a deeply dreary journey, indeed.

Needing a flu shot, I decide to navigate back up Throughway Drag, because it takes you past a Walgreen’s and a Safeway, both of which dispense the flu vaccine. I don’t really need anything else in either store, but both of them are more or less on the way. Sounds propitious, hm?

Hit the Safeway, a right turn off Throughway, easy to access. Not very crowded. Prance to the back of the store, where the pharmacy resides, and find just one (only 1!!) customer ahead of me at the pharmacist’s counter.

She is a very elderly woman, all wrapped up for wintertime (it’s 105 out there now as I write this) and leaning on a walker as she tries to fill out a form the pharmacist has inflicted on her.

No kidding: this thing is PAGES long. And no mere 8.5 x 11 pages: page on page on page of 8.5 x 13-inch paper, covered with lines for her to fill out.

The poor soul is sifting through the goddamn thing, line by line by interminable line, trying to figure out what they want her to fill in and trying — with little success — to dredge the required data out of her memory.

She struggles and she struggles and she struggles and…

I stand and I stand and I stand and I stand…and….

Finally I think OH FUCK IT! It’ll take less time to drive across the intersection to the Walgreen’s, park in their lot, hike to the back of the store,, and get the damn shot there. So I leave her doing battle with Safeway’s paperwork and head across the street.


There it only takes about 10 minutes to get the attention of one of the two clerks. I say I just want a flu shot. She says no problem, and proceeds to give me the Covid Third-Degree. I go no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no…no… to another eight or ten minutes of questions that could easily have been condensed into three or four questions. Fork over my Medigap card and my Medicare ID.

She asks me for my “Blue and Red Card.”


“I’m sorry,” I say. “I have no idea what on earth you’re talking about.”

She says, “You know. Your Blue and Red Card. Your Medicare card.”

“You mean this one?” I give her the photocopy that I’ve been carrying around ever since my original Medicare card was stolen.

She looks more closely at it. “Ohhhh, yeah! That’s it.”

No kidding, kemo sabe?

Now as we proceed, it develops that she cannot figure out how to enter the data to charge up a flu shot on Medigap/Medicare. She asks her coworker how to do it. Coworker, visibly annoyed (because she’s visibly very busy) drops what she’s doing to instruct.

In the process, our heroine remarks that she was off work for eight weeks and so has forgotten how to work the computer.

Uhm. You forgot how the computer works in eight weeks? 

Definitely not the brightest rhinestone on the pharmacist’s lab coat.

It takes her another eight or ten minutes to figure out this two-minute process, during which another elderly woman hoves up to the drive-through window in her Cadillac, whence she asks for something that was supposed to be ready. She is given a nice runaround.

I think If I’d stayed behind the Safeway crone I’d be on my way home by now. Matter’o’fact, I’d probably be in the house by now.

The paperwork filled out and the stabber in hand, I ask if they could please send a notice over to the Mayo to let them know (as the doc there requested) that I received this inoculation.

Now…get this: She says “Where’s that?”

No kidding. Another sentence or two, and it becomes startlingly clear that this little lady has NEVER HEARD OF THE MAYO CLINIC. Not only does she have no clue where it is, she doesn’t know what it is.

I think…I’ll bet you were in one of my 300-level “professional” writing courses, weren’t you? Probably one of the classmates who never heard of the Civil War or never imagined it happened during the 19th century. Whenever that was…

Holy shit. Next time I’ll drive out to the Mayo to get a shot.

Shingrix: Walgreen’s 0, Safeway 1

Welp, Safeway wins the Shingrix vaccine competition by a mile.

Earlier this week I went by Walgreen’s to see if they had the shingles vaccine, which is famously in short supply. They said they did. I mentioned that I’d put my name on a list to be called when the vaccine came available again and never heard from them. She checked her list and found (surprise!) I wasn’t on it.

However, having heard that this stuff can make you mightily sick and facing a sh!tload of work that couldn’t be put off, I asked if they had enough that I could come in Sunday (today) to grab the first shot. She said sure, and put my name on her list.

Today after church I darted down there, as planned, to subject myself to the vaunted shot. By now I’ve heard so many reports of side effects ranging from unpleasant to awful by way of painful, I was mightily dreading this encounter.

Was my name on the list, asked she? “They told me to come down here this afternoon.” She checks the list: nope.

“Well, I can have one available about 1:00 this afternoon.” This, after I’ve stood in line behind some woman for a good 15 minutes while the clerk diddled around and diddled around and diddled around and diddled around.

What time is it now? Around 12:30. What, I wonder, does she think I’m going to do with myself, hanging around a Walgreen’s for half an hour or forty minutes? I say I’ll come back another time . (Maybe in some future lifetime...)

Get in the car and drive across the street to the Safeway, cattycorner across the intersection from the Walgreen’s. March through mobs of customers (is there a reason the Walgreen’s is almost empty? hmmm?), bounce up to the pharmacy counter and ask if they have any Shingrix shots available.

“Sure enough! Come on over to the cash register and I’ll ring you up.”

Uh huh.

In under 10 minutes, I had the shot and was out the door and back in my car. Also had a 10% off coupon for my next grocery shopping expedition.

So. That will bring a permanent end to my getting flu shots — or much of anything else — at Walgreen’s!

Little drawback, though: They charged a $160 copay!!!!!!!

That, of course, is ridiculous. Tomorrow I’ll probably call Humana to ask WTF. But on the other hand, Humana’s Part D plan is so economical that they’ve saved me far, far more than that in premiums over the several years since I signed up. So I don’t feel too exercised. Plus any day I’d cheerfully pony up $160 to avoid the shingles!

As for the horrors of the Shingrix vaccine? So far, nothing like the tales we’ve been told. The pharmacist said most people experience some mild arm soreness and a few enjoy flu-like symptoms, which pass quickly. Me? No pain so far. Slight vertigo and mild headache — which I’ve experienced in the past with ordinary flu shots and are hardly debilitating. And very possibly attributable to stress, since I’ve been flopping around trying to figure out how to fit two to five days of being sick into a very busy schedule.

I wonder if they’ll gouge me another $160 for the second shot…