Unless you get lost from time to time you can never find yourself. And the other day I got ‘lost’ while biking in an unfamiliar part of the city. And I finally found myself at a Rite Aid pharmacy… with a drive-thru service window.
Hmm… Imagine that. Just pull right up and get your tidy little bag of drugs. No cops. No criminal charges. Everything sanitized. Legalized. And institutionalized. And, indeed, there was a steady stream of arms poking out of red, white, black, and silver SUVs reaping the Big Pharma harvest.
What a country! Ain’t it grand. Without a doubt, when the gods wish to punish us they simply answer our prayers.
And we certainly pray for things to be convenient: Our banks. Our burgers. Our coffee and donuts… From money to “hey, honey” you can get anything you want these days just by leaning out your car window… even your drugs.
And all this time I thought one of the first duties of the physician was to educate us masses ‘not’ to take medicine. Instead, you know: Exercise. Change your diet, life style and fatuous attitudes.
I mean, these days with all our glorious technological advances there is this false belief that a safety net of sophisticated drugs and machines stretches below us, resulting in our risky and lazy lifestyle choices. And, in the end, it undermines our spirit of self-reliance.
In other words, as my dear ol’ bourbon sippin’ Pappy often proclaimed: ‘We pay a price for everything’. Indeed, technology has a shadow side. It accounts for real progress in medicine, but has also hurt it in many ways, making it more impersonal, expensive and dangerous
Hmm… Well, I got that off my chest of four heart by-passes.
Well, not quite. I think modern medicine has become like a prophet offering a life free of pain. And of course this is nonsense. The only thing I know that truly heals people is unconditional ‘love – making’, after massive consumption of wine, beer and whiskey.
But of course!
Anyway, at the Rite Aid I got to wondering what would happen if I simply pedaled up to this pharmacy window and called out an order for couple dozen Viagra, a carton of condoms and a pound of medical marijuana. Oh, and a side order of anything to cure this sharp pain in my butt every time Hillary and The Donald move their lips.
So I did.
The hectic Pakistani pharmacist on the other side of the glass looked unamused. But, then again, I think she looks like that naturally. She told me I needed a prescription from my doctor. And I told her that sounded odd: I mean, why should I need a prescription to get stuff that would ‘supposedly’ cure me and make me healthy… But I don’t need permission of any sort to ingest all that fast-food and other stuff that is killing me?
Hmm… It’s enough to make the whole imposing edifice of modern medicine seem like the celebrated tower of Pisa – slightly off balance. I told her that… right before I also pointed out that the New England Journal of Medicine recently reported that 9 out of 10 doctors agree that 1 out of 10 doctors is an idiot.
I can’t make up stuff like this.
But, like I said: She was unamused. She leveled me in with an annoyed, almost-cross-eyed look that suggested she would like to do to me the same thing as instructed on liquid medicine bottles: Shake well before using.
I know these drive-thru services have abounded for some time. But I guess I’ve just never noticed one up close and impersonal like this. I always stroll into my local 24-hour Wallgreens whose young pharmacists permeate a chaotic attitude of: If you think we’re stupid you obviously aren’t taking enough of our drugs.
And,I should make note of a personal reference point, here. As a kid eons past I had an avuncular friend who wanted me to be a pharmacist like himself. He had been a doctor, but he no longer believed in medicine; so he became a pharmacist, but he believed in that hardly more.
‘So why would you want me to become a pharmacist, then?’ I asked him.
‘Because,’ he replied in heavy exhale, ‘you already seem to understand that people will swallow just about anything.’
Hmm… And this was years before Hillary and The Donald got to erasing e-mails all night and tweeting all day.
And I’ve got to admit, it seems odd. After all, you can count the dead bodies from alcohol (not bourbon, of course), ‘cigarette’ (not cigar) tobacco and legal pharmaceuticals by the millions. Yet we keep shoveling this stuff into our mouths. And swallowing.
Obviously the congregation seldom does what the priest, pastor, rabbi and imam preach we ought to do. Instead, we mostly do what is convenient… then repent.
And now it’s even more convenient. Even in my last-to-do-what-everybody-else-has-long-done alien state of Pennsylvania! Some of our food stores are finally going to start carrying wine and liquor. And my Acme grocery store has already been filling prescriptions.
Yet, is this really going to alter my existence?
But do I have concerns?
But of course.
After all, medicine is the science of uncertainty and the art of probability. With money-driven Big Pharma there are a thousand ways things can go wrong. I mean, while modern medicine can be absolutely grand do I need to remind you that it has a dark side? More and more it has become a negation of health. It isn’t organized to serve human health, but only serve itself, as an institution. It makes more people sick than it heals. And sometimes it can actually kill you.
For instance, the other day I was listening to this medical expert espouse about the absurdity and insanity of chemotherapy. He stipulated that 97% of adults with cancer who undergo chemotherapy… die.
I don’t know if that fact actually has any more truthfulness than a Presidential campaign promise. But the guy was on a talk show with other experts and no one challenged him.
And this medical expert said it simply came down to money. Big Pharma pushes the chemo to the doc at a price — say $5,000. Then the docs more than double it to the
patient for perhaps $12,000, and then accepts the insurance payment of about $9,000.
Hmm… Obviously the art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease… or doesn’t. Then again, what is the price of hope in a world of dilettantes?
It would seem that our great struggle in medicine these days is not just with ignorance and uncertainty. It’s also with complexity: how much you have to make sure you have in your head and think about. There are a thousand ways things can go wrong.
I guess that simply means that for every miracle there are, exponentially, more disappointments. Like with most of life.
And, meanwhile, after attempting unsuccessfully to engage that recalcitrant pharmacist at the drive-thru window, I finally shrugged, biked off and simply reckoned that progress has its casualties. And convenience doesn’t always mean progress, it merely suits our desire for expedience – without the warning label. And this sometimes alters our actuarial charts.
But what the hell, what duh heck…In the end we get what we deserve – the hell of an answered prayer to the g-d of your convenience. An ancient dictum says that when Zeus wanted to destroy someone, he would first ‘drive’ him mad. You know, like send him an urgent one-page telegram… and on the top put ‘page 2’ …with a note ‘to read at your convenience’.
And dats yDrewIS on dis penal colony…