The season of good will?
For some people, the jingling of bells that announces the Christmas season does not signal a time to be jolly. Cape Town pharmacist GARY BLACK tells God, and us, of his professional yuletide frustrations.
Dear Lord, in the Good Book we are told that in heralding the birth of Christ the angel announced “good tidings of great joy” and “peace and good will to all mankind”. Now Lord, I am just a simple pharmacist having some difficulty in understanding all this, so please listen to my side of the story.
It seems to me that, particularly during the season of Advent, many people find “great joy” in the bottom of a bottle. For them the numerous adverts of “Xmas Specials” promoting a variety of alcoholic beverages constitute “good tidings”!
Consequently, he reports for work the next day smelling like the rotting sediment at the bottom of a discarded old wine barrel, his yellowed, glassy eyes a reflection of his pickled liver and numbed brain. Although he insists that he’s all right, I have my doubts about his ability to perform his work, let alone act as a good ambassador for his company.
Is this really how the “good tidings of joy” should be shared?
I am sad to say, dear Lord, that in our pharmacy we experience very little of the peace promised by your Angel. Down here in our little coastal town, we are invaded by tourists who have rushed down to the sea in their fancy cars like a herd of migrating blou wildebeest.
Of course, we welcome our visitors from up-country. But by the time they have endured the long road trip, many of them tend to behave just like wildebeest.
They are demanding, impatient and show little tolerance of our more relaxed Cape way of life. One would think that it was my fault that they left their medicines at home, that the wife forgot to pack the sunscreen or that their darling little four-year-old was car sick and deposited her partially-digested roadside snacks all over the expensive leather interior of the new luxury German car!
For all this and more, I must provide an instant cure and restore the peace?
The rushed, busy lifestyle at this time of the year transforms even some of our most placid, cooperative clients into unreasonable, aggressive shoppers. They first spend hours dragging bored, whining kids around the supermarkets and bottle stores, taking advantage of the “good tidings” of “Xmas Specials”.
To do this they drive miles to the mall, fight for parking space, push heavy trolleys around searching for the “good news” specials and stand in long queues to pay while being blasted overhead by carols sung to a “boom-boom” beat by Boney M and contending with the demanding kids underfoot.
Invariably this entourage of tired, frustrated children and a flustered mother invades the pharmacy just ten minutes before closing time. Here their purchases include their regular prescription medicine and last-minute small gifts of soaps and perfumes for numerous, near-forgotten relatives down on holiday from the hinterland.
When it comes to payment, the empathetic pharmacist is usually asked to postpone the medical aid claim until the New Year because their current benefits are “all used up”. Gifts are conveniently purchased on credit, after the pharmacy’s financial month-end, just in time for the new January accounts. To top it all, the client might offer to pay her account, but “only half, because we are going on holiday in the New Year!”
Meanwhile, her two little ”darlings” are either moaning like sick puppies or chasing each other around the pharmacy like terriers, shattering the peace and testing our patience to the limit.
But, this is the season of goodwill so we must grin and bear it? Please explain dear Lord, why in the life of a community pharmacist, “goodwill” seems to be a one-way street?
Every club, school, and charity in town wants contributions to their Christmas fundraising activity though few of them support the pharmacy. I am confronted by many sweepers, cleaners, and delivery men asking for a “Xmas box”.
At Yuletide, most medical aids announce that they will be paying less for medicines in the New Year despite increases in member contributions. The government-controlled price of medicines increases minimally while all other operating costs of salaries, rents, rates and electricity escalate by double digit percentage figures. The bank’s goodwill does not extend to increasing my overdraft while I am expected to constantly extend more credit, pay higher wages and charge less for my services?
Ah well! One consolation I can look forward to is our loyal client “Antie” van der Merwe bringing us her customary Christmas gift of a melktert.
Dear Lord, after weeks of witnessing such “joy”, experiencing such “peace” and dispensing so much “goodwill”, could you, please, allow me, your humble apothecary, the joy of unwrapping a gift with my grandchildren under the Christmas tree, sharing the goodwill of my family over a meal on Christmas Eve and the quiet peace of singing “Silent Night, Holy Night” with my fellow parishioners?
Ek vra maar net?