The long motorcade had just pulled up. It’s not often you see seven limousines, with accompanying police and helicopter escort, trying to fit in front of your pharmacy. But then this particular visitor was not known for his discretion.
It was now make or break time, and I was only too grateful for this meeting. I stood clenching my well-worn, coffee-stained copy of The art of the deal. In a few minutes, my apprentice mentoring session would start.
To think, I had our wholesaler delivery driver to thank for this. I had feigned disinterest as, over a week, he waltzed past the tower of empty totes, lined up against the door like a plot by Wile E. Coyote. He would leave notes in bold pen to remind me they belonged to his employer – who writes regularly begging us for their return.
Finally, my “concerned’’ pharmacist complained about the health and safety risk they posed: ‘‘What’s to stop a curious child climbing up them to read the label left on by Ayrshire Nursing Home?”
His road runner escape routine meant that a direct confrontation with the driver was now necessary and, reluctantly, I was the only man for the job.
I would hate to think my failure to intervene would push the wholesaler to purchase more totes and then pass the cost in some way to me. The impact to all concerned (primarily my dwindling bank balance) if I was not to act decisively did not bear thinking about.
Today was the set day, but the delivery driver was inconveniently running late. I had also just received my latest supply of beard oil from that ‘‘online retailing firm’’ and, in the spirit of parsimony, I was penning my review.
A customer review would provide much-needed money-off vouchers for the next purchase. But reviews can be a double-edged sword – my patients always seemed to focus on the ‘‘plastic tower’’ of totes, not our remodelled pharmacy or attentive staff. Regardless, I had my draft, ready to post – then the driver stepped in.
I scrambled to the counter, knocking my shin against the stool. Painful. I then proceeded, my body wincing, to position myself beside the totes. Not wanting to come across overly fixated on the matter in hand, I began a conversation about their colour: saturation, hue and brightness.
He unexpectedly cut me off, shouting out: ‘’Sally from customer service mentioned you called about the totes. She described your voice – emotionally constipated, stiff-upper-lip type.’’
I held my poker face. I admit I have been referred to as Mr Bean by the occasional cheeky patient, but ‘constipated’ seemed a stretch too far.
He carried on, unimpressed: “Not to worry mate, agency guy tomorrow will take them. Van’s full today.’’ With that, he was off again.
I made my way back sheepishly into the dispensary, not able to make eye contact with the staff. They were perplexed at the weird exchange. My frustration was only compounded to find out someone had beaten me to post the first review and so had won the beard oil vouchers. Not my day.
But fate still had one last hand to play. In my annoyance I had clicked on the wrong key – instead of closing the beard website, I had accidentally posted my review into an earlier, humorous search for ‘Trump Steaks’.
My comment had a response before I could even delete it. It was signed ‘POTUS’, even though he would surely be asleep at 2am Washington time?
We exchanged messages, initially focusing on the big health issues of the day: his stance on vaccinations (misunderstood) and the opioid crisis response. But the conversation soon turned to the plight of England’s struggling pharmacists; the president sympathised with anyone ignored by the mainstream media and the “political elite”.
Now, everything had led up to this moment – a formal state visit to decide how to Make Pharmacy Great Again.