It's been several weeks now since my last blog – owing to a back problem that, with a cruel twist of fate, means it’s OK standing up in the dispensary, but painful to sit down at a desk.
I'd like to say it was an injury at work and huge compensation is winging its way to me, but it's not my company’s fault. It's mine, and having a back problem changes your perspective.
I watch the delivery driver struggle to carry a pile of tote boxes without his barrow and shake my head knowingly. A dispenser fills a box with sip-feed cartons and hears me tutting at the weight of it. A counter assistant leans over to lift a large pack of monitored dosage system trays, and comes up to me saying: “Back straight and bend the knees!” I swear I hear the pharmacy technician mutter something about a pain in her backside, even though I haven't seen her lifting anything.
Of course, it still doesn't give me any more sympathy for the whinging malingerers who come in with their minor ailments. “I've had this cold for a couple of days now, but I can't get a doctor's appointment for a fortnight!” said a seemingly otherwise sensible grown-up.
“No need for a doctor,” I retort, “suck some of these pastilles and use this decongestant spray.”
“Haven't you got anything stronger? My nan had this and it lasted nearly three weeks!”
“Maybe,” I reply, “but your nan is in her 80s and survived her city being bombed in the war, while you are a middle-aged office worker with the sniffles. Still, here’s the bottle of over-priced guaifenesin syrup in fancy packaging that you've seen advertised on TV.”
The customer looks disappointed. “What about the one that says ‘flu-strength'?”
Sensing I'm about to cross a line, the dispensers fake a phone call to lure me back into the dispensary, where I start checking amoxicillin scripts for people who look perfectly healthy, and start a rant about antibiotic guardianship. I suspect every one of these customers had made “the call” – you know, the one where you phone in sick by shoving tissue up your nose to sound really congested and put on that sad, weak voice, as you describe a mild upper respiratory tract infection as if it's Ebola.
No wonder the NHS's campaigns to “see your pharmacist about minor ailments” are less than successful. When you've got a stinking cold, it's not "minor", it's a near-death experience – as if a rhinovirus should have been the finale of the Final Destination film series.
So instead, the NHS planners should learn from the successful influenza vaccination service and introduce a new "flu" service. “At death’s door?” the strapline could ask, “then visit your pharmacist for flu remedies. But whatever you do, make sure you look ill. Really, really ill.”