I've always found my local chemist to be something beyond belief. It's a Lloyds Pharmacy and I can't fathom for the life of me how they can appear to be so inefficient and inept when there are so many people working there.
I have a repeat prescription for my Ventolin inhaler and as I've had this rotten cough for nearly five months, I've been using it more than usual, hence my need to get a repeat. The wife and I were heading off to Leicester for a few hours, so I dropped in the prescription, told the Amazonian shop assistant that I would pick it up later, as she said there would be a 15 minute wait, at least. I looked around, saw a solitary old man and seven members of staff and wondered how the hell it could take so long.
We went off to Leicester, had a pleasant time with Selina and got some shopping. When we got home, we took the dogs out and rolled up at the chemist's at 4.28pm. This is important. I was just going to collect a prescription that had been dropped there SEVEN hours earlier. It took me less than a minute to walk there and when I arrived there was a little old lady in front of me, who looked like she thought she might die before she got served. I counted the same amount of staff and noted that at least three of them seemed to just be stacking little plastic baskets. The old woman turned to me and said she was being served, so I shuffled forward about two feet from the counter; I was standing there with my receipt in my hand and felt ignored.
Suddenly from behind me, this man wearing what looked like a delivery uniform walked past me and up to the counter and started talking to the pharmacist. My first thought was he was a delivery man or someone to do with Lloyds, but it soon became clear he wasn't. The chemist called one of the assistants and she went to the counter, as this happened, the man half turned to me and said, "I'm just collecting a prescription."
"So am I." I said, but he took no notice. I could feel the red mist begin to rise. One of basket stackers had started to process his script, asking him all the usual questions - do you pay for prescriptions, etc. - and I reacted accordingly. "I'm... I'm just collecting a pre-paid prescription, mate. It's already been done, I'm just picking it up." He looked at me like I'd spoken to him in Cantonese. "You... pushed in." It was all I could think of saying.
"I said, I'm just collecting a prescription," he said like I hadn't understood him the first time.
"Yes and I'm saying, I've paid for mine, all I am doing is picking it up."
"That's what I'm doing." The assistant, seemingly oblivious to this exchange, asks the man to enter his pin number, which he does.
"Yes, but I'm just picking mine up. It's ready and waiting for me."
"No it's not. They have to process it. You just pushed in front of me and that's bang out of order."
"Sorry." He said and turned round to discover that his card had been rejected. He tried again and again and both times it said his pin was not accepted. "I'll pay with cash," he says, but the assistant can't get the till open or ring in the charge. The time was now 4.40pm.
The chemist told the assistant to do something with the till and I noticed that the display also said 'Training Mode'. Just as I was about to say something, the chemist spotted it, came round and switched the till back to how it should have been. The man got his change, didn't even look at me and left the shop. I was still standing there thinking I'd suddenly become invisible.
"Excuse me," I says to the chemist, who was back behind the counter busy stacking plastic baskets; the assistant who had served the rude man in front of me had disappeared to the back of the dispensary area and the Amazonian girl who had served me earlier had her head stuck in boxes at the front of the shop; she was looking for something for the little old lady.
"The assistant will be with you in a second sir." She said and the mist went crimson.
"Oh, you can see me then?" I said a trifle too loud.
"I beg your pardon?"
"I was just saying, you noticed I was here." She frowned at me. "It's just, I'd been standing her for two minutes before that guy you just served came and pushed in in front of me and you or the other 50 people that work here didn't seem to notice."
"I'm sorry sir. I'll see that you are served straight away." I wasn't. The assistant reappeared about 90 seconds later. The time was now 4.47pm.
"What's the name, sir?"
"Hall, Phillip Hall."
"Have you got an address, Mr Hall?"
"I do, yes." I said smiling.
"Can I have it?"
There were now at least five more people queued behind me. "Not with all these people within ear shot you can't." Asking people to repeat their addresses in public as proof of identity is a stupid idea - do you know how many heroin addicts use chemists to get Methadone scripts? An opportunist druggie will latch onto an old dear's address quicker than a desperate man will get an erection looking at a super model in the nude. The assistant frowned and turned to the chemist. I reached into my pocket and pulled my wallet out and thrust my driving license at her; this seemed to make matters worse. I mean, obviously I could have stolen the wallet just so I could hatch an elaborate scan to get two Ventolin inhalers! I am the master criminal!
"I won't be a minute," she said, scuttling off in search of my package.
She was about four minutes and it became painfully clear that they couldn't find my prescription. One of the people behind me let out an exasperated sigh and walked out mumbling about Beech Avenue - a chemist that seems to be able to turn around customers in about five minutes and everyone there is friendly and lovely. I should have gone there.
The chemist now got involved; didn't bother to apologise to the four people behind me for the wait and went rummaging through plastic basket full of prescriptions. One of the other, pointless, assistants said something about having run out of Ventolin, but some had been delivered at lunch. More frantic searching and avoiding my increasingly angry face. The time now was 4.52pm.
The chemist found my prescription, glanced at me sheepishly and disappeared behind the dispensary and grabbed two boxes of Ventolin off of a shelf in front of her, put them in a bag and sealed it. She handed it to the assistant who brought it to me. It was 4.55pm.
"Can you confirm you address for me," she said, obviously going through her own sales script.
"No. I can't." She winced and threw a glance at the chemist.
"Is that it? I've been waiting here for 25 minutes; I've had someone push in front of me; been ignored and had the audacity to bring my prescription in at 9.30 this morning only for it to be filled in front of me in less than 30 seconds? This place is an absolute joke. I would have been in and out of Beech Avenue in five minutes!"
"They have an automated dispenser," said the chemist apologetically.
"That's no excuse. You've had this seven hours. What if I'd waited for it like she had suggested?"
"We would have told you to come back."
"When? When you were closing for lunch?"
"What do you want?"
"An apology would be nice. The promise that you'll employ people to serve your customers rather than stand around stacking baskets!"
"They're not authorised to use the till."
"I didn't need the till. I paid for my prescription. Here's the receipt!" I said holding it out in front of me. "One of them could have got it for me."
"They couldn't because it hadn't been filled."
"Oh, no, that's right. It hadn't been filled and you only had it for seven hours."
"I'm sorry if you don't feel we have done well enough, sir."
"Thank you; even if I don't think you have any idea why I'm angry." I grabbed my prescription, thought I heard the assistant utter something about confirming my address, and stormed out of the chemist. It was 5:01pm. 31 minutes of my life that Lloyds Pharmacy owe me.
How on earth do some places survive now? Customer service? My arse!
Because I am only a food shopper; I don't understand the phenomena of going shopping. The wife buys most of my clothes and I reluctantly troop along after her when I need things that she can't buy on spec. However, in Leicester, we were there to buy me a summer jacket for work as my woollen one is rather stupid on warm days.
We ended up at the House of Frazer, which, in my microcosm, was always the hutch that one of our rabbit's, the eponymously named Frazer, lived in. The wife understand shops that sell things other than food; I don't.
Anyhow; Selina spotted a nice jacket. It needed to be bigger but we found one and within 20 minutes I'd bought a summer suit-styled jacket and shopping wasn't as painful as I expected it to be. My problem is essentially you could lead me around Leicester and I would gleefully go; I love the city and like Nottingham, it has so much of a city centre that you can find little shops that wouldn't last five minutes in a toilet like Northampton. The thing about shopping is you do it at a completely different pace to everything else and while I can probably still walk a couple of miles without having to sit down and let all my spine bits fall back into place; the weird ambling, stop start, stand, shuffle and move dance that is mall shopping really fucks my back up - big time!
This was expedited by a wonderful lunch in Bobby's and a walk along the Golden Mile - which for an enthusiastic Indo-phile - is a truly cosmopolitan experience (even if I think it isn't as good as it was a few years back, but lots of places in the city look like the recession has hit them hard).
If I had to live in a city, Leicester would be top of my list.
I'm a bad loser. I don't show it very often, but in recent weeks, I've felt that our quiz team's mantle of brilliance has slipped, not because of our lack of knowledge, but because of a ringer's appearance on our biggest rival's - the Bar Stars - team.
There's been a friendly rivalry between us and them for the last few years and I'd say that while it's about even on wins; we're the more consistent and we've probably won three times the amount of money as them, mainly because the wife and Roger have a nose for the big money envelopes.
At times, there are others who compete and some win. It would be a dull quiz every week if the spoils were always shared by two team; but that's because up until about 6 weeks ago, there were three teams that regularly pushed each other to the final question. When there was a full contingent of players in the team Clean & Serene, then you wouldn't bet against them winning. This team boasted a colleague of the wife's and pretty much Mr Obscure Facts about sport - often an unpredictable round depending on One El's mood when compiling the questions.
We started off averaging 5/10 on sport, if we were lucky; and now I'm unhappy if we get less than 8. Sport is the round that Roger and I are solely responsible for - the other team members take a break when round 4 starts. Having to score highly on sport is a necessity when up against Serene's captain.
Then their team just dismantled. One of them emigrated, another moved, one had a baby (not literally, but that takes up his time) and suddenly the team was no longer a team and the captain was left on his own.
Our growing prowess at sport was the thing that often tipped the scales for us against the Bar Stars. They were awful on sport, but could pick up lots of points on the music round because they had a team member who knew more about music than all the record buffs put together.
Then the Serene captain hooked up with the team not very good at sport and suddenly, we were coming 2nd with scores that would once have guaranteed us victory. Over the space of 6 weeks, they won 5 times and while they never won the jackpot, I started to feel as though my enjoyment was disappearing. Look, I could never go to a pub quiz for a laugh. Especially at Al's Toilet World, because the beer isn't good enough, the surroundings aren't salubrious and he seems to think parts of the pub are actually storage space, so patrons get crammed into small areas because he's too lazy to pick up some rigging.
Last night the ringer was there again and I said, quite honestly, that I was growing tired of playing for second all the time. I said that because of the ringer, the opposition were playing with at least a four point advantage from the start and sat there feeling grumpy and resigned. I like my quiz; I like my quizmaster and we all enjoy our Tuesday nights, but I could see it going sour and on that very night.
We kicked off with two 8/10s and I figured we were already a couple of points behind them; two 9s made me feel happier and a couple of 10s had me feeling that we had at least tied up another £5 second place.A couple more 8s and we finished with 70 out of 80; a winning score, normally, but I feared that only getting 8 out of 10 on the music round might have stymied us.
One El read the final scores out and our rivals finished third with 64 points. We all looked at each other slightly gone out - they were 6 points worse off than us; more than we'd ever been behind them. Second only got 66 and we had run away with it. CJT, who once upon a time could have been called our 'ringer' because of his obscure knowledge, picked the £10 envelope; but we had a fiver profit for our kitty and we all felt as though we'd overcome a major quizzing hurdle. Yes, we might lose another four on the trot, but we can beat them and that is what will keep us going, despite the flat beer, grubby surroundings and absence of essentials - like mixers, spirits and atmosphere.
- I have been listening to: Hydria Space Folk, Jethro Tull, The Golden Palominos, Peter Gabriel and George Harrison.
- I have put off reading Chavs because I'm not in a reading frame of mind.
- I have prepared my unkempt part of my veg plot to put beetroot and spinach in.
- I have finally decided that if all I do is whinge about my holiday disappearing and don't get on with stuff then I really won't feel as though it has been beneficial. This means the pub on Friday with One El and the start of my 50th birthday 'celebrations'.
- Today my wife bought me a netbook for my (birthday and) summer time ambition of writing and getting burned to a crisp simultaneously, if we get a summer this year, that is.