Mail brings the pills I ran out of.
They aren’t critical: I won’t bleed from my palms without them. Two more months and I’m done. But given the past decade having them is assuring. They are the physical proof of action taken. Pills imply a path to wellness.
The first month’s pills I brought along. Walgreens has a store in Hilo, so I’ll refill there, I thought. How smart I was to plan ahead! With five pills left I order the refill through the website. A few hours later the polite synthetic voice calls. My pre-scrip-tion is reh-dee.
Adventure lies in the mundane.
- Arrive at Walgreens, where I am helped by the most beautiful woman in the universe. I don’t understand why she works at Walgreens as a pharmacy tech, but here she is, the pills in her hand. However, there is a problem with Regence: the correct $10 copay is not coming through, and the computer wants $23.
- The most beautiful woman in the world puzzles a while but can’t make it work. She calls Regence from the number on my ID card. The twenty minutes she spends on hold or navigating the phone tree only prove our free market health care system is the most advanced and efficient in the world. Befitting her beauty, she is still gracious to me after the gauntlet, and provides the nonsensical explanation that this Walgreens in Hilo is not the same as all other Walgreens. This location’s computer doesn’t understand Regence’s computer, even though Walgreens is on Regence’s approved and preferred lists and all Walgreens pharmacies are linked to home office servers in Deerfield, Illinois.
- However, she continues, Regence says the Walmart across the parking lot does not have this IT confusion and will bill me correctly. Should she transfer the prescription over there?
- I fail to correctly estimate the level of complexity involved. Sure, I say. Thanks very much.
- I walk through the jam-packed parking lot into Walmart. Like most Walmarts, it is a crammed hive of activity, full of overweight and tried-looking people that move with the slowness of country folk at the airport for the first time. This Walmart is open from 5am to 1am, every day.
- Pushing to the pharmacy counter, a nice kid looks me up: ten minutes, he says. As much as I am morally opposed to Walmart, I wander off for sunscreen and a hat for hiking, having forgotten my REI one at home.
- Only a few minutes pass before the PA calls me. A different kid, apparently a pharmacist, types into the computer as if it is a bad dog.
- In Seattle, my primary doctor is a naturopath, an ND. In Washington, by law your primary physician can be a naturopath, which insurance companies must honor. NDs can write prescriptions for all drugs except certain psychoactives, tranquilizers, and other goofballs. (I presume they rely on nature to provide those.) Hawaii does not honor prescriptions written by NDs. The kid suggests I call the practice and have an MD rewrite it.
- I explain to the kid the practice is all NDs and there is no MD to call on. I answer some other questions but only remember the store’s roar and my realization I am going down that quintessentially American health care rabbit hole.
- The kid can’t be convinced to help me. He has the harried disinterest of all pharmacists. I walk back to Walgreens.
- The most beautiful girl in the world isn’t unhappy to see me but would rather not have. The bottle of pills she held fifteen minutes ago has been returned to stock. She calls Walmart to transfer the prescription back to her while I explain the ND issue. Oh, she says. She wishes that had come up earlier. They can’t fill it either. Having filled it at all was a mistake.
- Driving, I realize I should have paid the fucking twenty three dollars and not worried about it.
- I have the presence of mind to think through options. I can email and call my doc and see if she has an MD friend who will call in to a pharmacy here. I can call Regence, typically a useless exercise but an option. Or, Walgreens will ship it to me, from wherever on the mainland they centrally fill prescriptions from.
- At this point I have spent about three hours and a quarter-gallon of gas on this problem.
- I email my doc, because that is easy and known. I decide I can take one a day instead of two of the remaining five. Things should be sorted out by then.
- A series of days pass where the doc is called, called back. Regence is live-chatted with, resulting in several 888 numbers I can call for additional half-answers. On the chat’s advice I call a local, independent pharmacy where a woman speaks to me in pidgin as belabored as her writing down my information. Yes, she calls back, we can handle your prescription. Another call to the doc and an assistant provides no help: there is no MD who can write the prescription. Have a friend pick it up locally and mail it to you.
- I remember looking at the Walgreens delivery options at the start of this adventure, thinking I should just have them ship it. Now I have them ship it with express delivery, which comes to $21. I will run out of pills and save a whole $2 compared to if I’d just paid retail at the start.
- Walgreens ships the pills with normal shipping anyway, so I save $13.
- I take half a pill once a day until they run out.
- Pills arrive last Thursday. Proof is above.
Now I can see the narrative follow the typical story arc: introduction, complication, travail, resolution. No real climax, but the protagonist gets into trouble. Audience laughs, identifies, but no catharsis.
Last week this was frustrating but not desperate, a microcosm of everything wrong with this country. Clicking place order absolved it, released it. Why be angry? You are safe, you have options, you can make decisions again.
The little white bag leaning in the mailbox proves things work out.