Wednesday, March 29th, 2006:
Apoteket: Helsingborg's friendly neighbourhood busy-body pharmacy
Here in Helsingborg, Sweden's annoyingly monopolised pharmacy, Apoteket, seem to favour the employment of people with a chronic case of Busy-Body Syndrome (B-BS). This is a condition that causes sufferers to cause others to suffer their constant bouts of advice-attacks when selling any kind of medicine, from simple pain relievers to prescription drugs.
A couple of weeks ago, for example, I went to buy some non-prescription Zantac dissolvable tablets for an ulcer I've had for years. It very rarely flares up, and it's never too drastic when it does, and I knew what I needed to treat it. It should have been a simple case of picking a package up from off the shelf, bringing it to the checkout, paying and leaving. But no.
The middle-aged lady (who's job it is to run items past a scanner so that it makes the appropriate "bleep" sound, ask for the amount of money that appears on a little screen, receive payment, and give the correct amount of change, if necessary), felt it was her duty to inform me that I should see a doctor if my symptoms persisted. I had a good look around at the wall behind her, but failed to find her Doctoral Certificate of Medicine hanging anywhere. You might think that she was just trying to be helpful, but I immediately recognised the symptoms of this poor B-BS case.
I'd seen and heard of the manifestations of B-BS on several occasions from most of the staff there before. For a while, my girlfriend had prescriptions for a certain type of medication, and each time she would go to have them filled, she would have to sit at the little booth where they give you the medication, and put up with long lectures about its effects and how it can be addictive. These were drugs especially prescribed to her by a registered physician with a bit more experience than someone whose job it is to hand out little plastic bottles.
And only yesterday, she went to get an iron supplement - a simple and common enough thing, by any accounts. As she couldn't find it on the shelf with the vitamins, she decided to ask one of the guys who was pacing around looking for people to annoy. She was promptly grilled on why she wanted them (erm, why would a woman normally want iron supplements?), was warned of the potential dangers if they were mis-used, and recommended something else. She agreed to also buy the suggested remedy, but asked again if she could please have the iron supplements.
This obvious B-BS victim went to the other shelf with her, picked up the box for her, opened it, and suggested that she read the bit of paper that comes with anything you can buy in tablet-form. Humouring him (poor soul), she dutifully scanned the notice, made the appropriate "Mm-hmm" sounds, and thanked him for his help. This whole time, he kept hold of the box, and she nearly had to pry it from his grasp.
He then told her to wait, and went behind the scenes (to where all the serious drugs are kept), came back with a little brochure, pointed out different passages for her to read (waiting patiently while she did so), and continued his sermon.
When he finally allowed her to leave with the lethal package, he advised her that she should see a doctor anyway, as these particular iron supplements were not very potent, and probably wouldn't do much for her.
B-BS is a worrying and troublesome disorder; it affects not only those who have it, but anyone and everyone who needs to go to Apoteket in Helsingborg. It's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.