I was a clerk at a service station for 1 year after I left school and when I realised that they were not going to keep their promise of extending my duties to include computer work I decided to resign and look for other work before I got stuck with a filing job for the rest of my life.
I saw an advert in the newspaper for a pharmacist’s assistant. I did not have any experience but they knew a member of my family and gladly gave me the job.
I was so excited at first but my enthusiasm soon fizzled. I had to work with a pharmacist who was over 70 years old and a bit absent minded. He would use snuff and then hide the little tin on top of the shelves containing the medicines and then he would forget where he left it.
Most of my time was spent on answering the telephone, taking orders for delivery, finding his snuff, finding his spectacles and cleaning snuff from the counter. Apart from that we did not interact much and I did not mind working with him when it did not cause problems for me.
I became quite good at reading doctors’ handwriting and soon knew what all the abbreviations stood for, unfortunately I have forgotten most of it as time has passed.
When a customer came in with a prescription I would count out the tablets and put labels on all the containers. The pharmacist would print the prescription and I would make the customer sign it for medical aid claims and either charge it to their account or get cash payment.
Simple enough but at the end of the first month the Jewish lady who owned the pharmacy gave me a hard time regarding prescriptions listed on her medical aid report printed from our computer which were not filed and she accused me of being slack. Actually I felt that she was accusing me of fraud. I was young and not as tough as I am now and I went home very upset.
At the end of the second month we had a similar conversation as the previous month and when I asked to see her report I realised what was causing the problem when I recognised the names of the customers.
A customer would come in and request a reprint of a script for medical aid claims because they have lost their original copy. The pharmacist would then recall the script on the computer and then because he was absentminded and bored with his surroundings he would click on the button for new script where he was suppose to click on reprint script instead.
After that I would make a note of the customer’s name and reprint date and place it in the file and at the end of the month she could match everything up because I could not get him out of the routine of clicking on new script and she kept on blaming me for the error.
A few weeks before I started doing this to cover myself I had to get some eyedrops on a shelf which was close to the accounts lady’s office and I heard the Jewish lady talking about me and saying “I can’t take it anymore”.
Every time the pharmacist served a customer I would double check and fix whatever he bungled and to hear that she was discussing me with another employee was the last straw.
I was not allowed to sit at all, I had to stand behind the counter even when there weren’t any customers and in those days we wore court shoes to work and it was not as casual as we have it now. I worked until 6pm in the evenings.
I eventually resigned and she was shocked “Oh, no please don’t leave she said, everything is working out nicely”.
Yes, everything was running smoothly by then but I felt I had been treated like a thief and I was embarrassed that she had discussed me with other staff instead of discussing our differences with me first.
When I saw this picture (above) I was reminde of this episode in my life and decided to write this post.
Shortly before I left, the pharmacist told the accounts lady to put a add in the paper it should read, he said “Pharmacy assistant, must be bright …”.
I couldn’t help but wonder was I a dull assistant?