Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Reflections on Jobs

While we're waiting for a response - any response - from the Elders, let me talk about my job. Or, you know, what used to be my job before I disappeared for a couple of weeks.

First of all, having a job is - for most of us - exactly like it is for normal people. That is, it's a way to put food on the table and keep the utilities on. Some of us, though, take particular jobs that allow us to help our fellow worshippers. Members with degrees in law or medicine are particularly valued, for reasons that should be obvious, but there are plenty of jobs that are valued by the Elders that have far less status (and income) among outsiders. Christian - I don't think I've mentioned him before - runs a costume shop. It doesn't really matter whether or not he turns a profit (though he does), that shop will never close. It's where we store everything we use for rituals, all the odd outfits and strange items.

I chose to become a pharmacist, even though the career didn't really interest me all that much. It was something I could do, and it was easier than trying to become a doctor or lawyer... but it still gave me some status with the Elders, because I could provide certain sorts of drugs when we needed them. It kept me from being relegated to grunt work, or sucked into the more dangerous aspects of our rituals and explorations that Mbata made his career.

Mbata. I miss that son of a bitch. He could be... unkind... especially to outsiders. But I miss him. And I wish I knew what he was doing when he came to collect Claire from our apartment. Damn it. But I digress...

People like Mbata are essentially subsidized by the Elders. Oh, they may hold a job (or, often, a series of jobs), but that's usually a cover. Their real job is to do whatever the Elders tell them to do: checking on our believers, refining our practices, dealing with our enemies or anyone who gets too curious, acquiring new knowledge for the Archives. Because of the extra research I was doing, and the aptitude I was showing for it, I might have been headed that way, myself. And if the Elders decide that I'm worth keeping around, it'll probably have to be the way my career goes now.

If that's the way it works out, I can't say I'll be entirely sorry. Being a pharmacist is... well, it's not as much fun as it might sound. Much like teaching, there's an awful lot of work that takes place in what are theoretically your off hours. There's a huge amount of paperwork: for the feds, for the state, for every insurance company in existence... and insurance companies are a real pain the ass. Their job, as they see it, is basically to prevent you from dispensing anything that might cost them money - in other words, anything that might actually help someone. They don't come right out and admit this, of course. Instead, they make the whole process as complicated as possible - and I swear by things I dare not mention here, they get together and make sure that no two of their processes work the same way. So multiply "as complicated as possible" by "every insurance company in existence" and you'll have some idea of why I think a single-payer system would have been better.

Pharmacy is also a relatively small, insular field. That's why I probably won't be able to, say, move to Chicago and get another job if things ever go back to normal. Pharmacy students go through a matching program, somewhat like doctors do, to see where they'll best fit for their internship. Pharmacists in a given area generally know each other by name... and by reputation. Having vanished without notice for something like two weeks now, I'm not just fired - unless I'm exceedingly lucky, I need to find another line of work.

Then there are the customers... here's the thing. Most of them are honest, if concerned, citizens. That's actually a sort of problem, because it makes it that much harder to stay alert for the ones who are addicts, or thieves, or scam artists. On the other hand, the ones who are dishonest are very frequently rude, nasty, entitled... and often not very smart. About two years ago, someone called in a prescription for the painkiller Xanax. The woman was calling from a "doctor's office" (actually, the call came from a carpet warehouse), and I had to ask for the dosage and the amount.

The Austin police department was kind enough to send a plainclothes officer over and explain what I had to do. I filled the prescription, and handed it over, and the officer promptly arrested the woman. As it turns out, she was part of a ring - basically, trying to get pharmacies to fill fake prescriptions for Oxycontin, Xanax, and other things with some value on the street - and she immediately gave up several of her accomplices.

So, yeah - it's a constant concern, but an infrequent threat, which makes for a bad combination. My almost-certainly-former employers have some policies in place that are supposed to help deal with that, but frankly I think they do more harm than good, most of the time. Seriously, not letting someone know that their doctor has sent over the refill for their prescription? Yes, it probably keeps the addicts from hounding us about whether or not the refill is ready yet, but it also keeps an awful lot of people with legitimate problems panicking over whether or not the meds they need to function are going to be ready in time.

It's a weird situation. (I admit, once again, that weird is relative.) I won't miss the job. Not at all. Not ever, if it comes to that. But I'm very worried about how many people my emergency replacement might be hurting in my absence.

Reflections of a Deranged Cultist is a work of Fiction. No degrees were faked - and no drugs were illegally dispensed - for the purposes of this post.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to leave comments; it lets me know that people are actually reading my blog. Interesting tangents and topic drift just add flavor. Linking to your own stuff is fine, as long as it's at least loosely relevant. Be civil, and have fun!