dumb reade

If you’re traveling to New York, or if you live here, and want to stay sane, avoid Duane Reade (not the streets downtown, the actual store). It doesn’t matter what time you go; there is always a string of people, exhaling audibly, deep in wait.  I’m not talking about the DMV.  It’s worse: Duane Reade’s prescription counter.   "What’s the name?  Stein?"  Klein.  "C-L-I-N-E?"  Oh God, why is this happening?  They dally and potter around looking for my birth control prescription in the JA-JE bin.  OH MY GOD!  I could scream.  "Are you allergic to any medications?"  Sulfa.  "Sulfur?"  Yes, lady, I’m allergic to sulfur from the periodic table.  When I touch it, I get hives.  No, Sulfa, the stuff they put in some pink bubble gum medicine when I was young.  Hives happen.  "Can you just write it down here?"  HOLY MOTHERFCUKER!  I already wrote it down, along with my social security and my automatic refill slip.  You have got to be kidding me.  "That will be about 10 minutes Miss Clean."  But NO!  I filled out the refill slip.  I shouldn’t have to wait.  I did it last week, so this wouldn’t happen.  "You wanna fill out another one?"  I hate you.  "I just talked to the pharmacist, Ma’am.  We didn’t get no call from this here doctor."  Die.  Just go die.

So I sit in a blue chair, coated in a layer of bacteria and staph cells, where sick people wait and tap their feet for half hour increments after the promise of a few minutes.  There’s a wall covered in Ace wrist bandages.  This makes sense.  Plant the seed.

I wonder if anyone ever just screams, rip roaring, throat throttling yelping.  I want to pelt the ladies behind the counter in their heads with soft-baked Entenmanns cookies.  Gotcha.  Take that, lady.  Right in the forehead, knocking those three-inch thick classes off your Ernie Muppet head.  Now ya think you can speed things up?  "Miss Clean, it’s ready."  She swipes my card.  "Do you have another one?  This dumb register."  Stab her.  I’m going to stab her with the fake, sign on the LCD screen, pen.  I don’t have one more thing to give her except an insult.  This isn’t her fault.  This is training.  Habit.  Something I never want to catch because I don’t think they make prescriptions for it.



  1. This one killed me.

    Laughing at others' tribulations at a drug store … what does that say about me? Perhaps I need to be medicated.

  2. I know this kind of tribulation. It happens to me every time I go abroad. And unfortunately my surname is also so long…

  3. Right on the money!

    This reminds me of the quote by H.L. Menken: "Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats."

    I don't consider myself a violent person but my imagination sure is! ;7)

  4. for monthly meds, 2 words…mail order. do it. it'll change your life.

    for those ailment induced 'scripts – go a block or 2 out of your way and patronize that endangered species known as the local drug store. there are a few left. and the pharmacists are older than 12 and actually speak english.

    of course, you can still patronize duane greed for the emergency pair of hanes her way or 5 lb. bag of twizzlers.

  5. Right on the money!

    This reminds me of the quote by H.L. Menken: "Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats."

    I don't consider myself a violent person but my imagination sure is! ;7)

  6. This reminded me a of a piece I read in the New Yorker a few months back…

    “I just happened to be in a Duane Reade, and the entire time I contemplated how poorly planned the shops are,” says Karim Rashid, the industrial designer whose clients range from Acme supermarkets to Armani. “How bromide and miserable and vacuous the place is, how completely unaesthetic. What a poor experience.”

  7. I used to do Duane Reade…now I go to CVS on Christoper and 7th ave. Its the same everywhere I tell ya. Perhaps in the pharmacy they can hire…PHARMACISTS???

  8. Did you ever stand online waiting for your scrips at the pharmacy, and you daze off into this ~zone~ not realizing you are staring at the extra ribbed for her pleasure condoms? I got caught numerous times. How embarrassing…

  9. Finally. A post to which only true New Yorkers can relate. No more comments from Italians, who wouldn't know the difference between Duane Read and Duane Wayne (from "What's Happening," one of the greatest TV shows of all time).

  10. We don't have Duane Reades in the Los Angeles area, but the more I read your posts, the more this sounds like a good thing.

    Our standard is Sav On, which is notorious for screwing up scripts… our Costcos and Sam's Clubs also do scripts out here, which adds a whole new level of fun as your name is shouted through the cavernous halls of a warehouse store.

    I swear, this is the inspiration to stay healthy… not for the sake of being healthy, but just to have to avoid this hassle.

  11. fm – i assume you meen dwayne wayne from a different world. there was a dwayne on what's happening, but i don't think his last name was wayne.

  12. Ooh! I had such a crush on Dwayne Wayne and his flip up glasses. I haven't thought of him in forever…

  13. This is sooo true – a really humiliating experience. There are always 10 people in line and two chairs. The staff consists entirely of "English as a second language" people (but maybe it's really fourth) who shout out your name, your prescription, or worse – your ailment. Once I knew that 3 girls were on BC, one man had a rash, and a kid hacking all over had the flu. All I have to say is EW.
    And one other thing about that damn store… Why the hell do they always have boxes in all the freakin' aisles?! It's like they're constantly stocking the store with more crap. You can never walk or get a cart down the aisle and when you reach what you were looking for there are none left – yet every thing else is falling off the shelves there are so many. grrrrrr.

  14. The Character on What's Happening was Dwayne Nelson played by Haywood Nelson. Famous for his entre Line "Hay Hay Hay"! I loved that show.

  15. It was Dwayne Nelson. Good God, I don't know why I remember that, but I do.

    "Which Doobie you be?"

  16. Joseph Parmacy (across from Miss Geddes), closer to you than DR and usually a very pleasant experience.

  17. Yell it from the rooftops!!! As Thomas Paine said, "these are times that try [suitable non-gender-specific title]'s souls."

    I work in the Citigroup Building, surrounded by chain drugstores. I hate them all, but confess I do shop in them reluctantly.

    I used to canvas the chains and neighborhood drugstores, in search of superior prophilactic devises (ribbed for her pleasure, but of course). Now, I take a deep breath and go to Toys in Babeland — they have a better selection and the most amazing collection of harnesses I've ever seen.

  18. Hilarious! And I can assure you it's not just a New York / Duane Reade thing. Of course the REAL punch line is that, unlike the other customer "service" representatives, the pharmacy zombies can kill you when they mess up. Probably hard to mistake a B.C. prescription for anything else, though…

  19. Just had to add a humorous scene that I recently witnessed at an UWS Duane Reade:

    A guy was clearly in the market for a home pregnancy test. The counterwoman asked: "Do you need any help?" He responded: "Yes. Which one gives the fastest results?"

    It's as if an entire story was told in that small interaction — like Hemingway's shortest story ("For sale: baby shoes, never used").

  20. Wait—they have sex toys in the pharmacy now??? And–I want to comment, I'm in New York as well (right outside the city) and I have never heard of Duane Reade before.

    I need to get out more.

  21. Deb, Toys in Babeland has sex toys, not Duane Reade. Altho' some drugstores do have lube….

  22. Yes, yes, yes… I also wonder just how many diseases those damned chairs hold… or if it's rude when some sickly being sits next to you. They should have a section for contagious and non-contagious…


  23. You're worried about the chairs at the DW? Think about walking barefoot through the metal detectors at the airport! All those other people with how many thousands of funky foot diseases and you have to walk right in the same path as they do. Anything for national security!


  24. i really like how you've managed to veil your elitism & racism here. how in your last sentences you half-wipe the sentiment of the whole piece. what a talent!

  25. I completely agree on all accounts — and my last name is ten times more complex than Klein. (Ironically, all of the close friends in my life are Millers, Smiths and Browns. Freude would have a field day.)

    But I digress. My story is from this past January, when everyone (including doctors, apparently) was having trouble with the 2004 / 2005 conversion. My doctor wrote my prescription for January 2004 and submitted it to my pharmacy, which caused a month-long delay to reprocess everything. Lovely. I should have been thankful to have medical coverage at all, but was far too annoyed to count blessings.

    Happy Friday! :)

  26. S, you've CLEARLY never been to a Duane Reade in New York City, or you're made of unadulterated SAINT. Either way, trust me, Klein is being neither elitist or racist about this. She's right on the money, right down to the stabby-stabby with the LCD pen.

    Stephanie, trust me, mail-order is the way to go if only do avoid the nightmare that is DR.

  27. There is a *GREAT* story by Jonathan Ames named, "A W on My P." Now that is a story and a half. His father refers to his genitals as, "the troops." God, Ames is good. I will add a link to the book just for this weekend. Enjoy.

  28. I definately feel ya on this one. You know what, Rite Aid isn't any better, or is Eckerd. I have lived near each of them and all I have to say is screw pharmacies all together, hate them all!

    Seriously "s" stop over-analyzing.

  29. Ah, Duane Reade — the Yankees of the drug store world (everyone loves to hate a behemoth). Makes me miss New York.

    But in these situations, you just have to remember that the poor person behind the counter has been dealing with angry and impatient customers for hours, days, years…for whatever the going hourly wage is these days. So just breathe and remember that you will only be there for 10 (or 30) minutes and then you'll be free to be on your merry way. Until next month.

    (Speaking of which, why won't my insurance company let me get more than one month of birth control at a time? Is there some Ortho-tricyclin overdosing epidemic that I don't know about?)

  30. Stephanie-

    You are definately a talented writter. You have a good sense of humor and a refreshing way of dealing with life in general, as well as, in the big city. HOWEVER, it is clear that you are now trying too hard to be funny/sarcastic and that makes some of your entries
    very difficult to get through. Take a deep breath and slow down – "Rome wasn't built in a day".

  31. funny thing is most people i know who have read this post think it is hysterical. perhaps you've never been frustrated with consistently bad service. not trying to hard when you are honest. ever been? and what could she be trying too hard at? she ain't selling you anything. go away. go pay for your entertainment and then complain.

  32. "Joseph Parmacy (across from Miss Geddes), closer to you than DR and usually a very pleasant experience."

    this is why you blog. good advice.

  33. I seriously hate D.R. but go there cuz its convienent. I hate it everytime tho.

  34. I used to work at a CVS and I tell 'ya- they don't pay you enough to be on the other side of that counter! I had to laugh at the reference to the fake "sign on the LCD screen" pens. I don't think you could stab the person at the counter with the pen since the tether is barely long enough for you to even sign with…

  35. to Fielding Melish

    Remember: Ubi major, minor cessat.
    Oh, sorry darling..you can't relate. You are a true new jorker not an Italian…


  36. Hey, I go to this Italian restaurant down the street from me, they spell my name wrong all the time. CARUSO. They spell it Carrussso.


  37. I have a similar reaction to the one you have with Sulfa, only with Republicans; they give me hives.

    Can Duane Reade help?

  38. I think I had this same checkout girl, was it on 6th? Try Windsor on 6th, they are fabulous and they have yummy stuff to buy while waiting, which takes 3 minutes *but expensive yummy stuff*

    Windsor Pharmacy
    1419 6TH Ave
    New York, NY 10019-2512
    (212) 247-1538

  39. duane reade is truly pathetic, i agree. there's one across the street from me, and it's always the same damn thing as what happened last week. on each of the 4 cash registers, there is a large sign stating "please form a separate line for each register". yet it never fails that people checking out form one, long, snaking line that disappears somewhere past the spin-around lipstick display. why, i don't know. so i go in there for smokes, see the usual mass of humanity in their single line, and ask the woman at the head of it, "which register are you on line for?" no real answer, so i go to form my own line behind a customer at the first register. chaos ensues. the line erupts. i attempt to explain that this happens all the time, see what the signs say, at any moment they're going to announce "form separate lines, please…". no effect on the increasingly hostile, apparently only semi-literates on the snake line, who begin berating me not to"bring that sh*t in here" and "act like a human being, get on line". i look to a cashier for assistance. blank stare. i think, was it my dangling participle in my 'line request'? hmmm, probably not. realizing that this is not worth the confrontation, i get on the end of the existing line, saying "you'll see, i'm here all the time, any second it's gonna be the 'one line' announcement." not a minute after i get on the line, the "head cashier" (i imagine; another delightful oxymoron) gives the instruction, and everybody breaks off to separate registers. now, what prevented this employee (or ANY of the cashiers, or the 'security' guy who does more flirting than security-ing,which the cashiers feel obliged to respond to more so than actually executing their responsibilities) from merely saying "yeah, the guy's right, we do have signs, see? they're right there, in 9 million point print, please form separate lines"? no, they'd rather leave me twisting in the wind, displeasing a slew of customers, myself included, and risking what some days must be even a nastier scene than this one…
    jeez, i just re-read this; sorry for going on like a lunatic. but, yeah, duane reade, nfg, what a bunch they've got over there, too bad i gotta pick some things up there tomorrow, they're right across the street and all…damn…

  40. Elaine Benes. Except with the flaming hair, and I mean this as a compliment. I can just imagine in the future you posting,

    "I am running out of guys in this city"

  41. ha! years ago, i thought i was the only one who thought virtually everyone who worked at d.r. was a bunch of morons. little by little i see people are coming to the same realization.

    one time i went in and asked a worker if they carried string. you know, string? to wrap up newspapers with? the girl didn't understand what i was saying. "sing?" no, string. "sring?" no, string. you know, twine, rope, cord, stuff to tie stuff with. string. she never got it. no one else was around. i went to the dollar store instead.

    but usually my biggest complaint is that most of them are just rude and obviously hate their jobs. i guess the same could be said for a lot of counter service here in nyc.

  42. the cvs chains in washington dc must be DR south branches. they practiced 'just in time' management of meds. if you were the first person that day to ask for a commonplace prescription, you'd get it. otherwise you'd have to wait 24 hrs for them to order it from central supply. unfortunately for us, these prescriptions were usually emergency asthma meds that my husband needed after he left the ER for an attack. nice, huh?

    Sometimes their credit/debit card reader would go down and one would have to pay up front. Their security 'method' was to announce your meds over the loudspeaker and tell the front cashiers to expect you. Since my health plan required me to buy my IUD from the pharmacy and take it to my doctor, of course this is when it occured. "IUD to the front"! Everybody turn and look at the pudgy middle aged married woman who still has sex…

  43. recently, i went to DR to use a phone book. (411 were clearly a bunch of idiots. 'sir, that listing doesn't exist at that address'). anyway, i went to the checkout counter, asked for the yellowpages and they suggested i go to the pharmacy counter to use theirs. i walked out. basically, they give you drugs at that counter. there is no professionalism, no pharmacist/user relationship. it's no different than a transaction on a street corner..which is a whole other topic. i needed a phonebook, and i walked out!

  44. first time here… i got the spanish translation of your NYT article in our local saturday morning paper and wanted to see what the fuss was about. so there, congrats, no you're an INTERNATIONAL minor celebrity :P

    oh, blogging from mexico city. besitos.

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