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posted: 1/23/2014 5:00 AM

Pharmacists' tale: This is progress?

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So it's summer of 1955 and I am standing on the corner of Division Street and Kedzie Avenue in Chicago in front of the neighborhood pharmacy waiting for the guys so we can play 16-inch softball. Judging by the softness of our Clincher it must be mid- to late-August, as we chipped in on the last day of to school to buy the ball. The druggist (pharmacist) comes out of the pharmacy, approaches me and asks if I would do him a favor and deliver medicine to Mrs. Brown down the street. I make the delivery and return to the store to let him know. He says, "How about a sundae or shake?" We go over to the fountain counter with the shiny marble counter and high stools that spin.

I look around the store and my eyes notice the front of the pharmacy with the globes filled with different colors and the little brown bottles with Latin names filled with chemicals. I ask to see the back where the prescriptions are filled, and from then on ... I never left. I went to work in another local pharmacy through high school and then on to pharmacy school.

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I started with the manual typewriter and a brown eraser with a brush on the end. Then came the electric typewriter, and then the beginning of the end: the "computer." The computer, which led ultimately to the end of being a druggist as I knew it. Choice 1, retail: strapped to counter standing in front of computer. Choice 2, mail order: strapped to chair in front of two computer screens where you never see or touch a drug.

What's next? Pharmacists in an ATM dispensing machine? Shh, better be quiet, I can see the pencil pushers' minds churning -- less overhead, etc., etc.

Philip Ferdman

Northbrook

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