Many people have asked me what I’m doing with all my time now that I’m retired. Aside from many odds and ends, a lot of my time has been spent trying to get my prescriptions filled on base. They have updated their system in order to “better serve us.” Well, they didn’t actually say that, which is probably because it isn’t true.

You can no longer turn in paper prescriptions. The prescriptions have to be sent electronically from your doctors’ offices. Then you have to call and “activate” the prescription. The shortest time I have ever spent “in queue” waiting on the phone to activate my prescription has been about twenty minutes, and that was when I called right when they opened at eight o’clock. Most of the time the wait averages an hour or more. Then there is a fifty-fifty chance the doctor’s office actually sent in the prescription or the base can find the prescription in the “system.” If not, you have to contact your doctor’s office and pray the next time you are “in queue” for an hour, you will not be back at square one again. Unlike other pharmacies, the base does not call your doctor for you. If you are lucky, the nice person you have been waiting to speak to for the last hour or so can find the prescription in the “system” and will activate it for you. You’ve now cleared that hurdle. The prescription may be ready sometime between a week from now and when a very hot place freezes over. If you call the automated system to check on the status of your prescription and the robotic voice tells you it was filled ten days ago, that doesn’t mean anything, as I found out after waiting over an hour in the pickup line. Apparently, “filled” doesn’t mean the same thing as “pharmacist checked,” which is one more step in the process.

Once, when trying to activate my prescription, I got a recording saying, “We are experiencing a higher-than-normal volume of calls. You can skip the line by texting ‘rattle off a message and a number so fast you can’t write it down.’” I tried calling back immediately and was unable to hear the message again, as I was now 27th in queue. Evidently the call volume had dropped in the ten seconds I wasted and was now up to a tolerable hour-and-a-half wait. But I’m smart. Knowing there might be a way to “skip the line,” I found the number online. I texted the number and the message. Nothing happened. SIGH.

You also cannot walk into the satellite pharmacy anymore. Everything is done through the drive-through. Again, the shortest time I have had to wait has been around twenty minutes, and more often, it is over an hour. Unfortunately, once you are in the drive-through line, you are stuck. You can’t get out of the line if, for example, your husband calls and says his appendix ruptured and he needs to go to the hospital NOW. You also have to pick one of two lines and stay in that line, even if you notice the line next to you is moving faster because the person manning your line went to lunch. There is no moving over, as there are barriers to prevent you from doing so. Did you know I have the unenviable ability to always pick the slowest moving line? There could be twenty cars in one line and three in the other, and I guarantee if I pick the line with three cars, the person in the first car will have a transaction requiring the time it takes to give birth. I have learned to fill my gas tank before going to pick up a prescription because the last thing I want is to run out of gas while waiting in line. One would think the carbon footprint put out by the endless stream of vehicles waiting in line would concern someone enough about the drastic contribution to global warming to come up with a more environmentally friendly way to pick up medications.

Now I shouldn’t complain, as the medications filled on base are free, for which I am grateful (even if I sound like a sourpuss). And, believe it or not, I do appreciate the people who actually have to work with the “system,” because having worked at the base veterinary clinic, I know they’re probably as frustrated as I am. But the whole process of actually getting a prescription filled is such a hassle, I get most of my prescriptions off base, even though I have to pay for them. Time is money, after all. But there are two medications I can’t get off base, which is why I have to endure the endless layers of government bureaucracy and time wasting to get my drugs. Monday, Hubby got a text that my medication was ready. So I went to pick it up, waiting in line only about twenty minutes and blessing my good fortune. When I got to the window, I found that only ONE of the medications was ready, although I had called in a refill for the other over a week previously and was assured by the automated system it was filled. Silly me. Thinking BOTH were ready, as the text didn’t specify. Even sillier to believe the automated refill system knew what it was talking about. But again, “filled” and “pharmacist checked” are two different things. And it’s not like the person at the window takes any pity on you for having spent over an hour in line, wasting gas and contributing to global warming, and moves their little derriere off their chair to go expedite that second medication for you. Nope, it’s back to the end of the line for you.

With both my medications, nobody even has to count pills. Someone simply needs to pluck a bottle off a shelf and slap a label on it (kind of like I used to do at the off-base vet clinic in thirty seconds or less, where the prescriptions were automatically linked into the patient’s record and billing with one transaction). But apparently, a single prescription must go through a chain of multiple people and computer documentations (assuming the “system” isn’t down) before getting into the hands of the person who doesn’t want to have to take medication in the first place. Maybe they secretly hope I will die while waiting, and decrease their work load. Sometimes, that seems like the easy way out.