During college I brought in some money by running drugs. It might sound exciting, dangerous or criminal but it was a whole lot more Mayberry than Miami Vice. There was an old, family drugstore in the city and they advertised at our Christian college for someone to deliver drugs for them. I’m sure they thought hiring from a Christian college should guarantee applicants wouldn’t be drug users and while it’s true I can’t handle a benadryl I think I got the job because I had my own car and the other applicant surprised the interviewer by asking if there would be random drug tests.
I’d clock in every afternoon and I would start running drugs all over our city. The way it worked was that you would have a prescription (a ‘script’) on file or your doctor would call it in, the pharmacist would fill it and when we got enough deliveries in or it had been an hour since your script came in, I’d be sent out in my trusty Toyota with drugs. On the days there weren’t any scripts, and there were some on the days that people would apparently all decide to be well on the same day, I would dust shelves, check expiration dates (you might be surprised) on the script and non-script drugs, water flowers and pick up stuff for the little café that ran out of the store. This is how I learned how to pick out a ripe avocado.
The drug runner days were my favourite. Every one was an adventure, no two were the same and they all made the day go by faster. I would load up my front seat with all the scripts going to a certain part of town, strategize my route to maximize my time and minimize my gas usage. The store went way back in the history of the city and as a result we tended to do a lot of business with families in town who were ‘old money’ and lived in the part of town we (me and my friends, not the store) called ‘Snob Hill’. The store was also run by people who wanted to make some serious coin so they also did business with the government and got part of the market on the scripts the government would cover for the people who were on social assistance. The rich and the government were basically the only people who could afford our prices and seemed happy to pay them. On most of my drug runner days I would split my time between the rich and the extremely poor. I never actually delivered to a cardboard box but I came pretty close once.
I had regular customers. The regulars were almost all older except for one who was middle-aged but HIV positive. He didn’t tell me that and I probably shouldn’t have known it but you pick up a few things hanging around a pharmacy. “Regular” in this case meant they would get a new script every week, other week or several times a week as in the case of an elderly doctor who would write himself prescriptions and phone them in as needed. One day, on my first run, I went to his place with a prescription laxative. A couple hours later, on my second run, I noticed his address on one of the packages again and told the pharmacist I’d already been there with a script. “This one reverses what the last one did.” He told me. “Apparently it worked a little too well.” Eventually I learned that the doctor had stashed pill bottles in almost every room of his enormous house just in case he felt constipated in one room he could get himself going before he got to the next room. He had a decorative bowl filled with fake fruit by the front door and on one delivery I watched him take a pill from the bottle, swallow without water and then drop the bottle into the bowl, I’m not sure if that was to turn it off or turn it on before he left the house or when he came back in.
Sometimes my deliveries turned into visits. One of my regulars, a man in his mid-fifties, would answer the door in a very bright and colourful kimono and invite me to have some tea on the side porch. Most days I couldn’t stop but a couple times I could and did. He told me a bit about himself and asked me about my life. He talked about his faith in God but a life that led him away from church, which I could tell he missed. He always seemed profoundly lonely. I think that the reason for the meds I delivered had made his life a very isolated existence, so cut off that he would share a personal conversation with a drug runner who he didn’t really know and who may or may not have been able to keep secrets.
Another regular visit was with a couple who owned a little house with a mom & pop convenience store in the front of it. It was really just the front room but it had been a little store for years and a lot of the stock had been there since they first opened it. When I brought in their script, Jessie, who was able to stand and work the store, all 5 foot 2 inches of her, would think I was a customer come to buy something. It would take us about 5 minutes to work out that I was there to deliver drugs and take a couple dollars from her for the part their insurance didn’t cover. She would yell back to her husband a play by play of what was going on. He was bed ridden but I could see him in his bed through the doorway behind her. She never remembered me from one week to the next, she always yelled back to her husband that I was taking money instead of them making money and sometimes she complained about the cost of the meds. I would always pick out a pop and some tootsie rolls or licorice to buy from her to offset what she gave me for her share of the pills. Before you think I was being a good guy here, I loved the pop and ate every tootsie roll.
To be continued…