Monday, April 02, 2007

Reinforcing Our Own Stereotypes

The past couple of weeks have been incredibly eventful, but before diving into that, I thought I'd post about something that happened 15 minutes, ago.

I've got the flu or something. Among my symptoms is a terrible, terrible "rolling" cough. I saying "rolling" because it's never just one cough. There are usually four to six of coughs rolled up into one. It really hurts my already painful throat, but it really hurts my head.

I seem to have the worst kind of sinus congestion. When I cough, I feel intense pressure through the top of my head and all the veins therein.

TheraFlu addresses multiple symptoms, at once, with surprisingly high doses of medication, so I've been taking it consistently since Saturday. After my last coughing fit, though, I thought it was time to get something specifically for the sinus issue.

Because of the late/early hour, I drove to Wal-Mart, instead of a drug store, to find the maximum strength sinus remedies. Unfortunately, those medications are inaccessible during the pharmacy's off-hours.

I asked someone if she knew where a 24-hour pharmacy was and she told me about a CVS location a few miles away.

I told the CVS pharmacist that I needed the strongest sinus medication they had available. She asked if I had post-nasal drip or congestion or what. I told her that I've got the flu or something and that my head feels like something's going to pop whenever I cough. She said it sounds like I've got some kind of infection and should seek medical attention.

That's really great information, except I wasn't going to see a doctor at 4am. My immediate needs required a sinus remedy, as far as I could tell. She said that I could try something like a TheraFlu, which I told her I've been taking, already.

I told her I've been taking TheraFlu and my fever's been bouncing up and down since Saturday. She, again, said I've got some kind of infection. I, again, asked about sinus remedies (because, again, that was my most urgent concern, right then). She said that's all they have available, in the aisle.

I asked what she'd recommend. She said I could walk down the aisle and pick something that addresses my symptoms.

At this point, she seemed to be giving me the brush-off so I said, "I'm specifically asking for maximum dosage sinus remedies, but I seem to be bothering you so,..."

She responded, "No. I wasn't going to say that. Can I finish?"

She went on to say that TheraFlu is a multi-symptom remedy and once I told her I'd been taking that, she knew there was nothing stronger that she could recommend.

"So, you're saying TheraFlu's as strong as it gets? Okay. That's what I needed to know, but you didn't say that."

So, at this point, she's not too fond of me and I'm not too fond of her. Oh well.

I compared a couple of sinus meds from a couple of products and asked if there was a one-to-one ratio between the dosage of one drug versus that of another. She said, "They're different drugs."

See, this is the kind of thing that'd been bugging me about my interactions with her, from the start. I already know that they're different $#^$#ing drugs. What I did NOT know was whether 35mg of THIS was more, less or equally effective as 10mg of THAT.

In the end, she basically said I'd get no more relief from one than the other. I should've asked if it was okay to take different kinds of sinus medication on top of each other, but I decided not to because of the quality of our interaction up until that point.

Again, because of her attitude, I was less aggressive about my medical care than I would've been.

I'll go ahead and add that she's Black (and for those that don't know, so am I) and part of what I was thinking was, "See, this is one reason why people think Black women have stank attitudes... because so many Black women DO have stank attitudes."

I recognize that stereotypes are unfair and judging the few by the many isn't much better. But I can't help thinking that, while we're so vociferously condemning the way others judge us, we ought to also consider our own collective culpability.

If I'd gone in there expecting the pharmacist to have an attitude because she's Black, that would've been one thing. But I had no expectations from her besides those associated with her profession.

Some believe that each of us represents no one but ourselves. To some degree, I agree. I hate being lumped in with a bunch of thuggish, ruggish bones, at the drop of a hat. I hate that I can't coo over babies the way I'd like because folks don't respond well to that kind of behavior from a man. But, at the same time, I recognize that this response is due to the fact that there ARE so many male predators and Black thugs.

No, this doesn't mean there aren't non-Black thugs any more than it means there aren't female predators.*

That pharmacist was trying to be helpful, but her communicative shortcomings were having the opposite effect. Pointing that out to her brought out the 'tude, which only made things worse... on the small and the mid-range scale.

Anyway, I'm probably just rambling, at this point, so I'll shut up, now. Feel free to tell me how right or wrong I am, if you like. I'll be more than happy to reciprocate.

* - I hate that I even have to waste web-real estate on these kinds of statements, but history tells me they do NOT "go without saying." So, for the record, I'm aware that there are folks that are going to think the worst about Blacks, no matter how many decent ones they encounter before that one bad apple.


Angie said...

Didn't you want to shake the shit out of her? She had something behind that counter stronger than Thera-flu!

As to the black woman with stank attitude - you may be right, but stank attitudes come in all colors.
(Black women are just bolder with thier stankness.)

Son of Blog-El said...

It sounds to me that this was a clash of expectations. You expected to be able to walk into a pharmacy at 4AM and get assistance form the employee (not unreasonable IMO) and she expected you to accept what she was telling you and to respect her opinion based on her experience (aslo not unreasonable).

The breakdown was in the way she delivered the information. It sounds like she came across as if you were an inconvenience. This is going to have the effect of lowering any respect for her opinion you might have been willing to grant.

Some people might argue that she was tired from working overnight and you were cranky because of your flu.

IMO she was the one that erred because it is her job to be able tointeract with the public and deliver information without seeming put upon.

This is why I don't deal with the public because I am awful at that.

Anyway this is a long winded way of saying that I agree with your assesment.

B. Good said...

Well West......

Perhaps she was trying to tell you that you'd be wasting your time/money on buying any other sinus remedies, as it sounded like you had an infection that required a dr. visit. That, plus the fact that Theraflu was as good as it got, and you had already taken that, so there' wasn't any need for you to go trying something else.

Maybe she didn't feel "comfortable" recommending any other OTC medication because she didn't think they would really help, and she probably didn't wanna run the risk of you coming back to the store and pointing fingers in her direction if something doesn't work. *shrugs*

And at that point, like you said, she probably wasn't too fond of you, and her interest in helping you diminished. I know pharmacies and pharmacists are starting to get more slack for misdiagnosing people and giving out the wrong medications, so maybe she was just being careful.

That, or, she just had a stank-ass-attitude.

Clarence said...

I don't know what melts my nooodle more -- the fact that I'd expect a Black person to feel me and just get it, or the fact in these types of interactions, they never do.

Stereotypes unfortunately exist, because there is a subset of cats running around who solidify the whole format. One monkey can't stop the show?!? They definitely can. Get better, bruh.

chele said...

She may or may not be stank, Wes. Perhaps it was just her inability to communicate that made it seem like she was stank.
Although, now that I think about it ... suggesting that you go to the doctor at 4 am was kinda stupid.

Liz said...

Aww, she was just scared you were faking it at 4 am and were really gonna pull your uzi out and blast up the place. You had her shook, West! She thought you were one of 50 Cent's cousins.