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Do I have to get back in line at the pharmacy after waiting 15-20 minutes?

Miss Conduct weighs in on proper protocol when picking up prescriptions. Plus, what to do about a dinner guest who doesn’t seem to like your food.

What is the protocol at the pharmacy when, after you wait in line and your prescription is not ready, you are asked to wait 15-20 minutes. When they call your name, do you go directly to the counter, or go back and wait in line again?

M.D. / Needham

The general rule is that you wait in line once. In the situation you describe, you’d go directly to the counter. If you’re waiting for a prescription that you’ve just dropped off, you join the queue when your name is called. Ideally, the pharmacist calling your name will make it clear. Supermarket cashiers, for example, usually invite “the next person in line” to come to a newly opened register, rather than offering up a gladiatorial free-for-all.


Whether they do or not, though, be nice. Pharmacies are hellacious to navigate these days and absolutely none of that is the fault of the people working in them. Pharmacists are dealing with staffing shortages, corporate margin-squeezing, supply-chain difficulties, changing governmental regulations, additional COVID-related responsibilities, and an increasingly abusive public. Kindness to pharmacists is an ethical imperative — and a practical one, too, because the worse that job gets, the fewer people will want to do it, and the lines we have to wait in will just get longer and longer.

One of my relatives always says “That was very delicious” in a rote vocal pattern after eating one of my meals — often after eating only a small portion of the entree or covering it with a napkin while taking the plate back to the kitchen. What do I do or say in response to this? He and his wife come over frequently for dinner and I don’t know what they like to eat, even though I’ve asked about food preferences, dislikes, or allergies. He has been taught to say polite things but these are often vacant words.


I.S. / Canada

Your frustration is understandable, but while all the world may be a stage, we are not the directors. You can’t go around “giving notes” to people whose performances you deem unconvincing (though I deeply sympathize with the temptation). So, relinquish the responsibility. You’ve done your best to ascertain your relative’s food preferences and been stonewalled; if he doesn’t like what you serve, it’s now on him to speak up. Respond to his “vacant” compliment with equally perfunctory thanks.

And if hosting dinners for him and his wife is so unsatisfactory . . . why do it? Why not have a board game night, or go hiking, or take in some live music instead? If that’s too much to organize, go to a restaurant or get takeout for your next dinner instead of going to the trouble of cooking a meal. (Aren’t you curious to know what he’d do if presented with an actual menu?) It’s not punishment or passive-aggression to reduce the amount of unappreciated effort you’re putting forth for another person, it’s simply logical — and often a relief to them, as well.

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.