My name is Victoria Jones, but everyone just calls me Vic. I graduated high school a year ago and I’m going to a local community college to get my basic courses out of the way. Say what you like about community colleges, but they’re an effective way to get your needed classes without a serious hit to the pocketbook.
My parents do what they can to make ends meet, but times are tough and they can’t help me pay for my schoolwork so I got a job at the local “all-in-one” big box retailer. You know the place; where you walk in for a jug of milk and a baguette and you walk out with all that plus a roll of socks, four new tires, and a forty-inch TV. The original plan was to go to school full-time and work at the store part-time. However, with the way things are going it’s turned into part-time school and full-time job. That’s okay as long as I can get my schoolwork done.
My mother would prefer that I do the traditional thing and marry a rich guy then squirt some grandkids out for her. Thanks, Mom, but I’m a little more independent than that. Also the idea of being a trophy wife sounds rather repugnant to me.
My official title says “cashier”, of course that’s just what I’m called. In reality I do that plus stocking the shelves, bagging groceries, mopping the floors, corralling the carts that are carelessly left in the parking lot, and helping customers navigate our massive labyrinth of a store.
It’s been going alright for a while. I’ve been on a full-time schedule for the last three months, however lately I’ve started feeling sick. It isn’t any one symptom I can really pin down. There’s a feeling like I’m worn out, and my muscles ache, however I just chalked that up to an unfortunate side-effect of the job. But it’s been really bothering me lately, especially since when I feel this way I don’t want to do anything except sleep, which seems to be the only respite for this feeling, but when I wake up it’s time to go back to work.
This isn’t living.
This isn’t even the peaceful dream of death.
This is dying.
I’d better see the doctor.
“Victoria?” the nurse bellows out in her most jaunty tone.
“Uh it’s Vic,” I tell her as I lift myself out of the sterile plastic chair. She takes me down the hall to the scale.
“193 lbs.” the LCD screen laughs at me.
I should exercise more, but I haven’t been feeling up to it. Also my knee-high leather boots with thirteen buckled straps adds a few pounds. Now I’m just making excuses. The nurse just grunts and writes something down on her notepad, then leads me into a nearby room.
I never did care much for rooms at the doctor’s office. When I was younger these rooms were frightening places with terrible medical diagrams on the wall. Now I hate them mostly because I can’t get a decent signal for my phone. How am I supposed to look at Reddit when my phone is barely getting a 3G signal?
"Hi, Vic, I'm Dr. Ingle; how's it going?" the perky medicine man says as he slips in the room like an over-caffeinated ninja and peers into my eyes through his thick round spectacles.
“Um, uh I’m not feeling so great,” I stammer, trying to match his level of enthusiasm and failing miserably.
“Yep, yep, okay?” he rapidly chirps.
“I’m feeling really worn out all the time, and sometimes my muscles hurt. It’s like I’m coming down with a cold, but I don’t have any sinus issues.”
“Any headaches?” he asks.
“Is it constant, or does it come and go?”
“It comes and goes, but it seems to be the worst around one a.m.”
“So it comes and goes, but it’s at its worst around one in the morning,” he paraphrases my statement, writing it down on his notepad and rapidly bobbing his head from side to side like a dashboard bobblehead doll. “So, just before you go to bed?”
“No, I’m up until five, cause I get off work at one and I need some time to wind down.”
“Oh? Evening shift. Where do you work if I may ask?” Dr. Ingle asks.
“I’m over in the Sprawl-Mart over on Frankford, as a cashier… I mean I’m officially a cashier, but I do… I do a lot of other things.”
“You mean that really big building that sells everything in the world?” he asks.
I nod my head.
“Hmm, I have a couple of patients that used to work there and they had an allergic reaction to the asbestos in the building,” Dr. Ingle says. He can say that without outing anyone, since most employees at my store don’t last more than three months.
“Vic, there probably isn’t a high level of asbestos, however some people are more sensitive than others. You may be having a similar issue, but we can’t be certain until I run some tests.”
The doctor leads me over to the lab where a short-haired older woman dressed in blue scrubs and thick-rimmed glasses is draining the blood out of a hapless little girl; and while the girl is wide-eyed with curiosity at the sight of her vital life juices sloshing into several test tubes her father can’t bear to stand the sight of it all and is squirming in the waiting chair, desperately trying to get a signal on his smartphone so he won’t have to witness the carnage. It’s quite an amusing sight to see, if not for the unnerving fact that I’m next.
I look down at my phone and see the signal hop from 4G to 3G and back again knowing that I’m not going to get anything to keep my mind off the prickly prick of that needling needle.
“All done, and you didn’t cry or anything! Good job!” I hear the nurse say as the little girl hops out of her seat.
“Daddy, I did it!” the girl beams.
“Hey, that’s great,” the father says with feigned enthusiasm.
“Victoria?” the nurse beckons.
“Uh, yeah,” I meekly mutter and shuffle my way over to the scary chair. The nurse opens a cabinet and brings out a small blue plastic box. Hopefully, there’s a red button in there that’ll give me a million dollars if I press it like in that movie I saw with Frank Langella that was based off a Twilight Zone episode… oh yeah, someone dies when they press the button. I guess I wouldn’t want that... Then again if presented with such an opportunity…
“All done!” the nurse smiles. Something is amiss, because I don’t recall a needle going into my arm in the last minute or so.
“You’re not taking my blood?”
“Not unless you want me to,” the nurse chuckles.
“I thought that’s what you were doing.”
“No, dear. This is an allergy test,” she explains. “I make a small scratch on the skin, just enough to let the allergen get into there, and we’ll see if a rash develops. Now if you want to take a seat in the waiting room for about ten minutes the doctor will come and get you.”
I wander out of the lab and plop my butt down on the sofa in the waiting room. This whole ordeal is a bit nerve-wracking. With nothing to keep me distracted right now all I can do is mull over what’s wrong with me.
“Vic, you wanna come back?” Dr. Ingle pokes his head into the room.
That was fast. I must’ve been daydreaming again.
I follow the good doctor back to the examination room, which is getting more claustrophobic by the minute, so he can check my rash.
“Nothing,” the doctor says, then scratches something on a notepad. “Well it’s not asbestos… Say, Vic… do you normally see a lot of customers in your job?”
“Yeah,” I grimace. “It’s pretty much a customer service job.”
The doctor grimaces back. “Ok, I got an idea of some things it could be, but I’m not going to say anything until I get some lab results. I’d like to do some more tests, however this time we’re gonna need to do some bloodwork.”
The doctor leads me back to the lab to face the deadly needle of doom… okay it’s not that big of a needle, and it’s not going to kill me… I hope. I guess it’s not getting stuck with the needle that I’m afraid of, but more the anticipation of getting stuck with the needle.
“Welcome back!” the nurse smiles as she puts some rubbing alcohol on the crease of my elbow and starts feeling around for a vein. I heard that if you wiggle your pinky finger it relaxes your muscle so it doesn’t hurt so much. The nurse begins to insert the needle…
Ow ow ow! Those lying bastards! That finger-wiggling is useless!
The nurse doesn’t seem to see my consternation, as she gleefully fills up several test tubes with my precious lifeblood. Maybe she’d like me to take some of her blood.
“All done, and you didn’t cry or anything!” the nurse smiles.
Big girls don’t cry.
“We’ll call you back with the results in a few days,” she says as she patches up my gaping puncture wound, and I vacate the premises as soon as possible.
Let’s fast-forward a few days, since I doubt you want to hear about the dreadful drudgery that is my job. Though I will say that the stupid customers were not as awful as they usually are.
“Ring ring!” says my cellphone. It really does say ‘ring-ring’, since I recorded that as a ringtone.
“Hello?” I weakly mumble into the handset, since I was sleeping soundly just seconds before.
“Hi, Victoria Jones?”
“This is Barbara from Dr. Ingle’s office. I’m just calling back with the results of your bloodwork. It looks like it is an allergy.”
Great. Something else to be allergic to.
“It seems you’re allergic to… stupidity.”
I sit up. “What?”
“Stupidity. It’s more common than people think.”
All this time I’ve been joking about how I’m allergic to stupid people, and now I find out it’s true. Of course this could just be some cruel prank, or maybe I’m still asleep and I’m only dreaming this.
“Okay, can I talk to Dr. Ingle?” I ask.
“Sure,” and she puts me on hold. I pinch myself to make sure I’m actually awake, and await some expert medical advice on a condition that has just gotten rather silly.
“Hey, Vic!” Dr. Ingle chirps in my ear.
“Hi, so what’s this about me being allergic to stupid people?”
“Well it’s actually stupidity, so you’re allergic to stupid animals too, as well as boneheaded failures in the world around you.”
This situation is turning rather bleak.
“So I should just avoid stupid people? That’s kind of hard to do.” I quip.
The doctor sighs. “Vic, it’s almost impossible to do. No matter what job you have you’re going to run into stupid people. It’s very common in retail, customer support, and professional services. It’s a little less common in clerical, artisan, and manufacturing jobs; however it’s still quite prevalent. Thankfully I can prescribe you some Clobazam to pretty much negate the effects.”
Really, a drug that can make it easier to deal with stupid people?
“Sure. Okay!” I smile.
“Great! I’ll send the prescription to your usual pharmacy.”
Fast-forward to a week later, and my mood at work has certainly improved.
“Scuse me, miss, I’m lookin’ for that pink wine,” a portly woman asks with a heavy Texas twang.
“Certainly,” I smile. “You may be looking for a White Zinfandel. It’s over here with the other white wines.”
“Naw naw, I want the PINK Ziffledale,” the woman says.
“Oh, well it’s here with the white wines.”
Normally at this point I would be struggling not to blurt out something belittling what little intelligence she has, however now with my daily dose of Clobazam I’m staying quite calm and content. Now I’m not saying that all drugs are good, however there’s no shame in needing a little help to get you through your day.
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