Lead Ins

04/02/2013 11:40 am ET | Updated May 20, 2013

"Want a light?" used to be the start up line with a stranger who had a look you liked. In a waiting room; in the seat next to you somewhere. Or standing in a line.
Lines are longer now.

"Can you believe it took 45 minutes to get here, I mean, like really!" has been a sure L.A. lead in for the past couple of years, but right up there with the 405, in a dead heat with the NRA, for worst in the world, is CVS.

"Like, they called with the 'your prescription is ready' tape at eight last night. I've been here in line a half hour, and they got no record of the call!"

I'm at the CVS in Westwood; on Wellworth. I want the CVS CEO's to know how this is: standing in the line, waiting for prescriptions to be filled.

"I mean the taped calls are a pain," this gaunt guy with a ponytail and 'Don't Call' t-shirt ignites the talk. "Yeah," he goes, "I figure the agent likes the script - I'm sure it's that call."

"Exactly," I say, "Last night I tipped over my Diet Coke trying to find the phone. Missed the big "Law and Order" moment, and, it was the CVS Rick Perry voice tape: "your prescription is ready to be picked up.'"

I'd been really proud of myself this morning. Got up, did Yoga stretches. Saw I had only one "Save your Heart" pill left. So I followed the CVS' drill on the bottle. I called the number of the recording listed here. Paid attention to directions. Tapped in script number. Entered the time I wanted to pick it up. Done.

Not driving this week, so fave writer George picks me up. We go to CVS, just miss smashing into a two Camry collision. They were racing a biker through a red light.

Arrive at CVS.

"Not ready," Elise shakes her head. Gives me the 'what can I do' look.

"But the CVS call said it would be by 9:30 a.m.," I am just warming up. Take deep breath.

"That was then," Elise holds her hands up. George gets us each a Diet Coke to pass the time.

"I don't mind having a heart attack," I tell Elise. "But my writers might miss the chicken soup."

"How much do you have to write to come for the soup?" Elise asks. It is clear she is no more devoted to CVS than I am.

"Three pages. How long do I have to wait?"

She checks with pharmacist. "Twenty minutes."

"Never mind," I say. We leave. Return in 20 minutes.

"It's not going to be filled." Elise shrugs.


"You must ask the pharmacist."

"Good luck," says a newcomer in line. who is sitting on the floor, leaning against the cold pill counter reading Trader Joe's paper. Has on 'Whiskey A Go-Go' t-shirt. "Vintage," I nod at the shirt, "Cool."

"Not really," he says. His kid returns with a chocolate bar he's picked out. Sits on the floor next to his dad who opens the bar. They sit there. Chewing.

CVS pharmacists failed try-outs for "Girls." Express exact same interest and awareness of ancient pharmaceutical practices.

"Yeah, I can't believe it," I growl at Elise.

"Great way to get it all out," says woman with copper locks and 'Actor's Gang' t-shirt. "I've been here twice and they can't find my script."

I think we would dine out on this. I like her. "You're funny," I say.

"Haven't felt funny in years," she says, "Too many scripts, but thanks, anyway."

"I remember when scripts meant something you hoped to finish writing so you could pay your rent," says a man in a "Suits" shirt with collar, roll up sleeves and pen in his hand, making notes on a small pad. George gives me the bossy look that means do not ask if he's a writer.

"Yeah," the ponytail guy says, "and I remember when script meant the scrawled on piece of paper you'd slip to someone for the stuff you needed so you could write your dynamite novel very real fast."

"Ah yes," another woman in a Lakers sweatshirt says, "I could get a week's speed faster and cheaper than a real doctor refill here." This, I dimly remember, is true.

"And they knew what you wanted and why," says Ponytail/Don't Call guy.
Elise reports, "you cannot get prescription filled because Insurance will not pay until 5 days from now."

I ask one of the pharmacists why the tape voice said it would be ready to pick up this morning, Pharmacist gives me blank glance, returns to texting.

"Don't bother," says Lakers shirt.

"You could buy five with cash." Another pharmacist suggests. She's adjusting her eye makeup in a security mirror.

"And how much would that be?" I check out the cash in my pocket.

"Five pills, Jerry what would that be?" Silence. Long period of computer research; Pharmacists working on calculators. But it's hard, when you're a kid pharmacist. I mean, like subtract the what, and carry - where? The boy one shifted his gum from left jaw to right.

The kid and his dad have finished the chocolate bar. Kid has done several cute laps through incontinence aisles, punching at the packaged tummies. Has a toy in hand. Dad shakes his head. "Hey, I said, 'no toys today.' I have to get mom's pills. Chill."

"One?" Kid lifts forefinger.

"No, get a comic. I'll read it to you. We'll be here like, forever."

"Jill," Elise calls out to me, smiles. This says something big about you when they know your name at CVS. (Or something about frequent attendance.) "You go on," whispers the 'Actor's Gang' person, "I've got my eyes on Mr. Ponytail; we met cute; in line at CVS. Musical, don't you think?"

"Call it 'Drugstore,'" I say.

"I can dance," says the 'Lakers' person, doing a tap and turn.

"Let's go for it," says Ponytail. George glares at me from the counter.

"This will be eight dollars," says Elise. She shrugs again, hands me bottle with five very small pills. I'm going to look up what the generic price of this quintet of triangles really is. When the Congress is whining over what the President is trying to do, such as keep Medicare, let alone Obamacare, I wonder why the pharmacy cartels are allowed to rape the government programs with these scorching prices. I think of how America was invented to free people from countries controlled by landowning aristocracies. Now in this particular sense, they own our bodies, our lives, profiting on what is no longer innocence, but a certain, what, hopelessness, I mean what can we do?

I'd get involved, but I got this show to do. This musical. Lots of chorus lines. Lines. Yes. Interesting: on line.

Rachel Maddow had a tough talk last night; about the way the NRA fronts the gun manufacturers, (who make our outrage against weapons seem a "Prohibition" move against patriots just wanting to put fresh deer on their kids' plates.) She compared this to the same "The New Prohibition" uproar set up by tobacco companies when it came clear cigarettes were killing us. In both cases, guns and tobacco, the companies hid their profit issues deftly behind their concern for our "rights" very like, as we're just beginning to learn, the pharmaceutical cartels are sabotaging medical plans with outrageous price hikes even on generic drugs.

New reports show that even CVS and other pharmacies basically charge what they choose for generic meds. Maybe it can be seen as a new social consciousness move. After all, the aging population is hanging around in old t-shirts, crowding aisles, draining our economy (e.g. their profits.)

"Maybe we're being mean," says 'Actor's Gang' person, "CVS is giving us a place to hang out, talk about the stuff we're using, slug some Diet Coke. Just like Sit-Ins."

"What's a Sit-In?" A young girl on crutches joins us. Ponytail brings her a folding chair from the flu shot line.

"Kind of like 'Occupy,'" Actors' Gang offers her some chips from a bag she's passing around.

"But then CVS provides us with the place where we can gather, grumble. And oh, yes, buy stuff we don't need; while we wait for the stuff we do need."

New Lead-In, "What's got you riled up right now?"