In the sprawling metropolis that is New York City, shopping at Duane Reade Pharmacy is about as much a part of the experience as riding the subway or witnessing public defecation. There are about a million of them in the city, many are open 24 hours, and while they may not always have the exact thing that you are looking for, they will often have something that is close enough to get you through whatever you’re going through (duct tape flip flops anyone?). But despite the bright and cheerful lighting, inside every Duane Reade is something sinister– a covert group of carefully selected individuals recruited solely based on their talent for fucking up your chi.
From the time you enter the store, these highly trained individuals spot you and track you using advanced surveillance equipment. Notice the four way split screen monitor at the entrance of the store. You may have thought this monitor existed to help prevent shoplifting, but in fact, it is a tool designed to help Duane Reade operatives identify customers and quickly develop a strategy for causing them maximum discomfort. For example: you are a man in your mid-late forties. You are no spring chicken, but you like to think that you are still clinging to the fringes of boyish sex appeal. You find that your salt and pepper hair (courtesy of Just for Men) adds both a “distinguished” and “experienced” touch to your look, and just maybe, distracts ever so slightly from your male pattern baldness. Today, you are visiting the second closest Duane Reade to your office because you need to pick up some sort of medicated powder to curb the severe jock itch that you are blaming on a pair of ill-fitting bicycle shorts, but is probably the result of an ill-advised sexcapade with the bearded Polish woman who works at your favorite Subway Sandwich shop. She gave you extra meat, so you thought it was only fair that you return the favor, and things got yeasty one night next to the bread oven. You are spotted on Duane Reade surveillance, and the control center dispatches an associate to you right away– a gorgeous petite asian woman who works in the cosmetics department. FUCK! How did they know she was just your type? Obviously she’s your type. She’s everyone’s type. She puts on a smile as sweet as pie, and says, “Hii!! Welcome to Duane Reade. Can I help you find anything?” Dammit. You can’t let this fine young thing know about your itchy ball sack. But then again, you don’t want her to leave either. So you decide to make up a half truth. You tell her that you have been playing a lot of basketball with the lawyers’ league lately (see how you simultaneously let her know that you are an attorney and an athlete? Douchebagging 101, folks. Kuddos, not your first rodeo.), and you find that you would feel more refreshed, and your nipples less chafed if you used some sort of medicated powered– perhaps the one that Shaquille O’Neal advertises on tv? Yeah, you say, I mean, if it’s good enough for Shaq *giggle*. So she leads you to the medicated powder aisle, and the powder that is good for funk prevention turns out to be different from the one for jock itch. But she’s still standing right there. And there is no way to be slick about this shit. I mean, one container says “to stay fresh and make your nipples not chafe and shit when you play basketball” and the other says “to make your dick stop itching.” But you’re running late for a meeting, and your dick is growing itchier by the second. So finally, you, and grab the powder for the jock itch. She looks at you in disgust, tells you to “be well” and walks away snickering. Under your breath, you swear you can hear her say, “to think I was considering using him as my test dummy for my Babeland class this weekend!” You buy your powder, head back to the office, and rub it on your crotch in the bathroom stall as you weep gently. You can imagine what your co-workers are thinking (the stall doors don’t reach the floor. They know it’s you.). Duane Reade could have sent over a male associate to help you. Or they could have left you alone. But instead, they chose to ruin you. Duane Reade – 1. You – 0.
Or maybe you’re a young lady. It’s that time of the month. You’ve got all the cramps plus all the red stuff. You need supplies, pronto. You go to the 24 hour Duane Reade around the corner from your apartment. It is 1am on a Tuesday, and you look like you’re on the late-night creep-creep-sneak-creep. You have on your baggiest sweatpants, a baseball cap pulled down to your eyes, and an expression on your face that says please fuck off/oh my God please nobody see me right now. But this is Duane Reade we’re talking about. You thought you were just going to be in and out? You already know they spotted you on that four way surveillance monitor. And let me tell you… They like you. And they want you. In all your sweatpanted glory. You do the squish squish walk to the tampon aisle, and bam. Jerome is there waiting. He’s sitting on a stool, “restocking.” In fact, he spends all 4 hours of his shift sitting in this same spot pretending to re-stock tampons. Why? Because without fail, people with vaginas always come to this aisle. And if there is one thing Jerome loves, it is vaginas. Even when they are covered in blood. So you see him, and you walk away as if that wasn’t the aisle you needed. You hope if you give him a minute, he’ll either finish what he’s doing, or he’ll realize it is extremely creepy for him to hang out there acting as guardian to the Tampax. But as soon as you turn to walk away, you find that another helpful Duane Reade associate has followed you there to ask you if he can help you find anything. But when he asks, he looks you in your eyes, licks his lips like LL Cool J, and bites gently on the knuckle of his index finger. You politely decline, and he says ok, but reminds you that Duane Reade offers free tampon fittings and rectal temperatures for all sexy ladies. Pass. Finally, since time is of the essence, you says fuck it, march back to the tampon aisle, and look for your brand while standing crotch to face with the stock man sitting on the stool. After you are thoroughly mortified, you head to the register, tampons in hand. Even at this late hour, the line is somehow SO long still, and only two of the ten registers have people working them. The rest of the associates seem to be conducting important business in the tampon aisle. Despite your cramps, you hang in there and patiently wait for your turn. When you finally get almost to the front of the line, one of the cashiers decides that it is time for her break, and leaves. So it takes another ten minutes for it to be your turn. When it finally is your turn, the cashier looks at you, rolls her eyes (as she has for every customer– she must have freakishly strong eye muscles to have not strained herself) and says, “Next, please step down?” You step down and put your tampons on the counter. She scans them and bags them. Then she bags them again. And again. And again and again. Five bags for your one box of tampons. She asks if you have a rewards card, and you do. You hand it to her, and she swipes it. No discounts ring up, but the cashier SWEARS that these are supposed to be on sale. So she yells across the store to the national stock boy convention in the tampon aisle. Everyone is looking at you as she says– “Jerome!! Ain’t these on sale??? The Tampax! Super Plus! I have a young lady up here and they ain’t ring up! Yeah, the one with the baseball cap– nah, her booty ain’t that big… Maybe a C cup?” So Jerome comes up front from the tampon aisle, looks you up and down, checks out your ass, and says to the cashier, “Nah. They ain’t on sale,” and walks back to his aisle. You swipe your card. Please enter your phone number. Credit or debit. Enter your pin. Would you like to donate to the food bank? Cash Back? Amount ok? You sure? Receipt emailed or printed? After 20 minutes of entering information into the pin pad, your poor fingers are raw. The cashier has the nerve to ask you to go online to complete a survey and to rate their store as a 9 out of 9 (why only 9? not 10?), and aggressively tells you to “have a blessed day.” Somehow you feel even less blessed than before. As you are leaving, you see a bunch of guys that you went to school with. One of them asks you if you sat in ketchup. You go die.
Duane Reade ruins your life again.
Image source: health.com