Ours was a pharmacy lifted high above the basement setting the majority of them were delegated to. We were on the ninth floor with the most wonderful view Charleston had to offer. Out beyond that bank of windows were the rivers Ashley and, around the corner in the second series of windows, Cooper which Charlestonians jokingly referred to as a coming together to form the Atlantic Ocean.
This scenery, so far above the street below, provided us with a peaceful refuge in times of the high stress of pharmacy in the hospital setting.
The nely hired pharmacist sat next to a window typing the information required on a batch of labels to be stuck on the IV bottles that were to be prepared. Twenty Intravenous fluids were lined up under a hood with a sterile field for mixing. The labels were prepared by typing on an old electric IBM. Each bottle required two labels, one for the bottle and one for the paper workd accompanying the bottle.
As he typed away one of our pharamcists walked by, then stopped to watch. He stood there while the new pharacist finished the last of the forty labels and pulled them from the machine.
"Finished," he said. "It takes a long time to type that many labels, doesn't it?"
"Sure does," said the observer. "Can I see them?"
"Sure." The typer handed them to him. Each label was neat and orderly with all the appropriate information including a number, depicting the bottle sequence for each day, hand written in green magic marker. It was the first time he had been given this particular job since he was newly hired and had just come off training.
"It's my first time doing these. I hope I did everything alright."
"It's a beautiful job. You got all the information in the right place. Your number sequence is right. Yup, a beautiful job."
The newby was beaming.
His face changed immediately. "Except? What do you mean? You just said they were pretty much perfect."
The observer looked at him a sadness in his eyes.
"Yeah, they are but you're going to have to do them over."
"What? You can't mean that! It took me almost two hours to finish those up. I'll be way behind if I have to type them over."
"I'm sorry," said the observer. "You used the wrong color magic marker."
"What? What do you mean, the wrong color?"
"Well here at St Francis we only have two offically sanctioned colors in the procedures book. They are blue and red. You've used green. These labels cannot be used with green. You can go look it up. I guess no one told you about that. Tell me who showed you how to do this. I'm going to have to have a talk with them. They should have been better at their job because now you'r going to have to redo all these labels which means you'll probably have to stay late today in order to finish these and get them to the floor.'
The newby was blustering his objections. Behind the shelves the pharmacists and technicians within earshot were snickering.
"Well, I can't. I need to start mixing those fluids. They're due soon. Can't I just use thse labels this once? It can't hurt."
"I'm sorry. The boss is a stickler for everything being absolutely perfect."
"Surely she'd make an exception? Just this once?"
"No, I don't think so. You'd better get started if they are due soon."
The laughter behind the shelves was coming loud and clear now.
"Well, I'm not doing it. I'm using those labels." He was adamant.
"It's up to you. I wouldn't want to be in your shoes if the boss finds out, though. But if that's what you want, go ahead."
He got up snatching the labels out of the observer's hands. Hesitating he looked at the labels, then at the shaking head of the observer. He started toward the IV room, stopped. "Are you sure?" he asked.
The observer nodded. "Oh, I'm sure. I got my butt raked over the coals for doing something similar when I first came here."
The newby looked at him. Resignation sank in and he sat in front of the typewriter. Sliding the new labels into the roller he looked up, "I'm going to go ask her. I think she might let it go this time."
"It's your funeral," said the observer.
The newby leaned back in his chair. The inner conflict held him motionless. A minute of thought was punctuated by his rising and taking the forty labels in hand. He looked down the long hallway toward the boss' office. His face set hard to enter the lion's den he began walking slowly toward the office, labels trailing behind. He was stopped in his tracks as the entire pharmacy exploded into laughter.
Two pharmacists were doubled over. Techs were knee slapping and guffawing. The observer, twinkle in his eye, grinned at the newby.
"What's going on?" asked the newby.
"It's a joke," said the observer, chuckling. "There is no regulation color. I was just kidding. Those labels are fine. Go ahead and finish your work. I was just having a little fun."
The newby stared. He didn't understand the joke. He was still wanting to discuss it with the boss who was coming out of her office. We could tell she was wondering what the commotion was all about.
Smiling she asked, "What's happening?"
The newby spoke up before anyone else. "I used an unofficial color magic marker numbering the labels I typed up for the IV's. See." He held them up to her. She took them.
"I'm not sure I understand," she said.
"It's my fault," said the observer. "I told him that green was not a color approved by the hospital."
"What are you talking about? We don't have specific colors for magic markers." She was looking at the observer. Then it dawned. Understanding finally arrived. She eyed him with a modicum of disapproval.
"This is fine. You can use these labels," she said handing them to the newby. "YOU!" she said to the observer. "In my office."
laughter regaled the observer as he shrugged and followed the boss into her office.
The newby, his action vindicated, marched into the IV room ignoring the laughter all around him.