ONE DAY IN THE SMALL Kanab, Utah hospital, I encountered the legendary faceless bureaucrat. I was reclining comfortably in a hospital bed, getting IVs to overcome persistent dehydration caused by my chronic renal issues, when a nurse entered. She had noticed earlier in the day that I had brought my prescribed meds in with me and had mentioned it to the hospital pharmacist. He had sent her to my room with a mission.
“Our pharmacist wants me to get your pills so that he can see them.”
“Why is that?”
“He wants to make sure that we don’t give you the wrong thing.”
“That’s not a problem. I don’t need you to give me anything. I have what I need.”
“Well, I need to take them down to him.”
“Tell him to come get them himself. Tell him that he’s not going to get them though.”
I knew damned well why he wanted to confiscate my meds. Instead of letting me take my own pills, which cost a small fraction of a dollar apiece, he wanted to provide them himself and charge me ten bucks each. That was the hospital rule, the normal practice, the procedure they obliged their patients to accept.
For a bureaucrat, procedure is all and the purpose of the procedure, its original raison d’être, has long since faded into the obscure and simple recesses of his pea brain. In short, it no longer matters. This small town pharmacist was an amateur bureaucrat striving to be a professional.
Frank Lloyd Wright once said of bureaucrats that “they are like custard pies; you can’t nail them to the wall.” I was eventually discharged without the pharmacist ever showing his face in my room.
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