Raymond: [to Susanna] Are you taking any prescription medication?
Vern: He likes you, that's just his way of showing it.
Susanna: When I touched him, he pulled away.
Vern: Don't take it personal. He never touched me and I'm closer to him than anyone in the world, known him for nine years.
—Rain Man (1988)
Here’s a poorly-kept secret: older people take a lot of medication.
When my uncle died a couple of months ago, he left behind a huge amount of medication that he hadn’t even touched. My cousin came to my Mom’s house (where he was living by then) to pack up his things and discovered all this stuff, so she figured she’d do a good turn by donating it to people who couldn’t afford it. It turns out that you can’t do that sort of thing. You can’t donate prescription medications (naturally), nor can you return it for a refund. Likewise, you can’t donate syringes (he was an insulin-dependent diabetic) to charitable organizations that provide that sort of thing to people. You’re essentially stuck (heh) with this stuff. So when she ran out of time and had to return home, there was still a bunch of stuff left behind for my mother to take care of.
But, as they say, the best-planned lays oft go astray and my mother, instead of taking the time to dispose of this extra medication, decided that dying herself was the preferable option. (This is mostly speculation on my part.) This left me with the task of getting rid of his medication AND hers.
My cousin and I were both trying to be good citizens here; you’re not supposed to flush this stuff down the drain because it winds up in the water supply and next thing you know, my brother is growing a vagina or something (not me; I drink the Baltimore water, which has lead in it instead of drugs). So…where to start? I decided to ask the hospital where my mother died.
I called the hospital switchboard and the operator had a ready answer for me: “Oh, you bring it to the Sheriff’s Department. They take discarded medications. I have the number right here—in fact, I can probably transfer you.” Really? Cool. A few seconds later I’m talking to a representative from the Sheriff’s Department. He tells me that yes, indeed, they do collect drugs. There’s a dropbox in the lobby of the office; you just come in and drop everything off. He then gives me directions to the building, and I’m off. The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office (the local one, anyway) is on Little Road in New Port Richey. It’s part of a larger complex of government buildings. I turn into the complex and follow the signs to the office, park the car and tote an overfilled shopping bag of stuff into the building.
Once I’m inside, there’s a small lobby area which is staffed by two people who are safely ensconced behind thick plate glass. You communicate with them through an intercom system. There was a guy ahead of me who was having trouble with the intercom, though. He’s standing there hollering “Can you hear me now? How about NOW? I can’t hear you! Can you hear me?” The officer pushes a button on his side and finally says, “Can you hear this?”
“Yes,” the guy says. “Now I hear you.” The officer then explains for what must have been the twelfth time that the guy needs to push a button on the intercom box in order to talk to them. The button in question is about the size of a dime and has TALK printed on it. So he finally gets though to them that he’s there to repair the copier. The officer tells him to have a seat and he’ll call someone out. Instead of having a seat, he takes exactly one step to his right.
Now it’s my turn. I step to the window and, having both A) seen what just transpired and B) a couple of brain cells to rub together, I lift my free hand to push the TALK button. The copier repairman helpfully puts his hand BETWEEN MY HAND AND THE BUTTON and tells me that “you have to push this button to talk to them.”
“Oh,” I say. “You mean the button I was about to push until you got in the way? This one, that has TALK printed on it in big letters?” Copier guy mutters something about just wanting to help and slinks away, suddenly remembering a copier part he has to retrieve from his truck.
When I finally speak to the police, it turns out that I’m in the wrong building. I need the other Sheriff’s Office building. What’s more, it’s not in the complex proper; I have to leave the complex, go down Little Road a hundred yards and turn back in to get to the right building. I drift around until I find what looks like the public entrance and make my way inside. Sure enough, the drop box is right there (that’s the actual box in the pic to the left). The bad news is, there are rules printed on the box, and there’s a cop standing right there to make sure I stick to them. So, no sharps, no liquids, no hydrogen peroxide (I didn’t have any but I found that amusing enough that I remembered it), no aerosols. Ultimately, all I could get rid of were the pills and some powder inhalants (which he hemmed and hawed about before finally saying, “Yeah, throw it in.”). From a taking-up-space standpoint, this didn’t do me a ton of good. So I asked the cop standing there where I could go with the needles and inhalers. He told me to go to an Emergency Room; they should have the means to dispose of it. Really? Back to the hospital? Okay.
I drove to Bayonet Point Hospital and went straight to the Emergency Room. The last time I saw an ER that quiet was when Wee One had her appendix out; it was the night of the Ravens vs. Denver Broncos playoff game. You have to go through a security guard there, so I explained what I needed, and he took me to the Triage Nurse, so I could explain it a second time. The Triage Nurse wasn’t sure, so he went deep inside to ask around. A minute later he came back and said that they could take the sharps but not the other stuff. “Look, I’m trying to be a good citizen here,” I said. “This is literally my third stop. If I have to jump through many more hoops, I’m just going to take this stuff and cater a party somewhere.” The triage nurse told me that any pharmacy would take it. Swell.
Let me offer up a little geography here: my mother lived almost exactly midway between the hospital and the Sheriff. So I went about three miles south to the Sheriff, then seven miles north to the hospital, only to be told that I had to go four miles south again to the Walgreens, which is quite close to her house. Walgreens took the remaining stuff without a hassle, although they did ask to be given a heads-up about what had sharps in it and what didn’t. That’s a fair request, I think. So ultimately, I could have gone a couple of hundred yards (as the crow flies) to dispose of ALL the drugs, instead of going on the wild-goose chase I went through.
This is why Florida usually bubbles to the top of so many “Weird News” stories, I think.