Last Day of Uni

Uni mates. 10$ steak and chips. Extra mushroom sauce. A middy of Bulmer’s cider. Sunset outside the bar.

Life is pretty good when you’re at steak night.


You’ve got nothing on Maggie Fitzgerald.

I have one week of uni left. It’s surreal to visualise life without lectures, tutes or assignments. Since I found a place for my internship next year, there is a bit of security. But this doesn’t mean the rest of uni will be easy.

I had a debate assignment on Friday.

Tutorial #1: 13 days before debate

I know from the start I want Gmail Girl on my team. She’s smart. We’ve already had a whole semester of practicals and tutes together, so I know we get on pretty well. Gmail Girl turns and asks Hotmail Hellion if she wants to be in our group. I presume she based her invitation on previous interaction. We are the affirmative, so that is some consolation given our strong opposition. Our opposition is made up of the very people I wanted to avoid as competition. But they have already formed a group. We spend that first tute brainstorming points.

Tutorial #2/Out-of-Class-Meeting #1: 3 days before debate

Hotmail Hellion misses both the tutorial and meeting. Only the day after does she tell us – she’d been rostered on to work. Fine.

I organise the argument into 3 perspectives and suggest an overarching position. We put Hotmail Hellion as the third speaker, so all she’d have to do is summarise the arguments and rebut some points.

Out-of-Class Meeting #2: 1 day before debate

We meet up to look over speech points and make sure we have a unified argument. I read Hotmail Hellion’s points. She has new information. She’s not supposed to introduce new material as third speaker. It’s not strong. I cut two out of four paragraphs with Hotmail Hellion’s consent, after pointing out what was wrong with them. After an hour, she has to leave to go to work. Ok.

Gmail Girl and I cut our documents down. I reduce mine from 3 pages to 1 page. I summarise Gmail Girl’s argument and put it with my excess points; I have effectively written the speech for Hotmail Hellion. I add on three rhetorical questions, the perfect sucker-punch. Gmail Girl agrees, it’s the verbal equivalent of flipping our opponents the finger. It’s good.

I leave with optimism, and Gmail Girl promising to text Hotmail Hellion a reminder to dress nice.

Day of the Debate: Morning Before the Event

We agreed to arrive at 7:45am to practice. Gmail Girl is too nervous. That’s alright. I lean over to Hotmail Hellion. She says she couldn’t open the email I sent her. I have my Macbook with the speech document on it. (My handwriting turns into a scrawl under pressure.) She skims over it and says that a lot of what she has already covers it. I emphasise the strong ending that both Gmail Girl and I have agreed on. She nods. She isn’t writing any of it down.

I then notice she’s in casual wear. I made the offhanded comment, “That’s a colour you don’t see on sneakers every day.” She enthuses, “Oh! Yeah, I have another pair in orange.”

I no longer harbour any hope of winning.

Day of the Debate: The Main Event

Million Dollar Baby

Image via Wikipedia

Gmail Girl gets through most of her points, smoothly cuts out some material, summarises and links to my speech within time.

Negative Speaker 1 is… how shall I put this nicely, aggressive in her arguments. I type out, “See what I mean?” Gmail Girl nods with wide eyes and leans away from the podium. I can see the front row audience edging away from it as well.

I speak next. I’m nervous but manage to rebut the opposition, and finish my own points.

I can’t remember what Negative Speaker 2 says.

Hotmail Hellion steps up to the podium. She waffles on about her points, barely references my points in her summary… Whatever. What I’m looking for more importantly, does she give the old 1-2-1-2 I wrote for her? No, debate Million Dollar Baby she is not. I’m furious.

But not as furious as with the third speaker of the opposing team. Since when did anyone consider weight loss and smoking cessation to be disease states? And since the marking unit coordinator hadn’t specified against it, she couldn’t forbid his use of a poster. You muppet, no one uses props in a debate. That’s the whole point.

Day of the Debate: Break

We don’t speak to our opponents. They don’t speak to us. It’s a bit juvenile, really.

I say hello to the other marker, my tutor from last semester. She says my team was one of the strongest. She is surprised Hotmail Hellion had done as well as she did. She thinks I should have spoken last.

Her words breach the dam. I tell her all of it – how none if it went according to plan and all of it hit the fan. HONESTLY. What, do you need me to hold your hand? No? Then what is the problem?

The tutor says I’ll know better for next time. Then pauses, and says with a wry smile, “Well… there isn’t going to be a next time.”

Several other people come up to me and say that they were impressed with how calm I was after the negative first speaker. I guess I hid my nervousness well enough. That soothed some nerves.

Anyway. It’s done. It was 15%.

I still can’t imagine being done uni.

Expected and Unexpected Expectations

Some days, it’s a crappy day where the customers want what they want now.

Sometimes, you’re blind-sided by the nana who totters up to you. You think she’s sweet and docile, but then shows her true colours when she throws her asthma inhaler on the counter and demands, “Get me that one.”

Other times, you can spot the offender from the moment she marches up to your counter, looks at your name badge and disparagingly says,

“Oh. You’re a trainee pharmacist. I want to speak to the pharmacist.”

He’s busy, so she ignores you with folded arms. Her cousin knows exactly what she has, and knows exactly what she needs. It’s some sort of Inner Health Plus antibiotic detox. The probiotic? “No, it’s to detox.”

She can wait.

One of the girls figures out that her cousin did mean the probiotic. I explain the difference between regular and dairy-free capsules.

“Oh, I’m not sure which one to pick. My cousin will know. I’ll come back tomorrow.”

I give a 30-second slow-motion replay to the manager in the back room. Not 5 seconds after I step out, she’s back. She can’t wait. She’ll take the dairy-free like I suggested. Yes I’m sure it’s one capsules a day with food. At least she said thank you.

Anyway. That’s ok. I’ve come to expect it. It’s not why I gave my notice. That was because my internship roster would leave me double booked.


No, I know where I stand with some personality types. I learned to become more skeptical of the methadone and suboxone patients. Both drugs act as replacement therapy for drug addicts. My first experience with them was on my placement this past August and September.

Before rotation, it was obvious. “Be cautious with a drug addict.” But I wasn’t prepared for how nice they could be. They seemed normal. They didn’t all smell as bad as one patient whose stench rivaled dog vomit. (I’ll save that for my another post. The dog vomit, not the patient.) Some of them were lovely. I remarked on what a nice surprise it was, and my supervisor immediately returned, “No, you have to be careful. Especially with boundaries.”

This became clear when patients asked for more take-away doses than prescribed. Some got a bit uptight and angry, but backed right off when I asked if they’d like me to check with the pharmacist. No drug diversion for you! (There’s quite the market for selling suboxone doses.)


Ivan Pohitonov. The Gardener (1900)

Image via Wikipedia

Now, John Smith was one of the more interesting characters. He came every day for his dose. He racked up a large debt of unpaid government-subsidised doses since July and a whole whack of other prescription medications. He always had a story for why he couldn’t pay that day.

One day, close to the end of my placement, I asked if he’d heard about the new sublingual suboxone films. I listed some of the advantages, like improved taste (and didn’t mention others, like how hard it is to divert). He said, “Nah mate, I gotta get into the doc. I’ll get him to write a script then. I got skin cancer on the back of my hand. The doc needs to cut it out.”

I’d never seen skin cancer before, so I asked to have a look. He assured me that he’d had it several times before on his other hand, forearms, neck and cheeks. I asked if he’d used sunblock.

John protested, “Ah mate, when I started landscaping, there was no sunblock in those days.” I glanced down the photocopy of his driver’s license. He started working 20 years ago. Sunblock was definitely around then.

Well, what about starting to use some now? He waved me off. “She’ll be right, mate.”

Oh dear.