GREAT BARRINGTON -- My pharmacist, Marion Ceanga, is moving from her job at the CVS in Great Barrington to the Lenox store. Born and raised in Ireland, she holds an MBA as well as a degree from the Albany College of Pharmacy and some other degrees like an associates degree in engineering. She is very bright.
Beyond that, she knows many of our most intimate secrets. She knows all about our statins, our diseases, and our operations. When someone has lost a mate and can't sleep at night, she has gently dispensed the greatest drug of all, empathy.
She has always been there for the Chartocks, from the time she worked for Great Barrington's Steve Bannon at Bill's Pharmacy. She knows which drugs should not be taken with other drugs. She has always been willing to come out from behind her Wizard-of-Oz-like perch, overlooking her store to talk to a customer. She is a serious woman but always has a dimpled smile for her customers. As the word has leaked out that she is leaving, some customers, especially the older ones who have come to depend on her, are bereft. We don't always realize how close we get to people whose jobs have so much impact on us.
One of the reasons why people are living longer is that scientists have developed drugs that will keep us alive. Oh, there are many, many things that I don't like about the pharmaceutical industry where profit -- sometimes obscene profit -- is the bottom line. But our Marion has always been able to tell us about the generics and explain the research that we read about every day.
It's a job, of course, but in Marion's case, it is so much more. Not that long ago, I had back surgery and my doctor prescribed two different medications. Now, I don't like to take medicine. I'd rather live with a little pain.
In any event, one of the meds was something new and Marion didn't have it. She called all the other pharmacies in town and eventually found it in Hudson, N.Y. I didn't go, but I won't forget the effort she put into looking for it.
Recognizing her way with people and her incredible commitment, Marion's bosses are sending her to a spanking new store in Lenox. The people there will be rewarded and even sanctified by her presence. Lenox has been sending some wonderful gifts to Great Barrington, what with the new Haven restaurant which is every bit as good as the original and the Lenox Patisserie with its sinful treats. Now we are returning the favor.
When we moved to Great Barrington in 1971, there was Bill's Pharmacy in addition to two others. These were independent institutions presided over by people with names like Mel and Bernie and Bill. Then came the big companies like CVS, which bought Bill's. Despite the corporatism that now rules and all the buy-outs, many people stayed with little Bill's, now CVS. Hey, you don't change wives once you have a good one and the same goes for your drug store.
New York City has now become wall-to-wall pharmacies and banks. These are huge and often impersonal institutions. Lots of our supermarkets now have their own pharmacies so that there are many choices. Some of these places offer price breaks, but in the end it comes down to a matter of trust. When I go into our CVS and Marion isn't there, my heart sinks a bit. Now the lady with the dimples is off to another place and those of us in Great Barrington who have come to trust and even love her have suffered a major loss. Funny how that happens. Like I said, until you lose something you really don't know how much it means to you.
Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.