About a month ago, I observed something odd while waiting in line at the pharmacy. The gentlemen standing at the counter, who looked worse for wear, had come to pick up a prescription. But he met an obstacle. The druggist asked for identification, which the customer didn’t have and he was confused why any would be needed. “It’s a controlled substance”, the pharmacist explained. But in a sad and naively poignant regard, the gent didn’t understand. The medicine had been prescribed for him, but he didn’t possess any kind of identity card. Please, could he have his medicine?
Unkempt, and likely a recovering addict who belonged to San Diego’s ever-growing homeless population, the guy was plaintive rather than abusive—as someone else might have been. “Come back when you have ID”, the druggist informed. The fellow stepped back from the window and approached me, waiting next in line: “Do you have ID I can borrow?”
I smiled, and held back a chuckle at the request’s absurdity but also its innocence and desperation. The pharmacist called out from behind the counter, explaining that the gent would need his own photo identification. I wondered how removed could he be from society that something so common knowledge would be unknown to him.
His dilemma gnaws me any time I pass by the CVS in Hillcrest. Did he get his controlled substance? Did he perhaps end up using street drugs instead—or end up in even dire straights? In this age of super-surveillance, surely some alternative means of verifying identity should be possible, particularly for those people with little or no means—and living on the streets, as this gent’s dirty, dingy clothing suggested.