“Can I Eat Now? I’m starving” said the panicked voice on the other end of the phone. “I haven’t eaten in four days!”


Even as a sociologist, I sometimes allow myself to become complacent and settle into a routine. Life on autopilot is often boring until some incident or event jars me out of my autopilot fog. You know how sometimes when you’re driving and you suddenly realize that you driven a number of blocks but somehow you aren’t able to remember actually driving during that time-frame? This is how social life is often experienced; routine, routine, mostly on autopilot. So when it’s a third-party incident like the one discussed below, it’s then that you realize how people attempt to make sense of their social world.

One of my best friends from Arizona State University (Craig Stritar) is now a pharmacy manager. He recently called me to tell me a funny story I’m about to share with you. My friend said that a normal day in the life of the pharmacy is fairly routine; bordering on dull quite honestly. So the day one of his customers called the emergency helpline with the question he never encountered before, the drudgery was about to evaporate and an unusual incident would have the entire staff rolling on the ground laughing. And as my friend added to the conversation, laughing and fun aren’t exactly daily staples in the pharmacy world.

As the staff prepared to open the pharmacy, they probably didn’t give much thought to the days events, because more than likely they’d resemble any other routine day work. But as soon as the clock hit the opening our, the phone rang. One of the clerks answered it and the person on the other hand came on in a panicked voice that seemed to have a twinge of immediacy about it.

“Hello, this is ****, how may I help you?”

“Can I now?” the voice on the other end immediately inquired.

“Excuse me ma’am?”

“Can I eat now? I haven’t eaten in four days and I’m starving.” said the voice on the other end in a very concerned manner.

The clerk asked for the patient’s information. Then he scanned their chart for any medications that would restrict food intake.  He replied to the panicked customer on the other end of the line, “Ma’am, I don’t see anything in your chart the places you on any eating or food restrictions.”

“The instructions in the bottle said DO NOT EAT.”

The clerk had never heard about any medication instructions be imposed on the inside of a bill bottle.

“Excuse me ma’am, but what instructions are you referring to?”

I’m talking about the small packet that says clearly, DO NOT EAT.”


The customer had seen the moisture absorbing silica packet which had a warning label printed on it that said DO NOT EAT. So that customer mistook the silica pack for medical instructions. The customer had mistaken the warning as instructions and thought she needed to fast.

The clerk immediately put the customer on hold, and couldn’t control his amusement and busted out laughing. Once he regained his composure, he did everything in his power to politely explain what was going on. I suppose this is similar to computer help lines that have customers asking, “Which is the any key?”





real world sociology pete padilla 



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