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I had really bad timing yesterday when I went to the pharmacy at Fort Belvoir and ended up spending about an hour and a half waiting around for my prescription.

To make matters worse, I had forgotten to bring along a book, which left me with little else to do but look around at everyone else.

Being the good reporter that I am, I decided to take notes in an effort to amuse myself.

In every waiting room, there is at least one woman talking loudly on her cell phone, sharing her end of the conversation with the rest of us. That’s the first person I noticed, and she was, of course, sitting in the middle of the room.

The gabber happened to be accompanied by her teenage daughter. Like every teenager I have ever met, the girl looked bored, embarrassed and angry all at the same time.

While there are usually only one or two adolescents who have been dragged along to the pharmacy, you can count on being surrounded by all sorts of little kids.

You may see kids wandering around the waiting room, trying to see how far their mom will let them go before she calls out for them to come back.

There will be at least one crying baby who everyone tries to pretend isn’t there. Since no one can do anything to help, it’s easier to look the other way and say a little prayer of thanks that it isn’t your own child who is so upset.

Unfortunately, I happened to find myself in the midst of smelly kids yesterday. One of the cute toddlers in the seats across from me definitely needed a diaper change.

I decided to grin and bear it while my own mind took a little trip down memory lane to the many years I spent surrounded by my own little stinkers.

There are at least two types of fakers in the pharmacy waiting area, and both just want to be left alone. It isn’t their fault, after all, that in order to get medication we all must squeeze into a crowded waiting room.

The first group of actors includes internationals who pretend they can’t speak English when they really just aren’t in the mood to chat with strangers.

I don’t blame them for the charade. If I could get away with it sometimes, I would surely do the same thing.

The other actors close their eyes the minute they sit down and pretend to be asleep until their number is called. It’s easy to tell they’re awake because they don’t nod their heads or drool like the people who really are asleep.

Most guilty of actually falling asleep are the active duty military. When the pharmacy is super-crowded and these people have to sit down and wait for a while, their bodies can’t seem to adjust to the unscheduled break in routine.

Retired folks bring along reading material because, like me, they’ve logged in plenty of hours at pharmacies over the years. Every once in a while, I’m witness to a reunion between two veterans and enjoy listening to the stories they share.

The one think we all have in coming, besides a military ID card, is the desire to get out of there as quickly as possible.

Only once have I ever seen someone sneak into the waiting area and do his best to stay there.

Last fall, a little wiener-dog ran through the automatic doors and headed for a spot beneath the crowded chairs. Two minutes later, an elderly lady showed up to catch him.

It didn’t take long for me to realize she just wasn’t fast enough to grab him. While everyone else watched the action, I ended up on my knees, reaching beneath the chairs to apprehend the runaway.

He knew he had met his match and allowed me to carry him back outside. The woman was very grateful, the other people at the pharmacy were entertained and I went home that night with a story to tell.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has been married to a Marine for 18 years and currently lives in Springfield, Va. You may e-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or visit her Web site at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.

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