Earlier this month, I wrote about the importance of supporting local businesses in an effort to preserve the diversity of our marketplace and the character of our neighborhoods. I have since put my money where my mouth is.
In exploring my neighborhood, I uncovered soft, locally milled flours at the independent health food store. I began buying my other bulk items from the grocery store owned by a local family. I scoured the downtown antique store for glass refrigerator jars and a clothespin bag. I walked to my locally owned pharmacy to turn in a prescription - and found it closed down.
The mom and pop businesses that our parents frequented are endangered species. This is an age of mass extinctions for them as well as our plant and animal species. What, we cry, can we do to save this species - the local business? Shop there. Tell your friends and family to shop there. I alone cannot save the local business. I need to convince you to help me.
It's not as simple as it sounds, though. Going local can be beautiful, unusual, sumptuous and sometimes very inconvenient.
When my downtown pharmacy went belly up, I debated going back to Walgreens with their drive through window, open 24 hours a day, and our records on file. Instead, I opened the phone book. There are not many other independent pharmacies left. I choose the closest one which is en route to a close friend's house and swim lessons and called to confirm that they would accept our insurance. They do. Then I had my doctor's office call in the prescription. The nurse called me back and warned me that "if there is any problem getting the prescription filled, call me back." Hmm, she's never done that with Walgreens. In fact, my doctor's office is electronically connected with Walgreens and all the other big box pharmacies.
In any event, we were in the area on Sunday and stopped in to get the prescription. No can do! The pharmacy is closed on Sunday. On the way to Monday swim lessons, we swung by the pharmacy again. They were open! Upon hearing my son's name, the pharmacist knew immediately who we were and what medicine needed. Unlike the dozen clerks at Walgreens, he had no need to consult a hugely alphabetized system of plastic bins to find us. He did, however, advise me to call a day before needing a refill of my son's asthma medication. They need an extra day to get it in stock. No problem. I've never had to do that at Walgreens but, because it is a regular medication, I think I can be organized enough to call the day before.
Fast forward a few days and my oldest is diagnosed with strep throat. Once again, I refer my doctor to our newly discovered pharmacy and go in that afternoon to pick up the medication. The pharmacist recognizes me off the bat and brings out my son's medication. Unfortunately, though, does not have the full 10 day treatment on hand. He has 5 days worth. I'll have to come back tomorrow afternoon or the next day to get the remainder. Now that is inconvenient. Not undoable. But damned inconvenient
Convenience isn't everything. It is, however, what has gotten us to this point we're at. Climate change, depletion, mass extinctions, pollution, toxic body burdens - all these things owe their origin to our insatiable demand for convenience. We want to travel more places and to do it faster. We want to avoid the inconvenience of seasons and ship our produce around the planet or keep the temperatures of our homes and offices carefully controlled. We demand an easier dinner, a quicker way to wash our clothes, to mow our lawn, to clean our homes.
Convenience isn't everything. I line dry my clothes but if I put them in the dryer, I wouldn't hear the birds gossip in the trees or see the squirrel hang upside down to raid the bird feeder. I cook from scratch but if we ate take out, I wouldn't have a house that smelled of caramelized onion and winter squash tart. I wouldn't have kids who called out in excitement upon discovering a new vegetable at the farmers' market, who gleefully eat snap peas off the vine, who beg for homemade bread when we run out. No. Convenience isn't much at all.
I can call my local pharmacy a day ahead for asthma medication. I can go back for the second half of antibiotics. I can plan ahead and, in case of an emergency, fall back on Walgreens. Getting my prescriptions filled at my local pharmacy won't save the world. But it is a start.