Jacksonville, Fla. — Sue Salsbury arrived at her appointment with Dr. Strum, a medical doctor who specializes in pain.
The receptionist, Brooke Richards, processed Salsbury’s cash payment and said, “Bathroom’s still not working so don’t even ask. There’s a Bojangles around the corner if you need to go.”
Salsbury settled into the adjacent room for the typical two-hour wait. She tried not to touch anything — not only because it was dirty, but because there were signs everywhere saying, “Do not touch anything.”
Scanning the room, Salsbury noticed a new interior design choice: a reptile tank. With this addition, Salsbury could no longer deny the similarities between her licensed pain professional and her unlicensed drug dealer. They both shared with her their latest conspiracy theory manifesto, focused little on her health and likely would provide services in exchange for a blowie.
After the extensive wait, Dr. Strum called Salsbury back and began with his standard intake procedure. “Have you seen ‘The Golden Girls’? Not the surface-level story lines, but I mean really watched the show.” Salsbury started to reply, “Well, I —” but Dr. Strum spoke over her to share his latest insights.
Salsbury understood that drug dealers were far from perfect, but compared to Dr. Strum, they were more customer-focused with extended hours, better music and sample products. They also didn’t lie that their bathroom was broken for years, and even if it was broken, they’d let her use it.
After dispensing his expertise on ’80s sitcoms, Dr. Strum had apparently tuckered himself out and finally authorized Salsbury’s prescription.
In the U.S., approximately 50 million adults live with chronic pain, and government officials meticulously craft drug policy and prescription guidance. But the reality is they all lead to the same reptile tank.