WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
By Ronnie Hammer
A hohum day of errands stretched ahead and led me from one side of town to another. First up: White’s pharmacy. Luckily only two people were ahead of me awaiting prescriptions to be filled. I handed my prescription to Anthony, the clerk who has been there for years. He said,
“Please sit over there and wait a few minutes while we fill this for you. “
I sat next to a pleasant young woman who smiled as I sat down next to her. The second customer was a clean cut looking teenager. She was appropriately dressed in teen style: long flowing hair, carefully torn jeans, stylish leather jacket and long colorful scarf. No piercings and no visible tattoos.
Nobody spoke, when suddenly a pharmacist I had never seen before appeared from behind the work area and called,
“Kimberly Backus please.”
The teenager rose and walked toward him, as he shouted at her,
“I can’t fill this prescription.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s for birth control pills”.
“But my doctor wrote that prescription.”
“I see that, but you are only 16 years old. I cannot in good conscience fill this prescription”.
“She told me I would have no problems filling it. You have to fill that prescription.”
“Let me get permission from your parents.”
“No, oh no. You can’t call them. Please just fill the prescription.”
“No. I refuse to be a party to your plans.”
“Would you prefer it if I came back here in a few months, either
pregnant or sick with an STD? Would that be better?”
“I know what I can do and what totally goes against what I believe.”
“If I call my doctor will you speak to her?”
“Yes I will.”
How could I help but listen to the conversation between the young
woman and the pharmacist? It was almost as if he wanted to embarrass her by speaking so loudly. Everyone in the store could hear their conversation.
The girl dialed her cell phone, asked the secretary to please put the doctor on the line, and handed her phone to the pharmacist. He listened to the doctor and responded,
“I will not fill this prescription. It is against my beliefs. Let her go someplace else.”
The girl said,
“OK; then give me back my prescription and I will take it somewhere else.”
“No I won’t”. The angry man replied. “You’ll have to go back to your doctor and ask her for another prescription.”
“There’s no time for that,” the distraught girl sobbed. “My boyfriend is picking me up soon and we’re leaving for the weekend .”
The other customer said to me,
“He can’t do that, can he? It’s none of his business to intrude in her life.”
The saga continued. The pharmacist threatened to call the girl’s parents, the girl threatened to sue the pharmacist. Suddenly without warning a group of four strange men came out from the back room. One held a camera, another held a bank of lights and the third held a microphone. The fourth man walked directly up to me, sat down and said,
“Hello. I am John Quinones of channel 7. You are part of a new show we’re filming called, “What Would You Do?”
He tried to engage me in conversation about the scene I had just witnessed while the cameras were rolling, asking what my feelings were about the issue played out. What it would take for me to get up and speak to the characters involved, he wondered? I was then introduced to the actor and actress, the stars of the scene. A woman from nowhere approached and asked me to sign a release form in case they used this segment on their program. And then they all disappeared into the secret back room. There they would wait for the next unsuspecting customer to witness the same discussion and be drawn into the same controversy. I was reeling over this experience and trying to come to grips with what had just happened.
To my delight the very next people to walk into the pharmacy was a pair of nuns dressed in full habit. The familiar script was repeated, instantly catching the women’s attention.
Months later when the show aired this is what I saw: in an introduction to the segment there appeared a photograph of me included in a montage of other customers, and an action scene with the nuns facing the teenager. They were gently suggesting to her that perhaps she could take a little more time to think about her decision to go away with her boyfriend, reminding her that at 16 years of age she didn’t have to make that decision right now. She should examine her own mind and be certain that the boy wasn’t putting pressure on her to take this step.
I was surprised at their non-judgmental comments and their respectful way of speaking to the girl.
After that scene the show moved on with a different group of actors in another community using the same script.
That encounter marked my debut and retirement from a National Television career.