Friday, January 14th, 2011

Has Anyone Ever Been Happy In A Duane Reade?

In a city that works overtime to make you feel alone, there is perhaps no more depressing mundanity than a trip to the Duane Reade. A wave of ennui smacks you in the face as soon as you walk in—generally through the out door because some schmuck who never learned to read or doesn't care to is exiting through the in, but very slowly because he's talking on his cell phone and is clearly unaware that there are other people around him who might also need to make use of the goods and services the store somewhat grudingly provides.

As you contemplate your purchases in that sickly light, boredom gives way to the heartsick realization that you are about to buy banal household items which—after a seemingly interminable wait at the one open register, where a clerk is scanning things at the rate of an item per minute—you will then cart home to your tiny box, where you will use them, replace them, and eventually die. That will be your contribution to the legacy of our species' evolution; you bought a bunch of generic cotton balls and asswipes and then your body made its inevitable way into the earth (probably next to those very same asswipes, which will never biodegrade no matter what they promise on the label).

God forbid you're there to pick up a prescription; the line of old Jews fumbling for their insurance cards and skeevy unshaven types who cannot remember what time they were told to come back for their syphilis medication but won't let that stop them from carrying on a long and heated argument with the pharmacist will make you wonder whether or not it's just easier to die from the fever you're running. (It's certainly quicker.)

Outside it is always dusk—the saddest time of day. Everything smells like cheap plastic and failure. You'd drop to the ground and kick and scream like you did when you were a kid and your mother made you come with her to the carpeting store, but God knows what kind of filth is teeming about on those despondency-inducing floors.

On the other hand, apparently they are serving beer now. So maybe it's not all misery and horror.

Photo by scalleja, from Flickr.


39 Comments / Post A Comment

The Duane Reade at Union Square — the pharmacy is open 24 hours with friendly pharmacists, they sell rice-to-riches rice pudding and beer.

Still has the trademark slow cashiers.

Multiphasic (#411)

Can we talk about the days I woke up with the stimulants Duane sold me, kept alive with the Odwallas and Snyder's Pretzel Pieces Duane sold me, and went to sleep with the benzos Duane sold me?

BadUncle (#153)

You live in LA. Everything's happier there.

Multiphasic (#411)

No! In NYC! In the SoCal days, I got my drugs direct from the pharmacy of the University of California, which was the Duane Reade of Higher Education in every imaginable way.

BadUncle (#153)

Yow. That, on the other hand, sounds like the Unhappiest Place on Earth.

Other Alice (#9,392)

You ARE aware of the former glory that was Big Longs in Oakland, right? It was like the opposite of this Duane Reade place.

Limaceous (#2,392)

The big Long's! The incredible randomness of it (the aisle with the Buddhas and the incense; the old-man hats; the discount patio furniture), the way it existed in separate space-time, and you'd think you'd just run in for some condoms and three hours could go by.

Now that it's a CVS, it's lost something magical. (But you can still see hipster girls trying on caftans over their clothes, still wander through the garden section.)

Other Alice (#9,392)

My friends and I planned to flee to it in case of zombie apocalypse. I love the dragon statues, the crazy Eastern European watch repair guy, the Top Dog, and the fact that hella birds get trapped in it and basically live their entire bird lives in there. You could buy ANYTHING at Big Longs. This CVS situation is unacceptable.

Andrew Piccone (#7,185)

Don't hate on the new Duane Reades, those places rule. Some of them even have doctor's offices in them! What! The beer thing in Williamsburg is whatever. They said in the Times the beer is less than at local bodegas, so I guess those bodegas will…lose…business? Oh.

Beer is always more expensive at bodegas.

migraineheadache (#1,866)

I can't get into new DR it seems like they want me to give them extra dough just for using a different font on the trail mix. I haven't been there in a bit but my favorite was always the extreme-claustrophobia basement one on 72nd + First.

What's the problem? They sell giant cans of cheez ballz.

DMcK (#5,027)

The ("old style"? "original"? "classic"?) DR on Delancy is quite good as well. They let me use my points even though they expired the day before! Also, Rite Aid is WAY, WAY worse, oh my god.

DMcK (#5,027)

BTW, the items on today's shopping list are 1) mouthwash, 2) lens wipes and 3) a bottle of Dr. Woods Pure Peppermint Castile soap, so there really is no escape, is there?

cherrispryte (#444)

As the Duane Reade in Penn Station has saved my life/dignity more times than I care to admit, I can't really hate on them.

Also, I think there is a gender difference here! Because as someone who enjoys sparkly things, most pharmacy trips involve at least a quick perusal through the nail polish/makeup/hair dye sections, which is fun.

#56 (#56)

I was just going to say that.. The ennui is usually offset by the makeup aisle.

MollyculeTheory (#4,519)

Yes. The more existentially crushing the day/errand, the more nail polish I buy.

City_Dater (#2,500)

Fourthed — the annoyance of people who cannot master the "in/out" concept at the door and the possibly dangerous lunatics hovering at the pharmacist's counter are always offset by nail polish, hair dye and candy.

C_Webb (#855)

cherri: My purchases in that particular Duane Reade line up neatly against many of the lowest and least legal evenings/mornings of my life.

Lockheed Ventura (#5,536)

The carpeting store reference stirred memories I did not know I had.

Eugene Langley (#9,363)

I certainly did not expect these comments to be all "aw shucks Duane Reade ain't so bad." I must have misjudged Awl commenters as the ornery poor people from this article, when maybe we're closer to the ornery rich people from this article?

BadUncle (#153)

It doesn't seem that difficult to replicate the atmosphere in Knifecrime Island's Boots' chain. WTF, Duane Reade? At least buy some more light bulbs.

More Common Questions

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Br. Seamus (#217)

Duane Reade was about nineteen feet tall, muscles like fresh-hewn oak and kept company with a big blue ox. He planted appleseeds all around Manhattan, which is why we have so many pigeons.

gumplr (#66)

Tucker Max got his wish!

Ophiolite (#9,331)

Jesus, I thought Drug Marts in Cleveland were depressing.

rj77 (#210)

Oh, you should try the CVS at Shaker Square. Rude, smelly, and overpriced.

Ophiolite (#9,331)

Ok, but does it have the same Air Of Malaise that the old Drug Mart on Detroit and Dover Center in Westlake had? Because that was special.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

I recently had to run to this huge 24hr Duane Reade in the middle of the night, and I had a very specific question about a product I was looking for.

This huge place, stocked with all kinds of crap (and having those self-checkout machines), had only two humans working in there: a security guard in blue in the front, and a doctor (pharmacist) in white in the back. That place, my friends, was a perfect illustration of the state of our nation.

It's isn't the buying of the household cleaning products — the stuff that makes the coffee pot clear again, the stuff that makes the kitchen floor smell like gin, the stuff that makes the dining-room table devoid of grime, the stuff that makes the knick-knacks on the shelves clean, the stuff that makes the shower a shade brighter — that gets me.

It's the part where I come home and silently use them.

Anne Edgar (#7,194)

I was actually knocked to the floor in the Duane Reade on Montague Street in Brklyn–then accused by the store security guy of "touching" the homeless man who floored me. It took the police to get me outta there. (btw, I'm a 5'1" middle-aged woman who really doesn't make a habit of fondling homeless guys.) Oh, well.

Yamara (#9,395)


is not Duane Reade corporate radio and Duane Reade Pravda interrupting my thoughts for what I actually came in for.

I have walked out empty-handed after such insult-by-committee.

But CVS is worse. They'd rather use your unpaid labor at the checkout instead of hire anyone.

gotham (#1,572)

WHAT?! that's exactly WHY I seek out a CVS (& recently they've been increasing the # of self service machines to my utter delight) I MUCH much rather scan my own merchandise at 1000x the speed & half the hassle than it would take to stand in line and then be subjected to the utter apathy & resentment of disgruntled drugstore employees. give me a self checkout machine any day!

joeks (#5,805)

The self-checkout thing is a toss-up. It might be faster than waiting for the cashier. Or, you might wait behind an old Serbian lady who's trying to scan her expired coupons and buy 4 boxes of something with pseudoephedrine in it, then you get the machine that keeps telling you to PLEASE PUT THE ITEM IN THE BAG over and over and over again.
I guess my point is, drug stores are terrible places and there is no certain way to get out of them without hating life and humanity, at least a little bit.

SeaBassTian (#281)

Duane Reade used to at least pretend to have an authentic NYC flair, now it's really just Walgreens in disguise. I say bring back Lamston!

Rosebud (#4,107)

Girl here. I went in at lunch to fill a script and spent 45 minutes picking out eyeshadow and shit.

Rod T (#33)

Here's the thing, folks. If you need a pharmacy in New York, then shame on you if you go to Duane Reade when there are tons of non-chain stores available to you. About a year ago, I made a map of them: Use it, and stop supporting "heath" companies that don't give a shit if you live or die.

HiredGoons (#603)

I prefer to believe that my contribution to the legacy of our species' evolution will be absolutely nothing; so fuck you.

fairest (#413)

You sure those weren't potentially old Jews fumbling for their insurance cards?

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