Since the end of the first Great War, “Homemade Traditional Habitant French-Canadian PEA SOUP” has been a Canadian staple. At least for me.I remember this on on the 11th day of the eleventh month, this cold winter night when I have successfully captured two of the litter of kittens I spoke of in my last blog, still awaiting the elusive calico who has been taught by her now deceased mother not to trust humans under any circumstances and is still hiding somewhere under the skids in my hay barn.
As for me, the tired caretaker of these wonderful creatures, I find myself like a dog without a bone. I am no longer able to purchase a can of the Pea Soup at the Shoppers Drug Mart here in the quaint and wonderful town of Smiths Falls, not far from our country’s capital of Ottawa.
Add to that demise, if you now write me an old fashion letter like most Canadians did during the war years, and I receive a card in my mailbox because the Canada Post courier can’t be bothered to walk up to my door to inform me that there is a signature required, I can no longer receive my mail at the Smiths Falls Shoppers Drug Mart outlet where it will be stored.
This is rather annoying because in my life experiences I had the pleasure of meeting a rather pleasant pharmacist, the late Murray Koffler who just happened to be the founder of that same Shoppers Drug Mart chain of stores that has suddenly taken a dislike to me. I once profiled Koffler for Toronto’s Business Magazine and as I got to know him became a fan of Shoppers.
A little violin music please, maestro. I hate to rain on your parade dear reader, but my life is finished here in Smiths Falls. I will no longer be able to receive handwritten letters.
This a saga which you must pass along to your children, to ensure they do not follow in my wicked footsteps, that they do not languish as citizens of this great country because they can no longer buy the Pea Soup here.
It is further depressing to also learn I will not be able to follow the advice of the Shoppers headliner banners which scream at you as soon as you enter any one of their cross Canada stores, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. TAKE YOUR MEDS. WE’RE HERE TO HELP.
No longer will I be able to stock up on the latest anti depression pills to remove the death sentence I now face of not being able to purchase my Pea Soup. No sir.
I might linger outside their store peering through the constantly scrubbed windows witnessing the hyper activity of the overworked staff that works until they look like they personally need the meds they sell by the glass load. I will still be an outcast, forced to walk for at least ten minutes to another pharmacy that might accept a louse like me and allow me to medicate my woes of banishment away. And buy the odd can of Pea Soup. But of course, it will never be the same as buying it at store that the polite, caring and honourable gentleman, Murray Koffler built when Canada was a different kind of country than it is today, when arrogant companies did not rule the day.
All of this mayhem began, as a matter of daring to challenge what I thought was a laughable and arrogant putdown by a large company like Shoppers.
Last week, my local medical clinic suggested I purchase a one years supply of thyroid medication to save on the four dispensing fees I was used to paying. I had been buying it four times a year.
When I went to pick up the prescription, I was presented with a dispensing fee of TWO purchases. I made the fatal mistake, the one that would cost me my Pea Soup for the rest of my life, by daring to discuss the issue with THE pharmacist himself, the High Priestess of Medicated Happiness.
Mind you, it wasn’t such a happy conversation. It went like this:
“Could you possibly explain how you charge me for TWO dispensing fees when I am making ONE order.”
“It’s in the computer system sir, that’s all.”
“That’s crazy,” I suggested. “I certainly don’t mind paying a highly trained professional such as yourself, with a handsome dispensing fee at that, but I do mind paying you for a second service you clearly did not perform.”
The pharmacist was looking a little rough when I answered this way and came back at me with a vengeance. In fact, I was worried he was going to burst a blood vessel. Don’t mess with a Drug Lord I told myself.
“Listen, as far as I’m concerned you saved money. We spent a lot of time on your order and hand cut the pills ourselves. All 360 of them. It took time. You got value,” he quipped and with a shake of his hand it was clear the conversation was over.
Well, that was that, eh? I then got the bright idea of calling the media relations department for Shoppers, which yielded nothing, not even a return call. The same for Loblaws, which now owns Shoppers. Then I read in The Globe and Mail that the corporate owners were arbitrarily tacking on a new near one percent charge on every supplier that sells anything to Shoppers and Loblaws. That they could do and would do and be damned with the suppliers. Shoppers was the giant, the new goliath of the retail world of food and drugs. But to be fair to their way of thinking one must consider how their costs are going up and eroding the profit margins of important shareholders. And not to forget the near fasting executives who refuse to return calls likely because they have become anemic after cutting back on their vast energy producing intake of red meat because costs are high. It takes more effort and time and money to bury the money in offshore accounts. Talk about pressure. Those poor company heads.
Having realized how large players were being routinely shafted, I just decided to drop the matter. I had bigger fish to fry.
Then I got the urge during this sub zero winter night to buy a can of Habitant Pea Soup. I waited patiently in line at the Shoppers Smiths Falls outlet and was asked to wait for a moment, which was prolonged into five long moments. I thought it would be worth it to enjoy that heated Canadian traditional soup. I waited and waited wondering what had happened and then an acting manager approached me rather abruptly as I was lost in my thoughts, and informed me I had been told not to enter the store, not to pick up my mail, not to buy my Pea Soup here. Ever again! I had in fact been banned without having been told. Oh my.
Well, I was just shattered. Imagine, a cold wintery night in Smiths Falls and you are being read a death sentence. No more Pea Soup. This could be interpreted as my final hour, if only I couldn’t see the comedy in it.
“You had been told Sir.”
I gathered my courage to reply.
“By whom? Are you sure you have the right person? Nobody has approached me.”
“We’re sure the store Manager has told you by now. Now, Sir, you’ll have to leave,” intimating the hard-core police force in Smiths Falls would show up armed and take me down. I wasn’t worried about that mind you. I had just picked up my mailed parcel from the Shoppers mail outlet in the back of the store moments earlier and in that very parcel was a fountain pen. Personally I believe the pen is mightier than the sword as they say so I was not to be rattled by this threat.
Not to be undone, not to let my face down, to carry on in the name of other great Canadian Pea Soup lovers, I made a plea for justice.
“Well, I guess my life is over. But could I kindly purchase this one last thing, this important can of Habitant Pea Soup. I’m so hungry and it’s so cold outside.”
The compassionate assistant floor manager gave in. Who says Smiths Falls workers have no heart, eh?
“Well, I suppose we can make this last exception but only if you promise not to return.”
In my mind, that recess I travel to when faced with troublesome situations, I raised my left hand and muttered, “I promise to tell the whole spoof and anything but the truth so help me God. I will not return.”
Come to think of it, there’s an honest slogan for Shoppers to post. WE PROMISE TO FLEECE YOU WHEN YOU BUY YOUR MEDS HERE, YOU’LL NEED THEM BECAUSE WE CHARGE FOR NON-PERFORMED SERVICES!