The young man wearing slightly soiled clothes rounded a row of store shelves and then decided to race me to the head of the line to the Wal-Mart pharmacy yesterday.
Thinking he might be needing medicine for a sick child, I slowed, allowing him to overtake me.
A desperate exchange then played out between the customer, clerk and pharmacist until he left empty handed.
The clerk rolled her eyes while calling me to her register and she had something critical to say about the guy who just left.
"I didn't hear what he was saying," I replied.
He wanted syringes, she said, and was denied them because he didn't know the size he needed. He claimed they were for his sick grandmother, the clerk said.
"It's always for a sick grandmother," she said. "He was jacking me." She said she never sells a needle to a customer unless he knows the type of drug it would be used to inject.
I responded: "Well I have never been in the market for needles. I imagine you would need a prescription for them."
"We can sell them over-the-counter now. It's legal, you know, to stop AIDS from spreading," she said before I left wondering why she was throwing up roadblocks for junkies who don't want to get deathly sick from using a dirty needle.
Later, thanks to Google, I learn that Pennsylvania became on of the last states in 2009 to allow pharmacies to sell syringes without a physician's permission. The thinking had been that drug addicts are not concerned about their health and don't concern themselves about having sterile needles.