It began about 15 years ago. You probably didn't notice it at all. There were scattered reports of office workers leaving for lunch and returning to find that their office building had disappeared. In its place they found … a drug store! Of course we laughed. No doubt they had enjoyed a long, leisurely, liquid lunch.
But we started to notice some unusual events. Remember that used car lot on MacDade Boulevard? Suddenly it was a drug store. And the restaurant on Chester Pike where your family celebrated your high school graduation? There was a drug store in its place there, too. That intersection in Ridley with the two drug stores? One day we noticed there were three. When our supermarkets suddenly broke out with severe cases of drug store we could no longer deny it: Drug stores were almost imperceptibly taking over Delaware County. It was enough to put some people (okay, probably just me) in mind of that very cool but scary-even-though-you-knew it-wasn't-real movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
There was a rumor that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was about to get out of the booze business, and (for some reason never fully explained) drug stores would become privately owned liquor stores.
Some people said that it was a prelude to universal health care.
My stoner friend Zeke saw it as a sign that marijuana was about to be legalized. (To be fair, Zeke sees global warming, the downgrading of Pluto, the Phillies' World Series title and just about everything else as a sign that marijuana is about to be legalized.)
Today drug stores continue to overtake gas stations, banks, real estate offices … even private homes. And we are no closer to solving the mystery than we were all those years ago. Are these simply harmless businesses serving the acid reflux, beauty aid and sunglasses needs of a thankful community? Or will we one day be forced to live under the thumb of white-coated masters doling out the daily necessities of life on a prescription-only basis?
You're right. It's probably that first thing.