Harvard students dying for some late-night action have one more option: CVS Pharmacy now stays open 24 hours a day, making it that much easier to buy such essentials as VHS copies of The Blair Witch Project and Odwalla antioxidant smoothies, not to mention all the usual drugstore staples. Yet after spending six hours in the store, from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m., it doesn’t seem as though many have taken CVS up on its offer of permanently open doors.
12:30 a.m.-1:20 a.m.
Exactly three customers come in. For most of the time, with only two men on the floor—a cashier and a security guard—the two-story pharmacy feels creepy and lonely. As Assistant Store Manager Michael Madden explains, “The midnight shift is always very quiet. 90% of our customers at this hour are students, always to buy food.”
“We have one student from Dublin who comes in here on a regular basis, sometimes even a couple times in one night, just to buy beef jerky,” Madden says.
To my disappointment, beef jerky boy never shows. However, David Baharvar, a law student, rolls in just past 1 a.m. to buy candy. “I’m usually not out at this hour, especially on a week night, but I just came back from a bar and decided I wanted some candy,” he says, choosing a Heath Bar.
The majority of the customers are like Baharvar, and never make it past the candy offered near the registers, though an intrepid few venture upstairs.
One man grabs my attention. He furtively slips out with a small box wrapped up in a bag. I speculate that it is probably condoms from the decent-sized collection on the second floor in the back.
Most customers that come in find what they need on the first floor, and the pharmacy on the second floor is closed. “It wasn’t going to be enough of a money maker to keep it open,” Madden explains, “and CVS didn’t want to be held liable if something happened with drugs bought from their pharmacy at this hour.”
Note: if your Ritalin prescription runs out at 2 a.m., you’re out of luck.
The sole cashier has flipped through the nearby copies of US Weekly and People and is in the process of rearranging a Valentine’s Day candy display. “Sweet Caroline” comes in over the radio, and the store settles down to relative silence for the night.
While he says that he is not scared of working at these silent hours, Madden admits “there is definitely more danger during this shift than during the day. There are criminals out there who know we’re open 24 hours a day and take advantage of that.” And although the cash is almost never threatened, they did have a man come in here and steal five cartons of cigarettes. “That’s the kind of thing that happens at this hour, but the cashiers and the security guards are trained and they know what to do, just in case.”
The clientele has shifted from students to the taxi drivers that line up outside the store and in front of Au Bon Pain to wait for customers.
As the sun begins to rise, Madden packs up. “I’m sorry I couldn’t offer you a more exciting evening,” he says, as he stacks Coke bottles. “I rarely work the midnight shift, and it’s really a very different world. Students are used to being up this late, but for me, it means that I have to go home exhausted at 6 a.m. to my wife and two kids.”
Maybe some students are accustomed to pulling all-nighters in Cabot or Lamont, but spending it in CVS would be a far cry from studying. While there is nowhere to sit, there’s a whole lot to eat, and the music is pretty good. All they need now is a liquor license to turn it from silent to slammin’.