Best Drugstore

(Photograph by Darrow Montgomery)

CVS trailer at Waterside Mall

The CVS trailer at Waterside Mall, parked next to the Waterfront Metro station during renovation, is deceptively large. Looking at it from the outside, you’d think that there is an extremely limited selection: maybe only a couple of types of deodorant, maybe Coke but no Pepsi products, perhaps only one scent of Axe. After all, how could they possibly cram all of the toiletries, nonperishable foodstuffs, and greeting cards of a normal-sized CVS into a mobile one? And yet, they have done it. It is a Utopian CVS—an eerily perfect drugstore that runs with smooth, mechanized efficiency. They’ve even packed a full pharmacy into the space. They have everything you want to buy and nothing you won’t. They are everything you love (OK, like) about CVS and nothing you don’t. Here are four reasons why the trailer is the best CVS ev-ar and why every drugstore should go mobile.

1. There is no useless seasonal-products aisle. The seasonal-products aisle is the biggest waste of space and time in CVS. It sucks you in and makes you spend money you don’t have, and employees spend far too much precious time organizing the rotating displays rather than ringing you up. Here, that is not a problem. If you happened into the Waterside CVS trailer over Easter weekend, you’d have been pleasantly surprised to find no plastic grass, no pre-made baskets, no plush rabbits. There were also no Cadbury Crème Eggs, but that is a small price to pay for such efficiently organized goods. This summer, you will be able to walk into the trailer for either the sunblock or tanning oil (no judgment) you need, without having to wade through beach balls, towels, or those mega-cheap white or green lawn chairs that CVS carries. The selection is always perfectly pared-down.

2.No carts. Everyone knows when you go into CVS and see someone wheeling around one of those giant grocery carts you think two things: 1) Please don’t let me get stuck behind this person in the line; and 2) Who has enough money to buy a whole cartload of crap from CVS? The trailer has hand baskets only, which is probably due to the narrow aisles, but this policy has a side benefit of forcing shoppers to limit their purchases to what can fit in those little red baskets. Fewer items per transaction equals less time in line.

3. Bad lighting.The trailer is pretty dim, lacking the high fluorescent wattage of most other CVS drugstores. This is surprisingly nice when picking out makeup. When you stare into those little inky mirrors affixed to lipstick displays and hold color swatches up to your face, you will look backlit and cute rather than washed-out and ashen. You will leave the trailer feeling good about yourself.

4. The bodywashes aren’t locked up! Many years ago, while I was shopping at my local CVS, a guy who looked like Bo Duke walked into the store, filled two baskets with bodywashes, then ran out, jumped into the bed of an idling pickup truck with a blacked-out license plate, and sped off. Soon after, my CVS began locking up the bodywashes, and soon after that, I began noticing that all CVS stores put their shower treats behind locked glass. I don’t blame CVS for this policy, but it is a pain. The clerks hate to come unlock the case, and they have to stand over you while you look at the damn washes to make sure you don’t swipe any, and then they relock the case once you’ve made your selection. But, in the trailer, the bodywash stands free. On a recent visit, I watched a woman incredulously lift the bottles and inspect them and then take her sweet time reading the ingredients and popping the tops open to smell all of the different varieties. The hair dryers and curling irons are still on lockdown, but being able to handle bodywash without being treated like a criminal is a time-forgotten ritual that the CVS trailer has revived. —Sarah Godfrey