It’s a noun that means “the last emission of breath,” or “the act or process of releasing air from the lungs through the nose or mouth.”

But that’s not important right now.

More importantly, you probably already knew that.

Most importantly, I’m interested in the fourth definition offered by Merriam and Webster: “the date after which a product should not be sold because of an expected decline in quality or effectiveness.” A piece of the CVS chain of pharmacies sits on a street corner near me, and it was this piece of the chain that sold me a bag of goods (so to speak). I had planned to go in for the death watch that afternoon (re: my allergy shots), and I needed an antihistamine (I was all out at home). So, risking the wrath of my boss (he’s a stickler for promptness) I stopped by CVS on my way to work. I picked up a box of Claritin Reditabs and rushed off to work. Once there, I ripped open the box and popped a Reditab. That miracle of modern pharmacology dissolved in my mouth, and then I noticed the expiration date on the box.

“EXP 09/04”

(Insert double take here.)

Isn’t today November 30th? (This was yesterday, mind you.)

I had just spent my hard earned money on a box of medicine that expired almost three months ago. Remember, this wasn’t some country store that some independently wealthy guy runs as a hobby – the kind that’s been in business for 30 years, and where you can still find a can of Spam from the grand opening buried somewhere behind the shelf. This was a brand spakin’ new building, a national chain, with that state of the art product inventory technology that only the private sector can provide.

Three months beyond the expiration date! I don’t think the building is six months old.

Normally I wouldn’t whine about such a thing, but, oh come on, who am I kidding? Of course I would. Perhaps the question I should be asking myself is not, “why can this kind of thing happen,” but rather, “why am I surprised?”