Monday, November 07, 2005

I’m not one of those people that get embarrassed buying a box of condoms. I mean what’s there to get embarrassed about really? In this society where the level of one’s success is usually measured by how much sex one is having, the way I see it, buying a packet of condoms is definitely something to be proud of. However as I found out some time ago, there is a fine line here that when crossed, can take my feelings toward this matter, from pride straight to down shame.

It all started when one day I went to our local Family Planning Clinic (which was about five minutes down the road from us) to find that it had been moved to the other side of town! When I say the other side of town, I mean about forty minutes walk or twenty minutes on the bus, so the place hadn’t really moved that far when you think about it but by Oxford standards, that is pretty far.
After finding the place closed, instead of simply going to the new clinic to get our free supply, Kamyar and I decided to go and splash out on some posh condoms down at our local supermarket. We were pretty excited about this since at the clinic (understandably) they are more into the protection side of things than the pleasure side.
At the supermarket our first shock came when we noticed that condoms were in fact a lot more expensive than we had anticipated. On average they were about 12.99, 14.99 for a packet of twelve! So expensive that our cheapo local supermarket had tagged each of them with some kind of little electronic thingy that would supposedly go off if you tried to sneak one out without paying for it. They have these only on their most expensive items like some spirits. But with these they had gone even one step further than that and had put each box of condoms inside another see-through impenetrable protective box, three times bigger than the original box itself! I’m guessing so if for example James Bond was doing a bit of shoplifting, even if he did manage to decode the electronic tag, he would still have the problem of having to walk out of the shop with that huge box and not be noticed by anyone.

As we packed away our shopping at the till, the cashier fiddled about with the protective box to open it. It was just after half past five which means the supermarket was at its busiest time of the day. The cashier girl continued to rub her fingers around the box looking for some kind of gap to insert her fingernails in and the line on our till got longer and longer. She had already called for help but no one was coming. Meanwhile Kamyar spotted a Lebanese guy that he works with standing in the queue and went over to say hello to him.
The girl was getting very frustrated and kept saying that no one had ever shown her how to get these boxes open. She tried to scan the barcode so that we could pay and just go and wait somewhere else (I’m guessing for the resident demolition expert) but the protective shield was stopping the scanning thingy from working and therefore we continued to wait.
As the other shoppers stretched their necks to see what was going on, the girl spotted the manager helping a cashier, four tills up from us.
‘I need some help here.’ Shouted the girl over the hustle and bustle of dinnertime shopping. ‘What’s wrong?’ the manger shouted back. Picking up the box and waving it in the air as high as she could, our cashier replied, ‘I can’t get this box of condoms open.’ I guess there was one good thing about this act and it was that the other shoppers could now satisfy their curiosity without straining their necks by overstretching them.
Instead of coming over to help, the manager narrowed her eyes asking, ‘What does it say on it?’ Now I don’t know what kind of answer she was hoping to get, but this is what she got from our cashier shouting back at her, ‘It just says the brand name and then ‘Protection blah blah’ Oh and ‘Extra thin’ and…’
I don’t know what they were trying to find out from this. The only thing I can think of is that they believed the information on the packet was in fact a kind of riddle that would help them in some way to open the box.
This was getting very embarrassing but I was still counting my blessings for not picking up the one that said ‘Ribbed for your pleasure.’
It was then when another supermarket employee walked past the manager. Quickly she grabbed him and pointed him in our direction. It seemed like things were going from bad to worse. I’m not saying this guy that was now coming to help us was retarded or anything but…well let me just describe him to you and you can make your own mind up about him.
He is quite tall and pretty skinny with a head that looks far too small for his body. On top of his head sits a mop of greasy hair, cut into a short fringe at the front. Being that tall I suppose it must be hard for him to find trousers that fit him properly, although this is not helped by that fact that his favourite style seems to be pulling his trousers up as high as they go and then belting them up very tightly so they won’t ever have the chance to, god forbid, come down a bit and cover the ankles. What you have got to love about this person though is his sheer enthusiasm. Every time I see him working around the supermarket he looks like whatever it is that he is doing (be it stacking up tins of baked beans or helping an old lady pack her shopping) is the most important thing in the world.

True to from, he rushed over to us asking, ‘How can I help?’ After thoroughly examining the box he announced that he knew exactly what to do but he just needed to go and get something. By this time Kamyar had come back from his chat with his workmate as well which was nice but it also meant that every so often he had to acknowledge him again by throwing another look and smile his way and making some sort of sorry-about-this gesture.
Finally I heard the sound of big feet running and as I turned round I saw our guy running towards us, waving a mallet in the air! Needless to say I was horrified. Upon arrival at our till, pretty out of breath, he ordered us all to stand back and then went on to strike the box repeatedly with his weapon of choice. The box was unbelievably strong. At first it looked as though even hammering it down wasn’t going to work, but thanks to this guy’s pure determination, cracks finally started to appear and then with the last blow, the whole box shattered.
Unfortunately the protective shield had not been the only thing to suffer from these lethal blows. In the process, our box of 12.99£ condoms (yes, we had gone for the cheaper option) had also been flattened and torn on the side.
By the end of it the cashier girl looked like she was in a state of shock and the rest of the people in the line were all staring at us with open mouths. I think I can safely say that all the people who were at the supermarket that day would have to undergo serious therapy before they were ever again even able to hold a packet of condoms, let alone buy one.

Now properly out of breath, the guy fished out our box from the wreckage and proudly presented it to us. He looked chuffed. The whole experience had been pretty bizarre and extremely unpleasant but to look on the bright side, without a doubt, we had made this guy’s day.


linda said...

I bet some Catholic was behind all this hassle for condome buying!!
Which reminds me of the time that I was in grocery store Line and this tall handsome black man was standing there amongst bunch of people with tons of stuff in their carts with only a pack of condomes in his hands (btw It's much easier to get condoms in our neck of the
woods) and eventually after he was tired of everybody staring at what he had in his hands went like :" I do buy groceries you know, but this is the only thing that we need in home now!!"
I think you gotta try to buy Condoms online, it should be easier..

Anonymous said...

hmmm I guess I am lucky that Target lets you buy them without the tags, but in general most stores carry condoms without any special protective casings.

asad said...

weird I became anonymous for some reason.

GazanKhan said...

I usually don't like condom stories but this one was funny.

Shirin said...

That was funny Linda, it reminded me of the time when I worked at a supermarket myself. One day this guy came in to buy some condoms and then he had picked up some chewing gum as well, maybe because he didn’t want to buy just the condoms on their own. By the way this was all going on at the till in front of me. When the condoms were scanned, the guy (who looked pretty nervous) quickly handed his money to the cashier before she had the chance to scan the gum. However this cashier girl (being quite cheeky) did not let this poor guy get off so easily. Next thing I heard was her saying (quite loudly so everyone that was around could hear), ‘So did you want this packet of gum as well sir or will it be just the condoms?’

Asad, it’s usually like that here as well. It’s just our cheapo local that for some reason thinks that condoms need to be protected like that.

Thanks Gazankhan. What did you think of my review? Did you read it?

amanda kay said...

i overcome my condom buying embarassment by not buying the condoms alone, but with an interesting combination of other items, example: condoms, disposable camera, batteries, gatorade or similar sports drink, and about six chocolate bars. i am distracted from my own embarassment as i see the cashier's eyes grow big with the possibilities.

Tazzy said...

lol! too funny!
I think, Shirin, that a detailed sketch of the 'protected-from-a-nuclear-missile-condom-coverings' are in order, for us to properly understand what you are refering to. Havn't seen anything like that in these parts yet.

Shirin said...

You are a very clever lady Amanda ;-)

Tazzy I will see what I can do about the detailed sketch. It’s just that my therapist might think that it’s still a bit too early for me to want to try out things like that. I will have a chat with him about it and get back to you.

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