Here’s another grocery store gem.
Several years ago, I volunteered at a non-profit whose mission was to prevent the spread of HIV and STDs among at-risk youth in Springfield, MA. It was not unusual for me to have condoms and little flavored lube packets in my jacket or jeans pockets.
On my way home from a volunteer shift, I stopped by our local grocery store to pick up a few food items. I approached the cashier and began to empty the items from my basket onto the conveyor belt. The cashier, a lovely older woman named Fran who had dyed auburn hair and sequined rimmed eye glasses that hung around her neck on a chain, asks me for my loyalty card. I reached into my jacket pocket to pull out my keychain and out flew a handful of condoms and tiny lube packets. The items dispersed across the conveyor belt. At that moment, I realized that the narrow metal strip that prevents items from getting jammed up in the end of conveyer was missing.
I frantically attempted to grab the loose condoms and lube packets but I couldn’t keep up with the pace of the conveyor belt. Several of the items disappeared into the slot the metal strip should have been covering. A few seconds later, the grinding noise started. At first the noise was relatively muted but it quickly evolved into a loud clunking before finally climaxing with a loud thud. The conveyor belt halted.
Fran, oblivious to the condoms and lube packets that slipped by her and into the open slot, leaned in for a closer look.
“Oh this darn conveyor belt. It’s been acting up lately. Let me get a manager over here to fix this thing.”
“No. No. It’s okay,” I replied. “I think something got jammed in there but I can get it out.”
“Dear, don’t be silly,” Fran said. Her tone was sweet and authentic. I felt guilty. “You can hurt your fingers. I’ll handle this.”
“No, really,” I continued. It was too late. Fran reached into the space alongside the register and retrieved a long piece of metal that reminded me of the handle to a fly swatter.
“I’ll use this,” she said.
I watched in horror as Fran stuck the metal rod into the open slot and jerked the rod back and forth.
“I see something,” she said, now completely consumed with evacuating the jammed item. “I got you, you little bugger.”
With a flick of her tiny wrist, she pulled the metal rod out from the slot and held it up over her head. Hanging from the end of the rod was an unrolled condom that she apparently tore from its plastic packet in her heroic effort to unjam the conveyor belt.
What seemed like 200 people behind me in line all leaned forward for a closer look.
“What the golly is that?” Fran asked. “Is that a snake skin?”
I felt my face heating up. “We can put that down now,” I said.
A woman behind me spoke up. “That’s a condom.” I didn’t even have to turn around. Her piercing, judging eyes were burning a hole in my back.
Fran shook the rod a few times, which caused the condom to bounce and sway.
“Yup, that’s a condom,” the woman added through her laughter. “A small one. But it’s definitely a condom.”
A man spoke up behind her. “Dude, that thing wouldn’t even fit over my pinky.”
I was deep into a panic attack. Why does this shit happen to me?
“It’s not my condom,” I screamed.
A collective gasp echoed down the line of queued customers. Great now they think I’m not protecting myself.
“Well, I use condoms but this particular condom isn’t mine. It was meant for a kid in Springfield. I mean, not a kid but a young person. Well, old enough to be having sex but not old enough to understand the consequences.”
What the hell was I talking about?
“But I can assure you that it’s not my condom. Look how small it is. Does anyone really think I’d be using that particular condom. Don’t answer that. I can tell you that I wouldn’t be. No offense to anyone who does but I just want to remove any false perceptions here. So just to review, that is not my condom. Okay?”
“Mmmm hmmm.” Even Fran looked skeptical.
“It isn’t,” I screamed again. “I fucking wear a size 10 shoe. Look.” I lifted my foot and placed it onto the side of the conveyor belt. “Does that look like a small foot to you? Well it’s not.” I lifted the tongue on the shoe. “See! It’s a size 10. A nice big healthy size 10 foot. And besides. what does it matter? It’s not the size of the ship, it’s the motion of the ocean. Does that ring a bell?”
I was losing it.
“Honey, that analogy is irrelevant if you’re only sitting in a bathtub,” the same woman replied. Laughter erupted.
I tasted a little vomit in the back of my throat.
Thankfully, the conveyor belt started up again. It growled a few times and then stopped. Fran lowered the metal rod and leaned in toward the slot where she had just retrieved the condom. “Something else is in there. I can see it.”
Again, the people in line behind me leaned forward. My foot was still resting on the conveyor belt. I looked like a giraffe trying to pee. Just as the woman immediately behind me pressed against me to get a better look, a loud pop emitted from the slot. And then a shower of velvety, strawberry lubrication rained down on our heads. One of those damn lube packers had burst. The spray reached customers ten feet behind me.
I did what any rational person would do. I dropped my elevated foot to the floor and ran like hell out the door. To this day, I have not returned.