Friday, March 23, 2007

Meijer and the condom conundrum

when the voice over the p.a. system urgently informs me that in less than 30 seconds an unbelieveable product demonstration and a free gift will be offered to Meijer customers and ONLY Meijer customers (do Farmer Jack customers feel left out?), my heart doesn't flutter with excitement. I'm Meijer savvy enough to know they are trying to push a "space-age" overly-priced mop on steroids and more often than not, the free gift is a washcloth with the purchase of said mop.

likewise, when the customer service desk associate shouts out, "I can help the next in line," I'm not expecting a smile and an understanding heart. she just wants me to show a receipt, take my refund and be gone! to be honest, it took me awhile to break this one; "hello, finding everything alright? good." this one had me stumped because it was said with a stepford wife smile as the person was walking passed me. never have my gruntings of "um, yeah, could you show..." stopped an associate. I finally realized it's one of those insincere greetings one is taught in "associate" school to say to a customer. the understanding being that the customer won't respond and/or be demanding--just be happy you were acknowledged.

so imagine my surprise and embarrassment when...

first, let me admit something that I know is foolish of me... generally speaking, I'm not a prude (tee hee). however, when my supply of feminine products (in their various forms) are sitting on the conveyer belt of a male cashier's check-out lane, I do feel like sinking into Meijer's industrial strength blah-tinted linoleum. I know, it's ridiculous and so girly, but there you have it. in the past, I have encouraged my husband to purchase any alternative birth control items. it seems to me that a good looking man buying a box titled "Trojan" is muy macho and more socially acceptable than a harried mom with three kids. the three kids adds an obvious air of desperateness to the whole scene, especially when mom is buying in bulk.

okay, back to: so imagine my surprise and embarrassment when... my husband and kids are in the car, they have dropped me off at Meijer's sliding glass doors so I can run in alone and pick up a few things (condoms and milk). not to come off as special or anything but I can't use just any condoms, I have a latex allergy. yes indeedy, I'm a polyurethane activist--let me know if you would like a pin or bumper sticker.

now, up to this point, I have not purchased condoms at Meijer, Rite-aid yes, Meijer no. my "quick run" into the store comes to a sudden halt. I cannot believe my eyes, in front of me is a wall of condom boxes, 10 display hangers across and 9 display hangers down! 90! ninety boxes of condoms are staring me in the face! I move in closer, squinting my eyes straining to read the fine print. you gotta understand, condom boxes are covered in writing, when I finally locate the word "latex" my eyes reject that word and jump to another box's description. the next box's font is different and its declaration of latex is in a completely different place!

aaagghhh, move on to the next box! of course, I start my search in the center of the 10x9 grid and now I can't remember which boxes I have checked and which I haven't! my eyes start bee-bopping all over the prophylactic grid like some mad game of atari pong! I can feel the stares as people pass me; I'm "tsk-ing," shaking my head in disgust, and stomping my foot in frustration. as if far away, I hear a voice ask, "hello, finding everything okay?" without removing my eyes from yet another latex box of condoms I screech out, "can you help me find the polyurethane ones?!"

"of course, dear, let me put on my glasses." the response nearly made my lungs collapse. my squatting, looking-at-the-bottom-row posture jerks unattractively to my left, nearly toppling me into the condom conundrum. I'm stunned then horrified! stunned that I actually asked for help out-loud (wasn't that animalistic cry for help just in my head?) and horrified that standing next to me is one of the oldest Meijer associates I have ever seen! all my public inhibitions are rising to the surface strangling my throat and turning my hot-hot-Thai-hot cheeks red. despite this near death experience I watch great-grandmother squat down with me to floor-level and search with her half-moon spectacles for my polyurethane condoms! the embarrassed stammerings come pouring from my now numb tongue and mouth, I'm just about to tell her never mind, or run, or something, when she shouts out, "I've found 'em! poly-ure-thane condoms! how many do you want?"

in a daze I find myself at the U-scan check-out (can't handle anymore Meijer associate humiliation) with one gallon of 2% milk and four packages of polyurethane condoms. at that moment I suddenly realize why the world-wide-web and shipping and handling costs were invented.