The chemist in my town is suffering from spate of shoplifting. I know this because there is a shiny new CCTV camera pointing at me as I herd the children inside out of the rain. In a further defensive move they have placed particularly tempting items in bulky Perspex cases which can only be removed at the till. Disposable razors and perfume are thus incarcerated and somewhat annoyingly so are condoms.
I don’t like buying condoms. Unless I can furtively slip a pound coin into a discrete vending machine, whilst wearing a trilby with the brim pulled low, I consider it to be a man’s job. Invariably condoms are placed behind the till so you actually have to ask for them – the thought of the knowing look on the cashier’s face as he slips me a three pack of strawberry flavoured Durex is just too much to contemplate. Self-service condom shopping I can just about cope with, and I cover my Perspex pack with some innocuous shower gel and a few packs of baby wipes. I really would rather not be doing this with the children swarming round my basket – they do ask such awkward questions and I’m not sure I can fob them off with the water balloon explanation for much longer without them demanding a demonstration.
I join the queue and try to keep tabs on my marauding toddlers, who are ransacking shelves in search of vitamins they hope to be sweets. Once at the cash desk I adopt a nonchalant air as I pack the baby wipes into a carrier bag and wait for the protective casing to be removed.
“Sorry, we’ve only just started using these things – I can’t seem to get the box off.”
Terrific. I’d leave it for another day, only there’s nothing on television tonight, and I’m in the mood for a bit of a romp.
“Cherryl, can you come and give me a hand?” She yells to another girl on the other side of the store. A large queue has formed behind me, many of whom are now craning their necks to establish what the hold up is.
“Oh golly, I’ve got no idea. Shall I get Brian down?” Cherryl is no more adept than her colleague, and is more concerned about breaking one of her bright red acrylic nails. She pages the store manager and we all wait in silence for a few seconds.
Halfway down the queue a man pipes up, “I’ve got a pen-knife here, do you want me to have a go at it?”
Oh dear God – no. I am rooted to the spot with embarrassment as Cherryl passes the box of condoms down the queue. The man whips out a Swiss Army knife and begins whittling away at the clasp.
“Look.” I say. “It’s frightfully kind of you, but really there’s no need. I’ll just leave it. I really don’t need them.”
The man glances at my children, who have swept an entire shelf of Sanatogen to the floor and are pretending to brush their teeth with tubes of Anusol.
“Are you sure about that, love?”
He redoubles his efforts but to no avail, handing the box back up the queue to Cherryl, who has now explained our predicament to Store Manager Brian. Brian makes a valiant attempt at releasing the contents of the box, but he too is defeated by the anti-theft mechanism.
“I’m terribly sorry Madam,” he says. “Would you like someone to drop them round to you later on?”
Home delivery birth control? That really is service with a smile…
“No thank you.” I say. I spy a stack of promotional gift items by the till, already displayed for Christmas. “I’ll just take this travel Scrabble set instead.”
I’m sure it’ll be just as much fun.