I turned forty-three just about two months ago. I say this now because it gives a reference point for the rest of the story. I had to buy condoms for the first time in a decade last week. Most of the time my wife and I have been together, birth control has been a shared concern, but the options have been primarily of the long-term woman side of things. Condoms were from a breezier, young couple starting out time.
There I was, standing in an aisle in Long's Drug Store. The first thing I noticed was how poorly named the store was in the first place. You can buy lawn furniture there. You can buy two-liter bottles of Coca-Cola (for just ninety-nine cents). You can buy Hot Wheels cars (for the same low ninety-nine cents). You can buy a whole lot of things at Long's Drug Store that are not drugs. Most of the things you can buy at Long's Drug Store are not drugs - nor are they condoms. That is to say that it took me several aisles to discern what category of thing I was looking for in order to find the item I was there to purchase. I didn't have the courage to ask any of the pleasant and courteous staff for help, so I finally narrowed down the possibilities to the back end of the store, where I found a surprisingly large selection.
It made me proud to be an American, standing there in front of the contraceptive selection at my local drug store. In Russia you'd have to stand in line for six or seven hours to be handed something made from old tank parts that you still needed a doctor's note to use. Here in America I was stymied only briefly by the assortment of colors and shapes. Then there was the question of how many - if I bought three was I being too shy? If I bought a dozen was I being a lech? Did I mention that my wife was waiting in the car for me while I made my selection?
I decided on an assortment, and if I bought a dozen. On the way up to the register, I picked up a bouquet of flowers - did I mention that my wife was waiting in the car? There I waited as the lone cashier carefully rang up the items for the lady in front of me. I worked hard on my nonchalance with my flowers and condoms, and then it was my turn. He couldn't get the condoms to scan. The lady behind me tapped her foot. The cashier asked me if I knew how much they were. I told him my guess - I probably would have paid double just to move things along. He asked me if I wanted paper or plastic, and I told him I thought I could get along without a bag.
When I reached the door, the alarm started to beep and the security guard stepped over and asked to see my purchases and receipt. I handed them over and waited while he carried them back into the store and had them carefully removed from inventory. He walked back to where I was standing, bouquet in hand, gave me back my condoms, and said "Thank you sir, have a nice day."
My wife loved the flowers.