Here's AVGLF's story, as he wrote me an email telling what happened.
Take it from me, to the average man buying condoms is a total nightmare, some would say a total fucking nightmare. If you're a virgin, a woman who's never bought any, a man who's one of those irresponsible types or your surname is Durex and you own some factories then you've probably never been through the sheer mental turmoil that the rest of us face whenever we have to pop into the local chemist for a three or twelve pack.
For me buying the old rubber raincoats even in a liberal place like London is a bit of a turmoil. Some years ago I was with RD's Academic Bro and we were catching a flight somewhere. We'd checked in, were airside at Heathrow and he casually said that he needed to buy some johnnies. We went into Boots the chemist and he procured some, with an air of nonchalance, ease and comfort that I've only ever felt when buying Superdry clothes.
I was impressed. To this day I don't know if he was faking or if it was genuine. Since then further investigation has revealed to me that most men find it easier to go and buy a book on multitasking while doing several other things at the same time than buy condoms.
Buying them in the UK, where we have them on display on shop shelves and pubs sell them in vending machines, is a walk in the park compared to doing the job in the motherland, a country where condoms are only used by perverts and weirdos, the type of people who actually have sex.
I made my way over to Crescat and headed downstairs to the Food City bit. I like going there anyhow, a browse around the shelves to look at the wonders and delicacies of a Lankan supermarket is trippy and exciting for me. I got there and did my mooching, picking up an oily yet tempting looking jar of brinjal pahi as a present for my parents. No one can accuse me of being stingy. Then the fun started.
I ambled, in that casual way, to the chemist shelves, the ones that hold the shampoo, toothpaste and deodoranty things. I peered at the dazzling display of goods, paying particular patronising and laughing attention to an array of lotions and creams that promised to make you darkies turn into glamorously good looking white people within about five minutes. I thought of old aunts, those ones who talk about anaemic types and say "my she's lowely and fair, beauuuutiful girl, and she makes a delicious pineapple fluff too."
As all men can relate to I pretended to look at the other bits and pieces, in reality my eyes were scanning the shelves busily looking for the little rubber raincoats. One of the tricks is to make your eyes do the scanning without other people realising that's what's going on, like when you look at
I scanned and found nothing. I moved, pretended to look at the soaps and scanned some more with the same level of success. I moved again a few times until I ended up uneasily browsing the ladies' sanitary towel and tampon. No joy and I figured that they must be kept at the proper pharmacy place, that bit at the front where you can get all the medicines and antibiotics that require prescriptions and other such ridiculous Doctor's recommendations, here in the UK.
So the brinjal pahi was paid for and two minutes later any passers by would have seen RD's friend, had they known what I look like, peering at ventolins and other inhalers, staring at rows and rows of tablets as if my life depended on it. They would also have seen a pharmacist who looked a bit like a brown Derren Brown, amusing considering the surname, leering and sneering at me with that look, the one that said
"I know exactly what you're looking for and, purely because I'm a virgin / I'm currently getting no action / both (delete as appropriate), I'm going to make you sweat and work and I'll torment you because I've got a crap beard and because, well because I can."
Or something roughly along those lines.
After about nine, perhaps ten minutes too much browsing I plucked up the courage.
"Excuse me" I said.
Brown Derren looked at me. I checked my slipper to see if I'd trod in dog shit or something. I hadn't.
"Excuse me" I said again. This time his left eyebrow jumped like a kangaroo, one that can jump about a quarter of a millimeter very slowly.
"Have you got any condoms?"
"Uh?" he said.
"Bastard" I thought, but I'm not sure if I should have put it in inverted commas or not.
I repeated my request. Brown Derren had forced me to say it loudly enough for his spotty assistant to hear as well. Then he let rip with a burst of helpfulness unusual in Sri Lankan shops.
And there was silence, quite a lot of it, maybe a couple of kilos' worth.
"Ermmm, well where are they?" said I.
Brown pointed to a distant and hazy place behind him. Some would have called it a display cabinet. To me it was about as tangible as platform nine and three quarters. I looked at the cabinet and Brown Derren looked at me as though there we were in prison and he was Walker Texas Ranger on an undercover assignment. When I scrunched up my eyes I could see some boxes of condoms, cleverly angled in such a way that I couldn't read the packets or make out any detail.
I ask you, what does a chap do in these situations? Courageous examples of the male variety would brazenly demand to look at the things, perhaps try a few on for size and comfort before making a final decision. By now you know that I'm not one of them. I thought through my options carefully, pointed in the direction of platform nine and three quarters and asked for a couple of packs of "them".
In his final attempt to humiliate me Brown Derren forced me to ask again by pretending he hadn't understood me. My desire to ask if he had any in extra large, buy some and then go somewhere else and get extra small, my real size, was only beaten by my desire to get the hell out of there. At least I knew that I'd be out in a minute.
"How much is that?" I requested.
"What's that?" I said when he presented me with a piece of paper.
"You have to take this there and pay." he responded.
I was frustrated but figured that I was on the last lap and could see the finish line so took the paper and joined the queue. In England, when you buy these things they're normally listed as "chemists' goods" or something similarly innocuous.
When I got to the till the young girl took the paper, typed the number and up on the display flashed the words
I squirmed some more, paid my money and moved on quickly, back to beardy Derren and his assistant. I did what you are probably very used to; showed the receipt, got the goods, got the receipt stamped and exited, in a split second five minutes or so. I'll never get fully used to the Sri Lankan way of using labour in this context, it always amazes me and just seems wrong.
That was what happened. I hope that one day I'll get to use the things. Next time I buy some in England it will be a gentle flowing breeze in comparison. Mind you, I bought six, that should last me a good few years.
And so went my good friend's story.