• Jaelle

I'd Like to Say...

Updated: Jul 26, 2019

I’d like to say...“Claudia and I are eating at Le Bernardin on 51st Street in Manhattan.” But I can’t. Because we aren’t. We’re eating at a pizza stand in the garment district. The reason we’re eating at a pizza stand instead of Le Bernardin is because of the “Making Money Club,” an exclusive club where a couple dozen women get together to research and invest money in eco-socially-responsible-LBGTQ-friendly-politically-correct companies. All the members, except for us, are prudish, wear business suits, have short coiffed hair in the latest styles, get pedis and manis regularly, and sling the latest Gucci bags over their shoulders filled with credit cards, cash, iPads and iPhones.

Claudia and I have faux Gucci bags filled with Kleenex, mini-pads, and cell phones that can’t keep a charge. We got invited to join the exclusive group because Claudia convinced everyone we were brilliant marketers even though our personal bank accounts prove otherwise. Claudia and I had plans to make a bunch of money and buy real designer clothes and dine at the best restaurants in New York, especially Le Bernardin’s.

Wednesday, Claudia and I were to give our first presentation for the Money Making Club, highlighting a company to invest in. Tuesday night–late–we sat down in front of my Mac with a bottle of Chardonnay. Two hours later after some very serious Google searching, a popup came out of left field like a drag queen at a monastery: Red, white and blue condoms, rainbow condoms, peppermint condoms and sheer condoms. The last time either of us used a condom was just before my then-husband got a vasectomy and before Claudia declared that indeed she was gay. Now, I declared that Trojan, the condom company, would be a good company to invest in.

“What?” Claudia said and downed the remains of the Chardonnay.

“Trojan. Good investment,” I said.

“Hmmm, how about something political? Diebold machines?”

“No, we don’t want to perpetuate misery and despair.”

“They’ll go for Trojan condoms?” Claudia asked with minimal confidence.

“How about Kimono instead of Trojan?” I suggested. “Sounds more inter-cross-cultural-Asia-meets-Gucci.”

We spent the rest of the night working on our marketing plan and another bottle of Chardonnay. By 1:00am we had executed the perfect marketing scheme, or at the very least, the “don’t-get-kicked-out-of-the-Money-Making-Club” scheme. We drew straws for who would buy condoms. Claudia cut the straws and I drew the short one. In retrospect, both straws were probably short, but I was far too excited about digging out my hippy attire from the late ‘60s when I was 18, just out of high school, and smoking pot on a regular basis.

The tie-dyed-midriff blouse, bell-bottoms, and glass-blown-hand-painted-peace beads wrapped around my long, black wig would be the perfect outfit to wear to persuade the ladies in the club to visualize a calmer and wiser country still in a sexual revolution. Unplanned pregnancies and STDs were on a collision course with Kimono Condoms and our PowerPoint presentation.

The next day at Walgreens, after a long deliberative search down the long, cavernous aisles, I whispered to an employee shelving Kotex boxes, “Can you show me where the condoms are?”

“Condoms?” she shouted to the far reaches of the store. “What kind of condoms?” she shouted again.

Again, I whispered. “Kimono. The usual kinds.”

“They’re in the back,” she hollered.

I wanted to say, “Let’s just converse in sign language.” But didn’t.

“I’ll have to bring them out. Meet you at the front register,” she hollered as she disappeared down the long aisle.

I stood at the front register, alone, with not a single customer in sight. But then the stock girl rolled an old, creaky, six-by-four-foot, wooden case of condoms onto the showroom floor, and in a New York minute, a mob descended upon the checkout stands. There I stood with several thousand condoms and a very loud stock girl.

“What kind do you want?” she bellowed, holding the biggest box of condoms up like a scepter. “This one here’s red and green, ribbed condoms for Christmastime. And here’s some for Hanukkah, and…”

In slow motion, the gaggle of customers simultaneously rotated in my direction, just in time to observe the stock girl thrusting several boxes of condoms into my arms, which I quickly dislodged into my shopping basket.

“These will do,” I whispered and bought $1500 worth of condoms and a tank of helium and headed home.

“Are we going to blow all these condoms up like balloons?” asked Claudia as we stood on my patio surveying the varieties of condoms.

“All of them? Are you crazy? Just a couple dozen. The rest we’ll hand out.”

“Everyone there is going to go home with a hundred condoms?”

“That’s the point, Claudia. They are going to think about condoms every time they open their purse, every time they see a pregnant teenager, every time they…”

“Have sex?”

“I doubt it. You’ve seen the gabardine they wear.”

I tore open a neatly pressed condom and tossed it to Claudia who slapped it on the helium tank’s nozzle. I turned the valve and the helium shot into the condom, which serendipitously shot out the open patio door at about Mach 4. A condom, unlike a balloon, has a wide opening that doesn’t fit tightly on a helium tank regulator’s nozzle. Of course–now–that was obvious. To make matters worse, the condoms were either slimy or powdery or both.

One after another, the condoms torpedoed off the nozzle and landed several hundred feet away, on a very badly placed street sign. We tried everything from fastening the condoms on the nozzle with rubber bands to duct tape to potato chip bag clips, to no avail. Claudia and I were soon contorting our two bodies into one, with twenty condom-clasping phalanges. Still, nothing worked.

After a few hundred more mishaps, I stood at the kitchen sink washing two dozen condoms to make them less slippery and decidedly less powdery. That worked.

Shortly after the last condom was filled to capacity with helium and tethered by a color-coordinated ribbon, Claudia and I, attired in our hippy garb and knee-length jet black wigs, pushed, shoved, and crammed the “balloons” into a taxi.

The taxi driver sped towards SoHo to the Making Money Club meeting, but halfway there, a condom exploded in an odd combination of a slow fart-whistle mixed simultaneously with an unabashedly brilliant, titanium-induced blast.

The taxi bounded through several red lights in Little Italy; the wrong way down a one-way street in China Town; across two median strips, into two lanes of oncoming traffic; and finally settled at the feet of the New York Stock Exchange. Convinced that he’d blown a tire, perhaps because we’d suggested the rather obvious, however, misleading conclusion, the taxi driver jumped out and knelt down to inspect his tires. And then the proverbial light bulb turned on.

I did not know, at the time, that a person’s head could spin over 180 degrees, however, this was the case. We have no idea what he was saying, but his high-pitched screams indicated that we and our “balloons” were to exit the taxi.

As the taxi’s dust settled, three police cars and a posse of smirking police officers surrounded us. In the melee, Claudia’s wig had accomplished a 180-degree turn, and the more she tried to part the wig’s long black hair, the more she looked like the Addam Family’s Cousin Itt.

My wig had dismounted on the bounce between the first and second lanes and got caught on my belt and hung there–that’s it–just hung there. In the meantime, my headband had wound around the bouquet of withering condoms and encased my wrists in peace-loving-hand-painted-glass-blown beads, which conveniently served as dual-purpose handcuffs.

I’d like to say that Claudia and I are eating at a pizza stand in the Garment District instead of Le Bernardin’s because of the police escort to the Making Money Club or because of the bad wigs and the wilted condoms; I’d like to say that we are eating pizza because we sunk $1,500 into, what I affectionately call, the condom caper; or that we have become post-apocalyptic pizza aficionados. Yes, I’d like to say…well, let’s just leave it there…

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