Fredericton — You all remember your first time buying condoms as a teenager. Maybe it was the pharmacy by your house. Maybe the cashier was the daughter of your Sunday school teacher. Maybe she looked at you incredibly judgingly, and you made it even more awkward by making stupid jokes and sweating a lot. Or maybe that was just the author of this article.
Regardless, it was never a pleasant experience. You’d bring a half dozen other items to the cash that you didn’t really want just to make the purchase seem casual. A bag of chips, a couple cans of pop, maybe a magazine or two (people used to buy those), and then you’d say, “Oh, and while I’m here, could I get some, uh…” You trail off, stammering, and awkwardly point at the condoms on the wall behind her.
“Some what?” she says, knowing full well what you meant. Is she really going to make you say it?
You clear your throat. “Some, uh, condoms, please,” you say, with the world’s most poorly timed voice-crack.
She looks you right in your eyes, but you’re now staring at your shoes. “What kind?” she asks.
Oh crap, you think, there are different kinds?
“Umm, the uh, regular kind. P-p-please.” You bury them in the bottom of the bag and hustle out of the store, terribly embarrassed for no good reason, and then try pushing open the pull door, thus ending the most awkward purchase of your life.
Well that was then, and this is now, and the Covid-19 pandemic still rages on. Now you buy your condoms at Costco, and a lifetime supply sits in your nightstand gathering dust. You’re an adult now. Purchases like that don’t faze you anymore. But a new, even worse item to purchase has arisen: cough drops.
Whether you’re a Halls type of person or a Friend of the Fisherman, it doesn’t matter. Cough drops are not something anyone wants to be seen buying during a pandemic. You’re simply not allowed to catch a common cold anymore.
Even if you’re double vaccinated, as over 86 percent of New Brunswickers are, the experience is still terrible. Mask firmly over your mouth and nose, you walk swiftly into the corner store by your house. If you go in too quickly you look guilty, if you loiter too long you’re being irresponsible. You make your way to the back fridge, grab something to drink, then grab a bag of chips. You head to the cash, pretend you’re trying to decide what you want, and a grab a chocolate bar you don’t really want and then a couple bags of cherry Fisherman’s Friend.
“Haven’t had these in a while,” you say casually to the cashier. They take a big step backwards and eye you suspiciously. Your throat hurts terribly and you stifle a cough. To sneeze now would be the worst thing in the world. “They’re for my daughter,” you tell them. You don’t even have kids. Why are you lying?
“Is that so?” they ask rhetorically. You’re already eyeing the door. Is it a push or a pull? You’ve been here a million times — why can’t you remember?!