Thursday, September 9, 2010

Archives. August 2002. Batteries Not Included

After a long week in the office with my new high-tech roommates, I am finally getting the hang of just how much they're changing my life for the better. This is one of the archives they rescued from the Wreckage. It's the first real light I've seen at the end of the long, tech tunnel since the day the hard drive crashed because this particular column was really, truly, buried. The file wasn't named correctly and it's about ten years old. If they found it, there are probably others.

You are NOT supposed to take pictures in this store.
I was just thinking of this column as I re-visited this particular store this past weekend with a girlfriend. Because of this first visit, documented here, I was proudly able to steer her in the correct directions, though I'd obviously become more jaded and practical with age, cautioning against the body stocking (it will just get tangled), and barely flinching when I heard the word "antibiotic" exchanged between two other customers shopping one row over from us. I was able to recommend the appropriate anti-bacterial cleaner she would need for her "appliances" (before the clerk could upsell her), and I was also able to warn her in advance that the salesgirl would be opening up her purchases and testing the batteries. (They look just like waiters with the peppermills and the universal motion for "say when," as they push every button. Waiters in surgical gloves.)

Batteries Not Included

“I miss nothing by not dating a lot. If I was dating, I’d still be single. I’d have just spent a lot of bad nights at Tony Roma’s.”
—Gilmore Girls

I thought I was pretty much embarrassment-proof, or at the very least, not-easily-shocked… until I went toy shopping at an “adult” toy store last week.

It wasn’t my idea. It was my insignificant other’s (whom, it should be pointed out, is a little lazy, and was in search of something to lighten his “workload”).

I’m sure most couples probably do the shopping together for this sort of thing — to get into the spirit — but we both have jobs. We’d be lucky to get enough time to find a use for the toys; if we had to coordinate a shopping trip, it’d never happen.

I’d been to this store before, of course — for staff Gift Cards at Christmas (I’m a coworker who can be counted on for gifts that keep on giving) — that’s when I found out that they don’t take checks, and I got stuck using my Mom’s Visa which was in my purse because of some shopping excursion she’d sent me on for scrapbooking supplies at some MarthaStewart sale — and then I had to explain it to her, before the bill arrived. (It’s a testament to her easygoing Episcopalian nature that she thought the whole thing was funny.)

But I hadn’t been toy shopping at this place, just a quick in and out (as it were).

My friend Pothead Paul had endorsed this store as “the Disneyland of Porn” and had assured me it was clean, well-lighted, with wholesome and helpful staff. I think maybe he even said there was an old fashioned soda fountain in the back (or maybe I imagined it, thinking it lent whole new meaning to egg cremes and soda jerks).

So, after his assurances, I hadn’t even felt compelled to invent much of a cover story (I figured I was “shopping for a shower gift” if I had to ask for assistance and the topic came up), but the toy aisle was helpfully marked, and conspicuous in its domination of inventory.

The array was dazzling.

Dizzying if you ask me.

Because of the sheer volume, it was difficult to distinguish between the vibrating appliances (which we wanted) and the more “life like” prosthetics (which we did not).

My eyes were glazing over in confusion when I finally spotted “The Rabbit” — at last a name I recognized. It should’ve actually been labeled with “as seen on Sex & the City.” (It only dates us to reminisce aloud that we all remembered the episode where Charlotte got addicted to her Rabbit and refused to leave the apartment, but we do.)

Admittedly it was tough to make out the fine print without my reading glasses (vanity and self-respect had to kick in at some point), but honestly, the bunny just looked too complicated — multiple features, buttons, switches, lights, and (I think) even a remote control (how lazy do you have to be?). Plus, the Calvinist in me just refused to pay $99.99 for the lucky little lapine (though the REAL Calvinist in me would’ve never even been caught dead in the neighborhood, except to eat at the conveniently adjacent Cracker Barrel — which probably gives the senior tourists something amusing to do while they wait for their hash brown casserole).

There were other impressive specimens too — one with a kickstand and shoulder mount comes to mind — but really, as my partner in crime pointed out, we needed to walk before we could run, and something with training wheels seemed more appropriate (I also think he just didn’t want the competition — I said he was lazy, not stupid).

I finally settled on a plain vanilla model (no bigger than a slim, discreet flashlight), and a pair of faux fox fur mittens (an impulse buy which helped conceal the rest of the merchandise), and headed to the checkout.

Where a line began to form behind me.

And then the interrogation began.

For the number of questions involved, you’d have thought I was trying to get on a plane with the thing or something.

First up, did I need the accompanying anti-bacterial cleaner for my “appliance?”


Hadn’t thought of that.

Anything that needs thoroughly sterilized at my house (like my garden tools, for example) just goes in the top rack of the dishwasher. That didn’t seem right though (and if it had, I suddenly foresee a lot of rejected dinner invitations to my house).

So, Yes, I allowed — as much as I hate upselling — I guess I did need the anti-bacterial.

Now. Would I be “needing batteries?”

Well, again, the Calvinist part of my soul was sure they’d be cheaper at Rite Aid, but somehow the 480 percent mark up of 15 bucks for a pair of double As seemed suddenly justifiable in the name of one-stop shopping.

As the line behind me got a little more impatient, I began to breathe a sigh of relief, sure I was almost out the door.

Then the cheery co-ed salesgirl grabbed the hard plastic clam shell of the toy packaging and, before I could realize what she was doing, much less stop her, ripped it open, proclaiming without a trace of self-consciousness, “we have to test your toys before they leave the store because of our No Returns policy,” and in one skilled practiced move she had slipped on a pair of latex gloves, installed the batteries, and was looking for the on-switch.


I see what they mean about the No Returns policy. It strikes me as highly reasonable, advisable even. (I can get why they don’t take checks either.)

But that did nothing to ameliorate my horror as she clicked it on and it came skittering and skipping across the counter toward me (sorta like those dancing wind-up teeth with feet?) — while everyone in line behind me shifted from foot to foot uncomfortably. Even the guy with the 70s porn ‘stache looked embarrassed on my behalf.

After everything was determined to be in working order, she unassembled it all just as quickly, like a marine efficiently breaking down his rifle, and slid it back in the bag. (I half expected a sing-song “I don’t know but I been told…” sound-off refrain.) Then she reached under the counter, grabbed another appliance that looked almost identical to the one I’d just bought and tossed it in, adding “here, these are free.”

I thought several things.

Like, why did I just pay good money for one if they’re free?

Or, did I seem like a two-toy twin-fisted kinda gal to her? (I would’ve thought the Elizabeth-Arden red of my face would’ve given me away as a novice.)

And, finally, I thought, if the gals at the Clinique counter came up with THIS kinda “gift with purchase” I would spend a lot more time at the Mall, and buy a LOT more of their “all about eyes” serum.

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