Sunday 14 December 2008

Why condoms - even Hard Rock ones - make a bad gift idea

Previously in this column, I described how I accidentally exposed myself while jogging in my Goldlion boxer shorts.

I then escaped to Korea – only to have my family traumatised by the all-nude public baths there, which I believed was retribution for the jogging incident.

Looking back, I realise that the jogging incident might have been retribution for an earlier incident.

As promised, here is the final part of the trilogy and yes, it’s a prequel.

A few years ago, I was in the Thai seaside town of Pattaya, about 165km from Bangkok, for shore leave during a naval exercise.

One of Pattaya’s most distinctive landmarks is the Hard Rock Hotel. Like any tourist, I couldn’t resist the gift shop.

I was looking for something special I could give my colleagues back in Singapore. I could have easily bought some snacks, which is what most people do, but that would be so “uncle”.

And then I saw the perfect gift: Hard Rock condoms.

They were cheap enough that I could buy as many as I needed to give my whole department.

They were compact enough that even in large quantities, they could still fit into my luggage.

They had the Hard Rock Hotel Pattaya logo on each individual packet, which made them ideal souvenirs as well as hip reminders to practise safe sex.

And most importantly, they were on sale.

So when I returned to work after my trip, I distributed the condoms to my colleagues, including my boss.

The typical reaction: “Why are you giving me a condom?”

My reply: “It’s from the Hard Rock Hotel in Pattaya. See the logo?”

The response: “Why can’t you just buy some tom yam-flavoured snacks like normal people do?”

My gift of prophylactic wasn’t as well-received as I had hoped – and it was about to get worse.

A few days later, I was confronted by my boss: “What did you give me the other day?”

“Uh...” I was confused. “Don’t you know?”

“Well,” she said, “now I do!”

What had happened was my boss, a slightly older woman with the failing eyesight of one, didn’t read the words on the packet clearly and simply left it on her desk.

She then had a young female guest in her office and my boss offered the guest the little packet on her desk.

Stunned, the guest said, “But this is a condom.”

“What!” My boss was horrified. “I thought it was chewing gum!”

What if it had been a male guest?

If I remember correctly, I didn’t get a very good performance bonus that year.

So this time, when I came back from Korea, to be safe, I just gave my colleagues Korean seaweed.

I feel like such an “uncle” now.

- Published in The New Paper, 14 December 2008