Friday, February 25, 2005

The mystery briefcase

Tinyhands has been worrying about his behaviour on a date, and reading that reminded me of the worst ever date I had. I am not saying that Tinyhands was an awful date. I'm sure he wasn't, despite what he thinks. But this guy I went out with ... well, Tinyhands can take comfort from this story.

This happened a very long time ago. In fact it was so long ago that it was before I'd figured out quite what a date was. In any case, in NZ, at least amongst my friends, we didn't really talk about 'dates'. Dates were things that happened to Americans in women's magazines. We just went out with someone, and didn't have a list of rules to follow.

In my case, this particular time, I didn't even realize it was a date. I was very naive and very inexperienced. (I'd fairly recently sprung myself out of the very strict cult I'd grown up in, where holding hands before you were married was a no-no. Going to the pub was a no-no. Going to a restaurant/pub with a man I barely knew would have sent me straight to hell if I'd known what I was doing and it's a good thing I didn't.)

Anyway, this guy, who I met through a bunch of friends, asked me out to dinner. Thinking he was asking me out to dinner with the bunch of friends (i.e. that this was something everybody had arranged and I'd just missed it), I accepted. I didn't particularly fancy him. I thought he was nice, but that was all. I didn't really know him.

We arranged a time to meet, and on the day I didn't take too much trouble over how I dressed, thinking there would be a dozen or so others I knew there and that this would be a 'chatting with friends' sort of thing rather than a 'snag a man' sort of thing. In any case I thought I was unattractive to men so never bothered. (Why I thought so is another story, and not a very interesting one, but I was resigned to this sad fact about my life and it didn't worry me particularly. That I turned out to be at least partly wrong was a mixed blessing.)

The guy, let's call him Rob (because I think that was his name, although I may be misremembering), turned up at the appointed time after he finished work, and we set off for the pub. We were going to walk (planning to drink meant driving was out), but then a bus came along and we took that instead. He then left his wallet on the bus and we chased it all around the city in a taxi until we got it back.

That was the first thing. Not bad so far. Not great, but not bad. I'm a forgiving sort of person, and we all make mistakes.

We got to the pub/restaurant (late) and somewhat to my surprise there were no other friends there. It was just him and me. I felt a little awkward at first, but it was all right, really. We sat down to eat, and as we were eating I asked him lots of questions and he talked about himself. He also talked about his job (in a hospital), and about the volunteer work he did in civil defence. I was only vaguely aware of what that meant, but that was all right.

Rob was not a boring person, so that made up for my lack of conversation and we had a good time. Also, he didn't ask me too much about myself, for which I was grateful. I wasn't very good at that. So we had a nice, normal evening, and I thought what a nice man, he is interesting, and could be a good friend. (Because I didn't believe any man would be interested in me as a woman, remember? That didn't even enter my head.) We stayed until closing time.

All in all a reasonably successful evening, right? But wait! It wasn't over yet.

We paid, left, and started to walk home, keeping an eye out for a taxi. But after we'd been walking a while Rob suddenly realized he'd left his briefcase back at the pub, and after much forehead slapping and apologizing from him we turned around and went back. We weren't sure if anybody would still be there.

They were. The lights were on and some staff were cleaning up. We went in. Rob went ahead and asked about his briefcase, and I hovered in the doorway. He talked with a couple of guys for a bit, and then turned around with a relieved expression. "It looks like they've got it!" he called to me.

I went forward and stood beside him as he was thanking them. But one of the guys suddenly got coy.

"How do we know it's yours?" he asked. "Perhaps you'd better describe it."

Rob described it.

"But that could be any briefcase," said the guy, looking sideways at his workmate. "Perhaps you'd better describe what's inside it. Then we can be sure. We don't want to give it to the wrong person, and there's nothing in it to indicate who it belongs to."

Rob hesitated and thought about it.

"Er.... there are quite a few civil defence pamphlets," he said.

"Yeeees... And...?" said the guy.

"Er... a couple of magazines," said Rob, and named the magazines. (Nothing to be ashamed of, but I can't remember what they were.)

"Yeeeeeees... And...?" said the guy. I noticed that he and his mate were both looking very alert and interested.

"And, er... and a couple of scientific journals," Rob said.

"That's right! Aaaand...?"

Rob shifted from foot to foot and looked at the floor.

"Er... mumble mumble," he said, and we all leaned forward and demanded,

"PARDON?"

(Yes, including me, because by now I was really, really curious.)

"Andtwohundredcondoms," muttered Rob.

"That's right! TWO HUNDRED CONDOMS! It's definitely your briefcase!" said the guy.

He handed it over.

"Here you are, sir," he said, and looked at me. I stared back. I felt like a rabbit caught in headlights. I was in shock, and my eyes had popped out so far they were drying up. "Enjoy the rest of your evening, ma'am," he said, politely, and I boggled.

Rob and I left, not looking at each other. (And I just know those two guys collapsed into howls of laughter the moment the door closed behind us.)

And that was it, really. Rob walked me to my door in silence, and all the way home I was totally incapable of speech because the only thought in my head was a great big question, and I couldn't ask it:

"TWO HUNDRED? TWO HUNDRED?!"

And he didn't speak either, most likely because he was as embarrassed as he'd ever been in his life.

He never explained, I never asked, and while we saw each other once or twice after that, amongst friends, we never talked much again.

I lost touch with him years ago, but if I ever meet him again I am going to ask. I'm not young and naive anymore. I'm not easily embarrassed, and I don't care if I embarrass him. I want to know, because I've thought and thought and thought about this, and even though I'm not the innocent I used to be I've never been able to come up with a good reason (or even a bad reason) why anybody would carry two hundred condoms around in a briefcase.

14 comments:

Kines said...

That was a laugh of a lifetime. I loved the way you described it too. Must've been quite an embarassment for him and a shock for you!

tinyhands said...

Excellent story. I carry a duffle bag filled with condoms everywhere I go. To the cinema, the hardware store...

Cheryl said...

Not only do I want to know why they were in his case, but why had they been in his case at work all day?
Brilliant :-)

melinama said...

Yes, you need to ask. Call him up and ask. What have you got to lose? And then report back to us.

And also: would you like to try your hand at a "Where I'm From" - I'd like to know, personally...

http://pratie.blogspot.com/2005/02/update-where-im-from-meme.html

robotii said...

Funny story -thanks.

Badaunt said...

Kines: What made it worse was that at that time I believed everybody was normal except me, and so I was trying to learn how to behave by watching people. For a horrible moment I thought ALL men carried large numbers of condoms around with them (they were right! The 'world' is a depraved place!) - but then realized the guys' behaviour (in the restaurant) ruled that out. That didn't answer the question of why, though.

Tinyhands: DO NOT leave your duffle bag anywhere. You'll embarrass yourself terribly.

Cheryl: EXACTLY! Actually I wondered if he stole them from the hospital - but do hospitals store large numbers of condoms?

Melinama: I can't - I don't know his last name, and I'm not even sure of his first name.

(And I've copied the 'where I'm from' thing already, but not written anything yet.)

Paula said...

That was a great story, Badaunt!

Nynaeve al'Meara said...

this was a great story! i laughed so hard! thanks for sharing :)

stephen said...

Hey, Baddy...
Just curious about the cult. Tell me more... primarily to find out if it's the same one I grew up in!

Badaunt said...

Stephen: In the beginning: J.N.D. Now: B.D.H.

E.P. said...

Condom Story: ROTFL! ROTFL! As 4 what he was doing with all those, well, that's simple: in his spare time, he sold them (door 2 door, no doubt).

As 4 this cult: JND spells John Nelson Darby (but I wasn't aware there was a religious group calling itself that; usually, they call themselves Plymouth Brethren); and who KNOWS what BDH stands for. In any case, Google is no help at all on this. Perhaps this cult is internet-shy (luddism being one of its distinguishing features)?

You know what would make fascinating reading, Aunty? How you managed to recognize them as a cult and disentangle yourself from their clutches (psychologically). I have a keen interest in the mindset of cult followers and leaders (my mother having grown up under a national cult, viz. Nazism), and would eat up whatever you wrote about. Also, your own thoughts about cults in general (I have read "objective" materials about that, but to hear it from an "insider" would be a new perspective).

Badaunt said...

E.P. JND is Darby, and it's not the name of the cult. And yes, they are Internet-shy, but not lawyer-shy, so I can't write about them. They sue. I could do without the hassle.

As for how I recognized them as a cult: the short answer is that I didn't. I was kicked out by proxy with half the family when my father was kicked out, and learned enough about life on the outside to never want to go back. It's not a cult you join, it's one you're born into. It's vanishingly rare for anybody to join.

Have you ever lived in another country? Leaving a cult is a bit like the first year or two. Culture shock galore.

E.P. said...

>>>They sue.<<< YOUCH! Yes, I know all about that from this end: SCP wrote a book against an offshoot of a Chinese preacher's group, and promptly, they found themselves in the middle of a nasty court case (which they unfortunately lost). Upshot: their book had to be withdrawn from all bookstores, libraries, etc. (So much for the American claim of freedom of speech.)

And yes, I lived in France 4 a year; the longer I was there, the more alien it felt to me (I'm simply not Gallic; too Germanic at the core). In any case, it's good that you escaped. (And it perhaps explains why you're all the way over in Japan, LOL! "Get as FAR away from that cult as possible!!!")

stephen said...

Ok, so not the same as mine, which was Christadelphian. Ditto the cult thing, they've got it nicely wrapped up so you can't see the 'cultness' from the inside.

I wanted to get out from about 13 yrs old, which was the point my brain started to work properly and I realised that their life was not a good one. I had to wait until I was 16 or so before I actually got out - when I was physically able to stand up to my father and stop him from beating me into submission.