Sliced Bread

INDEX to Bites from the book "Sliced Bread"

Condom complaints department

From "Sliced Bread" by Rosemary Phillips

"Sliced Bread" a book by Rosemary Phillips
"Why don't you get a job for a few weeks?" Nana suggested.

That seemed like a very good idea. I was running short of funds and I didn't really know what to do with myself because my search for Ernest (Harrison - inventor) had gone as far as I could take it at that time. I went to an office temp company in Chingford, introduced myself and was directed to an old typewriter and asked to do some typing.

The typewriter had a few problems, several keys stuck and the carriage return didn't work very well. I decided to give the machine a little cleaning and played around with it to improve its performance and had only typed out a few lines when the manager came up to me and said, "That sounded really good. Could you start a position next Monday at the local rubber company? The personnel department needs someone for holiday relief."

They must have been desperate for workers because my typing was actually quite atrocious.

Early that Monday morning Nana put a fresh cup of tea on the table beside the couch where I slept and gently woke me up. She wanted to be sure that I would have plenty of time to get ready and catch the right bus to the factory. I managed to arrive at the office just before nine o'clock. The personnel officer introduced himself and showed me to the receptionist's desk where he instructed me on how to use the telephone.

Then he said, "Here are some magazines to occupy you in case you get bored."

I was puzzled. "Aren't I here to work?" I asked.

"Oh. Well yes, if you like," he replied, somewhat taken aback. "Normally temps just sit here, but I'll find you something to do."

By the end of the week I had taken care of some correspondence and was actually asked my opinion on the different people applying for jobs. The personnel officer liked my work so much that he recommended me to take on work in the typing pool as relief for a typist who had gone on holiday for a week.

My typing was definitely not the greatest, especially on the old manual typewriters, so I was hard put to keep up with the regulars whose fingers just zipped across the keys. All I had to do was copy form letters and put in personal names and addresses. Today this kind of work is done on photocopy machines and computers, eliminating the need for typing pools and all those extra workers.

The complaints varied for each of the products the company made. My specialty for the week was rubber gloves. I carefully typed each letter and inserted specific phrases according to the complaint. Each completed letter was then placed in a basket for the supervisor to check. The letters would then be mailed out with complimentary pairs of rubber gloves.

During lunch and tea breaks fellow workers in the typing pool shared stories about their different complaints. I was startled to hear there were also complaints about condoms. My mother had worked in the factory years earlier when we lived in London and she often told us about balloons and rubber gloves, but she had never mentioned anything about condoms.

I sat attentively and listened. One complainant explained that he had arranged a very special date, the mood was set, the lights went down low, and when he reached for a condom there wasn't another one in the packet. He was sent a form letter which explained that all products were very carefully screened under x-ray before leaving the factory, and that the company prided itself in quality control. Included with the letter was a complimentary packet of condoms. Another complained about a hole in a condom and asked the company to pay for the abortion. He was sent the standard letter which outlined the risks of condom use, emphasizing that the effectiveness of the product depended upon the manner in which it was used because condoms could be easily punctured. Again, a complimentary packet of condoms was to be included with the letter.

I learned two things it pays to complain, and condoms are not as safe as we may think.

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