Talking about the condom vending machine yesterday jogged my brain and brought back memories of when I was in Segovia a couple of years ago and was browsing in a souvenir shop located right across the street from the big 16th Century gothic cathedral. That’s the temple where they charge admission. It was the first time I had encountered the rising popularity of the pay-to-pray churches in this country. Perhaps it is the Church’s way of making a few bucks from those who view those buildings as museums rather than places of worship. On the whole, I avoid them on the basis that there are some places in this world that you should not have to lighten your pocket for. It’s just not right.
So, instead of spending a few minutes looking at some smoke-stained paintings and trying to figure out just who each saint was, I skipped over to the other side of the street to a gift shop and perused through the shelves and scanned tables to look around and maybe pick up an item. One thing that speaks in favor of Segovia, a major tourist town and rightfully so, is the relatively low number of souvenir shops when compared to the onslaught of trinket-traders that pounce at you in places like Toledo. And they are relatively subdued in their display and offer. Yes, you occasionally come across what I call the Bienvenido-Mr.-Marshallesque item showcasing the finest flamenco-ware available, and you can always count on the woven basket full of backscratchers which have the word “SEGOVIA” written on them in blobby paint. I am the proprietor of one, I can proudly admit. But this time what took me by the surprise was an item I simply did not expect to find on sale amid Slinkies donning the colors of the Spanish flag, wooden swords or coloring books, and that was a bottle opener whose handle was shaped like a penis.
Now image seeing that in a gift shop in the United States under the sign “This Week’s Special”. I wasn’t really shocked because I had come to know that in Spain people wouldn’t be ringing up and calling their local councilman to have them immediately removed from their children’s sight. In fact they would probably have gotten a kick out of it and I could easily see some Spanish 10-year-old calling out to his father with the opener dangling from his fingers, “¡Papá, mira, un pene!” and Dad replying, “Honey, stop bothering the customers and put the penis down. You might break something with it.”
No, what gets my mind rolling is wondering about the whole process that went into its manufacturing, from proposal to design to production and distribution. I mean this took some time and effort. My guess is that it was the brainchild of the son of a local successful kitchenware businessman, a classic Spanish entrepreneur who slaved for years to send his children to the finest schools in town and spent bundles each summer on English courses abroad, all in the hopes that one day the boy will be able enough to take over the spatula empire that he has created. This rarely happens. More often he finds that his son is 28 years old and has no future whatsoever. But he keeps him on anyhow and prays for a miracle.
So the kid, who doesn’t quite fit the bill because he has never had to do anything and has been drinking only the finest Scotch since he was fifteen, enters his father’s office with such a miracle in mind and says, “Pops, the boys and I were talking yesterday at the club last night and we have come up with the greatest idea. Something that says this company is adapting to the times.” The “adapting to the times” part came from a friend of his who will be inheriting his father’s car dealership and watches too much Spanish TV with his girlfriend where people are constantly adapting to the times for no reason at all. Clubbing was where they got their best ideas, many of which vanished over night and by the next morning had gone for good.
The father leans back in his leather swivel chair and puts his hand on his chin with his forefinger covering his mouth. He doesn’t change the posture for the entire time he listens to his son’s groundbreaking contribution to the company’s already wide range of products. Many thoughts pop into his head, most of which are unflattering and some criminal in nature.
He pauses when he son finishes and then asks, “Son, what the hell does grabbing a penis to open a bottle of beer have to do with being modern? Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t get it.” Then it occurs to him that if he says no, the kid will spend the rest of the day skirt chasing in the office, so he gives him the green light in hopes that will keep the boy busy for a couple of weeks.
Segovia, by the way, is a wonderful city with some of Spain’s best historical heritage. Don’t miss it.