Like most offices, mine throws an annual Christmas party that features an exchange of secret Santa joke gifts. I am not particularly imaginative when it comes to buying presents for people so I usually end up contributing an assortment of mugs or T-shirts emblazoned with lame off-color witticisms These generally receive polite but tepid laughs.
For last year's festivities, I decided to be a little outrageous so I purchased a variety of items online from a dubious establishment called Bud's Discount Sex Emporium. It seemed like a funny idea at the time but it turned out to be a... um... huge boner, although most of my co-workers found them hilarious.
It's not like I had bought anything embarrassing or offensive -- no whips, muzzles or weird fetish stuff -- just a few items like bacon-flavored lubricant jelly, opaque condoms that said NASA on them, Ben Wa ball tree ornaments, something called "Clone-a-Willy," an "Amazing Fellatio Beginner's Audio," and "Eve's Nutz and Bolts Kit," which consisted of what I do not know.
Fortunately, the stuff was relatively inexpensive because Bud was having what he called a "Huge Christmas BLOWout Sale." Note the caps. Clever guy, that Bud.
Evidently, Bud's packaging department (which probably consisted of Bud and his wife) was overly concerned about breakage because the six small items I had ordered arrived in a box that could easily have housed a deluxe microwave; as I later discovered, the cardboard container was mostly filled with packing peanuts.
I first realized that my brilliant idea could result in some embarrassing moments when my local UPS delivery person -- a female -- handed me the huge package, which -- thank you Bud -- required a signature. I had assumed that the goods would come in a small, discreet unmarked box that would not have a return address label that read, in big red letters, "Bud's Discount Sex Emporium." I was wrong.
After I signed for it, she gave me a look that was difficult to interpret -- kind of a mixture of pity, bemusement and revulsion. My condo is part of her daily route and I get a lot of packages, so I was doomed to experience that enigmatic expression of hers until the day Amazon starts using delivery drones.
Hiding the evidence from my family was my first priority. I knew that my wife would not conclude that our sex life was about to take a bizarre new twist, but what would my kids think? I couldn't very well leave the stuff on the dining room table. So I trashed the box and wrapped everything in the only paper we had laying around which, since Christmas was still two weeks away, happened to be Bar Mitzvah wrapping paper, don't ask me why. Then I hid everything under a pile of old blankets in a deep closet.
Naively, I thought my secret was safe. This illusion was immediately shattered when I visited my Facebook newsfeed page. Silly me -- I should have known that images of Bud's sleazy merchandise would be following me everywhere on the Internet, replacing the images of the cashmere sweater and hiking boots I had bought two weeks earlier from different online vendors.
Now I had to look at Ben Wa ball tree ornaments and something called the "Candy Cane Christmas Dildo" on every single site I visited.
It was easy enough deleting Bud's ads from Facebook but they still seemed to pop up regularly on numerous other sites. Eventually, I just got tired of trying to delete them and decided there was a better way.
My better way was to buy a lot of ordinary merchandise online and hope that the sex toy ads would be pushed down the queue and eventually disappear from my screen and end up in some cyberspace advert graveyard. This was costly, but it worked. After purchasing a desk lamp, a belt, a Rand Paul voodoo doll and a pair of lederhosen, Bud was history.
Or so I thought. It's almost Christmas again now (I'm buying mugs again this time) and I suppose it should have occurred to me that Bud would sell my information to other sex toy vendors. The cyberspace advert graveyard was, in fact, only a cyberspace advert way station. Unfortunately, I did not have this awakening until two days ago when I took my Mac to the local Genius Bar for an oil change.
While my Genius geek worked the keyboard, I played three rounds of Words With Friends on my iPhone. After a few moments, I noticed that he had stopped tapping the keys and was staring at some random site.
"Dude," he said. "Do people really hang Ben Wa balls on their Christmas trees?"