Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Trojan Health Care Center

This discreet and quaint condom dispenser by Trojan is an interesting design, as far as what it says about its sociological surroundings. Not only is there a condom stocked convenience store situated down the block from Alex’s, but one may also acquire some jimmy hats across the street at the Alfred Pharmacy. This leads me to believe that due to its orientation so close to the exit/entrance that this design is meant to, in the utmost respect, convenience people on the go. The design is a component of social ritual, sex, as well as disease prevention and population control.

The omnipresence of birth control methods today differs greatly from the conditions of past decades. Alfred is a seemingly devout place in terms of Christianity. This design may leave one to wonder that if this weren’t a college town would there be as many locations to get one’s Trojan fix? Of course there would. This isn't the Vatican. Though Alfred is a minuscule town, its post-collegiate peoples get the urge and are prone to the same kinds of hormone fluctuations as those of college-aged individuals. Though these urges are probably not experienced as often and not with as high of a degree of frenzy.

The design is synthetic, just like the merchandise is, and made up of white plastic. This, I believe is, as the pro-plastic commercials of years ago used to flaunt, to render the design immortal if it were to fall from the ceiling beam up so high. As far as ornamentation goes, it is sleek more or less free from embellishment- rightfully so. It boasts a logo that reads Health Care Center in a plain and simple blue typeface, with an indiscernible line below in fine print. That’s basically all a barfly needs to know. The open face of the design appeals to the concupiscent yet cautious customer who can see the condoms, as well as the prospect of leaving a clean trail, within reach. In viewing the readily available individually packaged methods of birth control, a person is less likely to trudge to another place to buy in bulk. Because of this design, the bar may jack the price of the condoms up a little. The bar may also make money if this dispenser is stocked with expired condoms. Because the surrounding environment of the design is dark (and rightfully so, condoms should not be not exposed to direct sunlight) it is highly unlikely that a buyer will notice the expiration date in the darkness surrounding the bar- not to mention drunkenly.

Having condoms in neat rows allows for the proper size to be speedily delivered to the client. However, the design is has faulted in its lack of labeling the various size offerings of condoms. Because of this, a special touch of human fingertips has worked to scrawl in permanent marker, from left to right, a span of five sizes from extra small to extra large. This man-made customization, perhaps brought about by evolution, is not the only quirk to the design. The actual dispenser only can hold four rows of condoms, which leaves me wondering if one size in particular is held elsewhere, perhaps under the bar in a bowl with prototypical snack peanuts.

Sure, the design is machine-made in a town where personal designs reign, but this dispenser says that computer-human interaction has not entirely dominated the lives of Alfred’s residents. The town is unique in its preservation of intimacy between patron and bartender. It’s been 82 years since condom vending machines were introduced* and while other bars may exclusively carry high-tech dispensers with LED screens at the bar, Alex’s doesn’t.

The design organizes a product that works to control population, one of the main contributors of our environmental catastrophe to be. However, the very condoms that it houses, and there is no way around this really, are usually not disposed of properly, and it is impractical that beneath Health Care Center, in equally sized-text, it would instruct to dispose of properly. The design is lacking in its promotion of environmental conservation in this sense.

I got over my unjustified sober apprehension of the bartender and asked when the design was first introduced to Alex’s. She then directed me to the back. The guys by the pizza ovens attested that it had been there "forever ... at least twenty years" and that it was "older than hell." I suspect that it came complementary to the purchase in bulk of Trojan condoms.

In the novel Porterhouse Blue a murder is committed on a college campus over an attempt to introduce a condom dispenser on school grounds. Hearing of this plot line has prompted me to investigate the history of such designs on AU property, as well.

To be continued...


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