with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Kotex and THE HEAT IS ON – Someone Check the Calendar!

Would someone out there please check the calendar for me. I know there is a screw up somewhere. Talk to the calendar administration folks covering calendar and seasonal activity in Israel for me, okay. Something is terribly wrong here.
I know it is the first of March. March. Rushes in like a lion or something like that. Right? Well, here in Israel it is July and I would like to officially file a protest.
It began on Friday and continued to get worse all through the weekend. I thought for sure it was global warming on my doorstep yesterday when the Ben Gurion Airport weather monitor gave the temperature at nine in the morning at 28C (freaking hot in Fahrenheit!). The news predicted it would pass 31C but I’m sure it was hotter in many places, like outside my window.
Yes, the shurav is here. Isn’t it a bit early? I hate these hot wave spells in February. It’s really been an incredibly warm winter with only a few days of minor cool. People are still freaked out that I am going barefoot in sandals, but folks, it’s t-shirt weather in January. Oh, I miss cold. I actually had the heat on in the apartment for 20 minutes so far this winter. That was because someone who visited us for 20 minutes had thin skin. It wasn’t on at all last year except to test to see if it worked after they spent half the summer repairing my air conditioning unit. I want to turn on the air conditioner right now.
The trisseem (shutters) are closed up tight and I’m sitting in the dark with all the southern exposure windows shut tight. Brent says it is like a dungeon in here and I need to have my desk lamp on all day long, but that is the only way to avoid the heat and keep my sanity. I wish there was somewhere else in this small apartment to put my office. Of course the only place for a polar bear like me is next to the huge southern windows.
Enough with my constant whining about heat, but after four years of eternal heat – I want some COLD!
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For the past few weeks Tel Aviv and much of Israel has been covered from head to toe, from billboard to bus banner with bright white signs and posters featuring bright red bikini panties, juice red strawberries, and shiny red hearts combined with the word “Kotex”. That’s right, the old Kotex of our childhood is making a major comeback and Israel is a prime target. They’ve completely revamped their style, packaging, and ad campaign to be fun and cute. So I fell for it and bought a pack of the new Kotex tampons.
They look clean and fun on the outside, the box all white with red and black print and designs. I opened it up and the tampons are similar to the OB-insert-it-yourself-no-applicator type, which is nice because it minimizes the trash from sanitary products. Each tampon is wrapped tightly in a twist-off plastic wrapper which is clear with bright red strawberries or hearts on each one. Mine came with equal quantities of strawberries and hearts. I laughed at the silliness of them and grabbed a handful and tossed them on the counter by the door to put in my purse for going out later. My friend Maureen came by and noticed them. “Are they candies?” I looked again. They certainly looked like candy, all red and white little plastic wrapped candies. Then I thought about the consequences of having something that looked like candy in the bathroom around children. Could you imagine what would happen if a small child managed to swallow one of those? Yikes!
Maureen told me about her son, when he was very young, finding a stash of tampons in the bathroom. She came home from a quick run to the store to find a row of colorful bottles in the front window, each one a different shape and hosting different colored liquids, and each one filled with an expanded tampon. A bit panicked and confused, she came in and asked him about the bottles. He explained he had found them and read that these things could absorb 10 times its weight in fluids. So he did an experiment and filled each bottle with a different fluid: cooking oil, water, mayonnaise, etc. Then he put one in each bottle to test how much they would absorb. He never asked what they were really for, and Maureen didn’t have the heart to explain their true purpose right then, but did wonder what the neighbors thought seeing all these tampons in a bottle lined up on the front window sill. Obviously, his brilliance was spotted early in life.
Showing these candy tampon packages to Brent that evening, he laughed and agreed they looked like candy. How strange. Then I showed him the instruction MANUAL that came with the package. It appears deceptively small but actually hosts 13 different languages including English, Czech, Russian, Ukranian, Hebrew, Arabic, French, and Greek. As with all over-translated instructions, the English is hysterical.
The first instruction is to wash your hands. Brent and I laughed about that. “Be sure to wash before and after touching!” he warned. Sure it’s a good thing to do, but the simplicity of it cracked us up. The second instruction began with “Pull the withdrawal cord so it hangs down. Check that the strings are knotted together and firmly attached.” Okay, first: the “withdrawal cord”? Brent laughed. “Well, they have to call it something!”
“Yeah, but withdrawal cord? Why not just ‘string’ or ‘cord’? Why call it withdrawal cord?”
“Makes it sound more important and official that way,” Brent is used to funny names for the simplest of things in the aircraft repair business. A rivet is called a “high lock”.
The last part of the instruction about checking the strings really had me laughing. “So they want you to be the quality control officer for them? ‘Hey, check to see if we made this right, okay!’ Honestly!”
Another series of instructions had me on the floor with giggles. “Now find a comfortable position for insertion…inserting as far as possible…if the tampon can no longer be felt, it has been inserted correctly.” Right, how about a comfortable position laying on the floor laughing? Or twisting about in a tiny toilet stall designed for children? That was funny enough, but the idea of pushing it in until you can’t feel it any more – if you are pushing it in with your finger on it, what happens to make you lose contact? “If you are pushing on it and suddenly can’t feel it, where does it go?”
“It gets sucked in by the great vagina sucking monster,” Brent wisely informed me.
You can tell we had a good time with this. I then noticed a very strange comment in the warning: Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is an extremely rare, but serious disease that can occur in men, women and children, sometimes resulting in death. Some cases of TSS have been associated with the use of tampons.
Okay, I’m just ignorant on this one. I know about TSS. It was the fear of the 1980s when tampons great to overwhelming popularity and young active women would stuff a couple up there to make sure they could go about their activities without the inconvenience of stopping and changing tampons every hour or two, and occasionally one would get lost up there and become infected and gross. It only happened in a few rare cases, but the age of litigation that we currently live in continues to put warnings on products about things which only happen to two people. But I didn’t know that men used tampons. Did you? I’d say that warning definitely implies that some men can get TSS if they use tampons wrongly. Am I missing something?
So we had a lot of laughs about this, as you can tell. Oh, Hey Kotex! I will admit that your ad campaign is delightfully refreshing, even if the darn things look like candy. As for their use…well, your instructions say that “they are designed to expand gently widthways, conforming to your body to give you complete protection.” Mine leaked. And hurt, and were awkward to use. I still have a half a box so I’ll give them another try next month, but so far, I’m only impressed with the ad campaign and not the actual product. Such is life in the world of manmade stuff.
Tel Aviv, Israel

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