Mercifully, all of this happened a long time ago…
When you’ve just scraped a two-pound turd from a baby’s ass, the last thing you need is a faulty nappy.
“What the hell’s wrong with this Huggie?” my wife cried.
I panicked and rushed upstairs. Did I buy the wrong size? Again?
“Hand me another one!” she hissed. “The strip doesn’t work.”
I took the dud Huggie and inspected it. The adhesive strip felt fuzzy and was glueless once you peeled it open.
“Jesus!” she exclaimed. “This one too!”
Our seven-month-old son was having fun.
“Urghgh-ooggle,” he said and kicked himself off the new Huggie.
I dug into the pack. Every one I tried was the same.
“They’re all like that,” I said. “I’m going back there right now!”
As I ran downstairs, my wife called after me. “Be kind,” she yelled. “And don’t swear.”
On the way to the supermarket I got worked up. Fuck them, I thought, and fuck Huggies. To start with, the supermarket probably had a policy about returning nappies. I didn’t even have the till slip. And they weren’t the real assholes. They just sold Huggies. It’s Huggies I wanted. They made them. I imagined a board meeting at Huggies. There were pictures of happy babies along the walls and twelve fat men gathered around a long mahogany table, smoking cigars.
“Screw them,” the CEO said.
His name was Jeff and he’d been with Huggies ever since he left the hedge fund he used to manage.
“Every tenth nappy or so,” he explained, “on average.”
He blew a plume of smoke to the ceiling.
“The savings on adhesive will outweigh the cost of the secondary production line in about five months. After that, it’s profit all the way. Some packs will be all duds, but that’s just a risk we must take.”
The men around the table nodded and looked again at the nice graph Jeff had put up.
“Besides,” Jeff added, “no one will say a thing. They’ll be too deep in the shit to remember. And if they do, they’ll be too tired.”
The men laughed and laughed and agreed to give Jeff another million in shares along with his December bonus.
I marched into the supermarket with the open pack of Huggies clutched under my arm.
“You,” I pointed at a man who stood at the information desk, “come with me!”
In hindsight this was not a good idea. The man — let’s call him Henry — had such a weak chin that his face seemed to end with a bottom lip. No one with such bad engineering could be in a position of authority, even at the supermarket. I walked briskly to the baby aisle with Henry in tow. When I got to the Huggies, I turned to him.
“See this pack of Huggies?” I began.
“Would you believe that they’re all duds?”
Henry looked as though I’d asked him for used toilet paper.
“They don’t work,” I tried. “See?”
I took one out and showed him how the adhesive strip wasn’t sticky.
“There’s something wrong at the factory,” I said. “Because of that we’re left with nappies that won’t close.”
Henry took a nappy from my pack and tried for himself.
“I see,” he said slowly, looking puzzled.
“They’re all like that,” I said. “Everyone.”
Henry looked at my pack of Huggies and then at the many packs on the shelves.
“Let’s see if I’m right,” I said.
I took a pack off the shelf and ripped it open. The nappies were duds too.
“See!” I said. “There’s definitely something wrong! Have a look.”
Henry took a nappy from the new pack and tried the strip. He shook his head in sad silence. I took another pack from the shelf and tore it open.
“See!” I cried. “Again. Same thing!”
Henry scratched his temple.
“Come on,” I said, “don’t just stand there. Help me.”
On my cue Henry took a pack off the shelf and tore it open. We pulled out a few nappies but they were all the same.
“They’re screwing us,” I said, “and they think we won’t notice. Look, another one!”
Henry held up a dud Huggie, looking dazed and vaguely satisfied at the same time. By now a few onlookers had gathered.
“Big corporates think they can do what they want,” I said, out of breath as I ripped open another few packs. “And we’ll just do nothing.”
There were now eight or nine packs of Huggies of different sizes strewn across the floor.
“Look at this,” I said to the people watching us. “Duds. All of them.”
“Duds,” Henry repeated hoarsely.
“What the HELL is going on here?” a deep voice demanded.
A tall man strode toward us. He took in the scene with blank amazement.
“What’s this!?” he said, looking at the carnage around us. “What —”
“All these Huggies are duds,” I declared. “Every last one of them.”
I looked at Henry.
“Tell him,” I said.
“It’s true,” Henry whispered. “There’s no glue.”
The tall man was obviously the manager, and now he became very pale.
“Look,” I said, “the adhesive strip has no adhesive. See?”
“Get a trolley,” the manager instructed Henry. “Go!”
He turned to me.
“There’s no adhesive,” he said in clenched syllables, “because the strips have Velcro now.”
I felt a cold hand reach in through my stomach and close around my heart.
“See?” he said, and demonstrated how you simply stuck what used to be the adhesive strip to the opposite end of the nappy.
“Thank you,” he said to Henry who’d arrived with a trolley.
In silence we stacked the packs of Huggies into it and then they led me to the checkout tills.
“Twins?” a woman in the queue joked.
“Triplets,” I said. “There’s going to be a lot of shit.”