As we walked to the table I noticed the lampshades, the wall-art, posters, statues. They were all made of condoms. It was a bit startling but it got everybody talking. At the table I found myself sitting next to the bearded stranger. There were thirty of us, out for a drink and a meal after a long day’s conferencing. My beliefs mean I don’t drink, but I know how to lighten moods.
Indeed, I have a joke for most occasions and I started telling him one about a factory making rubber teats for baby-feeding bottles. Then the waiter came, handing over a menu which said: ‘and remember, our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy’. The restaurant is called Cabbages and Condoms, near the Central District in Bangkok. It was founded by a local icon called Mechai Viravaidya who first ran promotional campaigns to successfully reduce average Thai family size from 9 to 4 in 1960s, and then is thought by the UN to have saved 7.5 million lives as HIV/AIDs hit Thailand in the 1990s. All through promotion of the condom.
After we ordered food I noticed others were listening in as I carried on with the joke and the factory’s struggle to survive. Struggling - until the manager had a brilliant idea. To run condoms on the same production line as the teats, thus guaranteeing that more teats would be required. OK, the joke fell a bit flat, but maybe in a different restaurant….?