Once upon a time I found myself on the boardwalk of Atlantic City, New Jersey. I wandered into a souvenir shop to kill time and, there amongst the t-shirts and paperweights were coffee mugs and cups. One particular cup caught my attention.
It was a thing of tacky, campy, horrible beauty. It was a plastic cup with a domed lid and straw, unremarkable except for the decoration of the domed lid. The plastic was colored such that it resembled a woman’s breast, with the straw sticking out of the nipple.
Who would buy this thing? I thought. Would one drink milk out of it, or cheap rum and off-brand Coke? Is this something you buy solely as a joke gift for a bachelor party, or does anyone buy this because they actually think it would be fun to drink out of?
Then, if I were a perfectly sane person, I would have moved on with my life. But I didn’t. I did move on down the aisle of the gift shop, looking at seashell windchimes and bumper stickers and pens, but my brain was stuck on the boob cup.
It wasn’t a big store. Someone owned that store, and someone made merchandising decisions. Some guy, I’m going to call him Phil because he just seems to me like a guy named Phil, had a dream to open a souvenir shop on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. He scouted locations, negotiated rent, and built shelving and display cases. Then he contacted wholesalers (or they contacted him) and he made a final call about what merchandise would rest on his shelves. He made this call based on what he thought his target customer base would most likely buy, and what might distinguish his tacky souvenir shop from the other tacky souvenir shops on the boardwalk. In order to have this display or a dozen or so boob cups, he had to reject other products, because there wouldn’t be room for them.
What did Phil reject? What did Phil think wouldn’t sell as well as the boob cup? Is Phil proud to be a purveyor of quality faux-breast drinkware?
Then I took it a step back from there.
In order to have a boob cup for Phil to sell, someone had to design the boob cup. Someone had to decide upon the angle of the curvature of the breast and the amount of liquid the cup would hold. Color was a factor. The cup I saw was a distinctly Caucasian cup. I don’t know if it came in other varieties. I don’t know how many people argued over the color of the ‘skin’ of the dome, or whether the areola should be a tad browner or pinker. How many prototypes were created before the perfect shape and color was arrived upon? I picture a few guys having a heated argument about how far the areola should extend down the slope of the breast. Maybe one of them throws a chair.
How many rejected boob cup designs got thrown in the trash?
And who was it with a boob cup and a dream that took the platonic ideal of the boob cup to the manufacturer for mass production? Was it Larry? Let’s assume it was Larry. Did Larry shop around? Did he look through the phone book (this was before the age of the internet) for manufacturers and then call around asking if they had the capabilities? Or did he just sell the idea directly to a novelty item manufacturer? When he got his boob cups made, did he pack a suitcase full and go from souvenir shop to souvenir shop until Phil bit?
Does either Larry or Phil go to career day at their children’s elementary school and say what they do for a living?
It was over 25 years ago that I went to Atlantic City and saw this cup and I haven’t stopped thinking about Larry or Phil or the millions of decisions that went into the manufacture and product placement of this three-dollar cup since.
I’m pretty sure I’ve given it more thought than Larry or Phil. What do you think?
If you enjoyed this and want to read more like it, visit Lori at her website, www.loriduffwrites.com , on Twitter, or on Facebook. Lori is a National Society of Newspaper Columnists 2018 Columnist winner, and a New Apple, Readers’ Favorite, and eLit award winner for her latest release, “You Know I Love You Because You’re Still Alive.” She is also the author of the bestselling books “Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza,” and “The Armadillo, the Pickaxe, and the Laundry Basket.”