During morning meeting, we frequently play a game called telephone. You’ve probably played this as a child. One person starts by whispering a secret to someone next to them, and one-by-one and whisper-by-whisper the message makes its way around the circle.
Now imagine you’re 27, and in the Casablanca, Morocco airport. You need a tampon. None of the duty free shops sell them - but don’t worry you can buy cases of alcohol and cartons of cigarettes! Also, everyone speaks French.
You start by asking if there’s a pharmacy around. Pharmacy translates pretty easily, and you’re told there’s one outside the airport. Ok. Onto the next plan.
You start asking for “feminine hygiene products.” In high school we always used to say we were having a “feminine emergency,” to be excused from class. Now this isn’t an emergency, because it’s a perfectly regular occurrence, but when you’re about to board a cross continent flight - the elevation of need grows exponentially.
Guess what? Between your American accent and your lack of French, “feminine hygiene product” gets lost in translation and you finally, and basically yell, tampon. The woman at the duty free shop looks at me in horror and says - “They don’t sell those in an airport. We have to ask the others.” What happens next is the greatest game of telephone ever witnessed.
The girl in the duty free shop whispers to the girl in the Moroccan oil store, who looks at me, and then shakes her head. She then runs to the girl at the bakery cash register, whispers to her, she looks at me, and shakes her head. She runs to the line cook, who looks at me, shakes her head and runs to the pastry chef, who looks at me, and shakes her head. Now half the terminal is involved in this game of telephone.
I smile and slink off to the restroom in hopes that the two restroom attendants have a stock somewhere for this exact scenario.
I try “feminine hygiene product,” and “tampon” before the woman tells me she speaks no English. I frown and start to try to... mime? I’m miming what a tampon is to this woman. She’s miming back, pointing to her ovaries. Like a trained seal I smile and clap, and she ushers me into the bathroom stall and tells me to “wait.”
She comes back with a bottle of water and a thumbs up.
Women helping women - it’s been real, Morocco!