Barry Smith: Irrelativity
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Dear Planters Nuts People,
I don’t usually write such letters, but I saw this address on the side of a recently purchased can of Cashew Halves and Pieces, one that I’m told to “address all correspondences to,” and was moved to do just that.
On the cover of this blue can, as you are no doubt well aware, is a top-hat-wearing Mr. Peanut, complete with white gloves, monocle and cane, standing over an array of cashews. He’s smiling like he knows something I don’t. Which is possible. Everybody knows something that somebody else doesn’t. But why be smug about it? Why should a can of nuts go out of its way to make you feel insecure?
That’s not my point, though.
You know how we all have our own collection of conversation-starter tidbits of trivial knowledge that we think will make us look smart? Like obscure word etymology and whatnot? Well, I have exactly three of those in my social ice-breaking quiver. The first is that I know the origin of the expression “the whole nine yards.” Doesn’t come up often, but when it does – boom! Life of the party!
The second thing I know is why records are called “albums.” This one’s rapidly becoming a bit too obscure, and it’s proving less and less intriguing with the under-20 crowd. They don’t know what records are, let alone that they may be called something other than records.
The last thing I know – and I always save it ’til last … it’s my ice-breaker encore – has to do with cashew shells. Cashews, you see, are always sold pre-shelled. Think about it – ever seen a cashew in a shell? Well, OK, I suppose YOU have, being in the nut business and all. But when I ask civilians this question they pause, ponder, then admit with amazement that, no, as a matter of fact, they haven’t! Thus far, a Planter’s employee hasn’t been present when I ask this question, so I’m able to delight the gathered crowd with this doozie: that’s because the shells of cashews are poisonous!
Keep in mind that I’ve been rocking these tidbits since the ’90s, long before the days when you could whip out your phone and look crap like this up. I’m kind of a tidbit maverick.
Thing is, though: I don’t know for a fact that cashew shells really are poisonous. I just read it somewhere once. I’m sure a quick Googling could solve that mystery for me, but if it turns out that they aren’t, well … then what am I left with? I’d prefer to not know.
Like many of us, I’d rather continue saying things that are wrong than have nothing to say.
Which brings me, naturally, back to your can of Planter’s Cashew Halves and Pieces.
On the side of the can, right under the mailing address, it says, “Please include code number on bottom of can in all correspondence.”
Now, when you say “code number,” I’m all over it. Reading a code number, any code number, makes me feel like James Bond. So, of course, I flip the can over to read the code number on the bottom.
But I neglect to put the lid on the can before doing so, causing the cashew halves and pieces to pour out onto my floor. This did not make me feel like James Bond. I considered salvaging some of the nuts, but there are things on my floor – things that could easily be confused for a cashew half or piece – which are most certainly poisonous. No need to Google that.
I threw away the can in exasperation, so I no longer have the code number. Didn’t have time to memorize it. I also don’t have the address on the side of the can, so I don’t even know where to send this correspondence. For all you know, I haven’t even mailed it yet.
I guess if I want the address and code number so I CAN send this letter, I’ll have to buy a new can of nuts. Which, I now realize, was your plan all along!
I’m sincerely in awe of your marketing genius. And now I understand why Mr. Peanut looks so smug.
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