Friday, October 23, 2015

"Peanut Brittle Or Snakes"

is a classic practical joke device, dating back to 1915.  My introduction to this comedic subterfuge came via an episode of The Bob Newhart Show (1972-1978, for which I wrote three episodes, but that has nothing to do with this story, so I am putting it in brackets, though I may take it out later.  Nah, probably not.)

Here’s how it works.

A cylindrical metal tin labeled “Old Fashioned Peanut Brittle” is presented to an unsuspecting recipient, as a gift, or with the invitation, “Would you like to try some?”

The recipient twists open the lid of the “Old Fashioned Peanut Brittle” tin, and instead of discovering old-fashioned peanut brittle, a giant “snake” comes flying out, to hilarious effect.  (The surprising “snake” is in actuality a coiled spring wrapped in cloth or vinyl sheath printed like snake skin, launched into the air the moment the lid to the “Old Fashioned Peanut Brittle” tin is unscrewed.)

In the “Bob Newhart” episode (from Newhart’s first series where he played psychologist Bob Hartley), Dr. Hartley is offered a “peace offering” from orthodontist Jerry Robinson, with whom Bob has an amicable but sometimes prickly relationship.  The “peace offering” is a tin of “Old Fashioned Peanut Brittle.”

Bob thanks Jerry for the present.  Invited to “Try some, it’s delicious”, Bob unsuspectingly twists open the lid of the “Old Fashioned Peanut Brittle” tin…

…and two five-foot “snakes” come flying out, frightening Bob – and the audience along with him – half to death.

A “confused” Jerry apologizes profusely for his “mistake.”  He had intended to give Bob peanut brittle, and had unwittingly given him “snakes” instead.  Jerry then replaces the offending tin with another tin of “Old Fashioned Peanut Brittle”, assuring Bob that this time, it is definitely peanut brittle.  And not snakes.

Bob is understandably apprehensive.  Persuaded, however, that there will be no surprises this second time, he twists open the lid of the  “Old Fashioned Peanut Brittle” tin, and…

Two more “snakes” come flying out of the tin! 

Scaring Bob and the viewing audience as much as the first time, and possibly more.  (Jerry once again looking on in mock bewilderment.)

Jerry then exits.  But not before placing a third tin of “Old Fashioned Peanut Brittle” on Bob’s desk, promising that this time, it unquestionably contains peanut brittle. 

And not snakes.

Alone in his office, Bob is seriously tempted.

But he decides not to try it.

Very funny. 

Until it happens in real life.

Under analogous circumstances.

An allergist recommended “Nasal Irrigation” to combat ongoing concerns in the sinus department.  The “Irrigation Kit”, sold in pharmacies and on-line, includes a plastic bottle equipped with a tube attached to a nozzle with a hole on the top of it.  What you do is you fill the bottle with lukewarm water, pour in the contents of a small saline packet, and then squirt the salty concoction into each nostril through the nozzle. 

“Nasal Irrigation.”  (And now you know.)

Does it help me with my sinus difficulties?  It’s hard to tell.  But I continue the regimen, if only to avoid having to lie to the allergist, or – which is more likely in my case – avoid confessing to defying his authority when he asks, “Are you still irrigating?”

Anyway, one day, I find myself out of saline packets.  So I call up the company and I order a “double refill” – two (hundred-packet-containing) boxes, rather of one.  As a precaution against running out again, and having to breathe Neanderthalically through my mouth till the replacements arrive.

I wait a couple of days.  Then a package from the company is delivered.  The “Shipping Box” looks bigger than I expected it to, but I presume it is mostly insulation, shielding the saline packets from U.S. Postal Service desecration.

I open the “Shipping Box.”  And I discover…

Instead of two boxes of saline packets, I have received twenty-four “Nasal Rinse” bottles.  (Intended, according to the accompanying Billing Slip, for a doctor in Vancouver, Washington.)

They had shipped me somebody else’s order.  (And had apparently shipped “Dr. Vancouver, Washington” mine.)

I call back the company, and I explain to them what happened.  They are sincerely apologetic, promising to ship out my order immediately.

I wait a couple of days.  A package from the company is delivered.  I feel instantly relieved.  I open up the “Shipping Box”, and discover…

Say it together, children…

Twenty-four more bottles of “Nasal Rinse”  (Intended this time for a doctor in Sonoma, California.)

“Are you frickin’ kidding me?”  (I scream inwardly, and maybe outwardly as well.)

This is insanity!  I am expecting to get one thing, and I am discombobulated by twenty-four bottles of another.

Leaving me the proud possessor of forty-eight bottles of “Nasal Rinse”.

What am I going to do?  I really need those saline packets.  I call the company again, demanding shipment of what I had asked for for the third time!  Persuading me not to cancel my order, I am assured that this time, it will be right.

So here I am.  Awaiting the third delivery of my original order.

I am hoping it isn’t “snakes”.

But, if you’ll remember…

So was Bob Hartley.

(Climactic Payoff:  As a marital prank, Bob brings home the third tin of “Old Fashioned Peanut Brittle” Jerry gave him, presenting it as a gift to his wife Emily.  Appreciative, Emily twists open the lid of the “Old Fashioned Peanut Brittle” tin, as Bob struggles desperately to stifle a giggle.  And she discovers…

…old-fashioned peanut brittle. 

Sneaky Jerry has done it to him again. 

This time, without snakes.)

Follow-Up:  Acting on a commenter's suggestion, I read an article about naming medicines.  But I remain in the dark about two questions.

Why do they give prescription medicines meaningless names?  And having decided to do so, how do they come up with those meaningless names?

Let me know, if you know.  Then, I'll know.

Thank you.


Jimbo said...

I kept saying, "Go Jays!," so they did.

With the Cubs gone, too, I have no more interest in the post-season. Now, I just say "Go!"

Joseph Thvedt said...

Why do they give prescription medicines meaningless names?

They want names that are completely new so they can copyright the word.

Joseph Thvedt said...

I meant "trademark the word."

Anonymous said...

I thought they just played a drinking game to name medicines.

Take twenty shots of vodka and then try and pronounce former Russian states and towns. Each time it comes out sounding normal they take another shot of vodka.