I can’t give you too many details about the Tim Tam session. There’s a slim chance that I was taking my time, admiring the cliff-like overhang of the sides, pondering philosophical questions like which part is the Tim and which part the Tam. Although given it was an Indulgence pack, more likely I was inhaling them at pace. Left hand in the plastic tray before right hand leaves mouth. And change. And bite. And chew. Remember to breathe now …
It must have been during one of these breaths that I looked down and saw a Tim Tam that was, in the language of these times, completely unaustralian. Protruding from the whipped chocolate centre of the biscuit was a piece of bright blue plastic, dangling, a centimetre in length, taking on the appearance of a miniature ‘Slip ‘n Slide’. For the first time in my life, I was looking squarely at a blue-tongued biscuit.
My first reaction was to do what any sane person living in the 21st Century would do. I leapt from the couch, raised the half eaten biscuit above my head in triumph, and started screaming to my girlfriend. ‘Tam, we’re in the biscuits!’ (Her name actually is Tam. Interestingly, my older sister married a Tim, giving rise to a theory that after a dour childhood filled with Vita Wheats and Cheds, we are now seeking people who remind us of name brand sweet biscuits.)
‘What?’ Tam said. ‘In the biscuits?’
I showed her the blue-tongued biscuit and started babbling excitedly about the genie advertisement with the Tim Tam packet that never runs out and how with a digital photo and a letter worded with just the right amount of passive aggression, we would be in product for the rest of our lives.
Tamsin went quiet. Then she said something unsettling. ‘Aren’t you being a bit mean?’
Mean? What did she mean, ‘mean’? It would be mean to take Mint Slices from an 8-year old kid who was taking them to school to brighten up a pretty ordinary Stras sandwich. It would be mean to pinch Chocolate Wheatens from a housemate who had a date lined up later that night. But can you really be ‘mean’ to a multinational? I was struggling with the whole idea of corporate personality. As Steinbeck put it in The Grapes of Wrath:
‘A bank or a company … those creatures don’t breathe air, don’t eat side-meat. They breathe profits; they eat the interest on money. If they don’t get it they die the way that you die without air, without side-meat. It is a sad thing, but it is so. It is just so …’
We both agreed. Arnott’s did not breathe air, did not eat Stras sandwiches (the most depressing of all the side-meats). Sure they occasionally provided the accompanying snacks, but for the sake of a few digital photos and a letter that put the words ‘toxic’ (‘I’m not sure if the plastic is toxic’) and ‘shock’ (‘it was quite a shock!’) somewhere on the same page, it was worth a go. Sensing a bit of press paranoia might be worth a few packets of Water Crackers, I put the return address as Triple R Broadcasters. Back up the truck, I was thinking. We are in the biscuits.
A week later, we received a five-dollar Woolworths voucher. Attached was a letter saying the matter was being treated seriously and was under investigation. A few days after that, another letter arrived saying that the investigation was concluded. ‘We have analysed the item and it appears to be a piece of plastic’. What I had thought to be a miniature Slip ‘n Slide was in fact some packaging used to deliver raw ingredients. They were ‘committed to avoiding this type of situation’. They were ‘continually striving to provide quality and range’. They ‘wanted me to accept sincerest apologies’. They ‘hoped I would continue to enjoy Arnott’s range of biscuits’. As for ‘please find items enclosed to nurse you through what has no doubt been a difficult time’ – nothing. Not a cracker.
I might have been angry, might have delivered a moving soliloquy about consumer rights and corporate responsibility; about an itinerant snail that drowned in a bottle of ginger beer seventy years ago and how a five dollar Woolworths voucher besmirched the memory of that snail; about the fact that some biscuits aren’t just biscuits but are something more; how some biscuits are barometers for national pride.
But by the end of the letter I was too bored to really feel anything. Besides, my actual loss was just one biscuit. The ex-lawyer in me might shout that pain and suffering needs to be loaded into that equation, but who am I kidding. Even if I’d eaten the blue-tongued biscuit I wouldn’t have cared. The very next day I spilled Milo on the kitchen floor and ate that. And we’re not even what you’d call regular moppers. There has to be room for mistakes in society. It’s the attitude that helped make me the ex-lawyer I am today.
Okay Arnott’s, you have to admit that last paragraph was pretty conciliatory. Now send me some freakin’ biscuits.