Sunday, July 24, 2016


I was in Shaw’s Supermarket the other day and saw, in their discounted items section at the back of the store, the most gigantic boxes of chocolates I’ve ever seen. Without exaggeration, they were the size of coffee tables.

Not realizing I was talking out loud, I said, “Who on earth could ever eat that many chocolates?”

A customer standing near me said, “Someone who’s addicted to chocolates!”

Her words made me think back to a time when I was addicted to a certain type of candy. In fact, I ate so much of it, a month’s worth easily could have filled three boxes the size of the ones those chocolates came in.

I’m talking about jelly beans.  From the moment I was old enough to grow teeth, I loved jelly beans. Back then they mainly were made by Brach’s and came in basic fruit flavors like lemon, lime and orange. There also were black licorice ones, which I wasn’t crazy about. But my mother loved them, so I always picked all of those out of the bag the minute I opened it, and gave them to her..

But during my adult years, I discovered an entirely new world of jelly beans…Jelly Bellies. Granted, they were barely half the size of Brach’s jelly beans, but they came in a huge variety of decadent flavors – everything from peanut butter or strawberry cheesecake to popcorn and caramel apple. I instantly became hooked. I couldn’t get enough of them.

I spent so many years munching on Jelly Bellies, I managed to single-handedly fund several tropical cruises for my dentist.  Still, having a mouthful of teeth with more holes in them than a golf course didn’t dampen my enthusiasm one bit for the chewy little morsels.

I remained a fan of Jelly Bellies until my friend Laurie, who lived in the Seattle area at the time, sent me a huge bag of jelly beans one Christmas. I’d never heard of the brand, and was hesitant to try them, certain they wouldn’t come close to tasting even half as good as my beloved Jelly Bellies. But to my surprise, they were even better. Their flavors were more intense, and they were much softer (and kinder) on my teeth and fillings. I immediately called Laurie to see where she’d found them.

“Oh, I get them at my wholesale club,” she said. “You must have them there, too.”

I wasn’t a member of any wholesale clubs, but I was determined to find out if any clubs in my area carried that brand of jelly beans. If they did, I vowed to join the club on the spot, even if the membership fee was $150.

“Don’t be silly,” Laurie said. “Why waste all of that money on a membership when I can keep you supplied with as many bags of the jelly beans as you want?”

And she made certain to keep me well-supplied. Every Christmas and birthday she sent me a 5-lb. bag as a gift. And when those ran out, I’d just zip off a check to her and she’d immediately replenish my supply.

Every Christmas, I always opened Laurie’s gift first, because I knew it contained my “fix” of jelly beans. That way, I could munch on them the entire time I was unwrapping my gifts. I figured the cantaloupe, banana, maple syrup and strawberry-jam flavors qualified as breakfast food.

But one Christmas, something happened that finally extinguished my craving for jelly beans. I tore right into my gift from Laurie, as I always did, then picked out five of my favorite flavors and stuffed them into my mouth.

“What’s with the expression on your face?” my husband, who’d just walked into the room, asked. “You look like you just caught a whiff of the septic tank.” 

“These jelly beans taste terrible,” I said, spitting them into my hand. “They’re like a combination of mildew and kerosene.”

He grabbed the bag and sniffed the contents. “They smell like leather.”

“They’re supposed to smell like grapes and cotton candy…and oranges!”  I said in a childlike whine.

Desperate, I tried four more jelly beans, hoping they would taste better. They didn’t. In fact, the mildew taste seemed even stronger. Even worse, the usually soft candies were so rock-hard, I could feel my fillings leaping out of my teeth in an effort to save themselves.  I checked the expiration date on the bag, expecting it to be, considering the hardness of the candy, June of 1985.   I was surprised to see a date that was still a year in the future..

That night, my stomach “talked” to me all night…mostly in four-letter words.  I blamed it on the jelly beans.

When I got up the next morning, I longingly eyed the bag of jelly beans, which still was sitting on the kitchen counter.  That’s when I noticed a “guarantee of satisfaction” printed on the bag, along with an e-mail address.  I rushed over to my computer and sent an e-mail to the company, telling them about their mildewed, leather-smelling, tooth-cracking jelly beans. I also suggested that just in case my candy wasn’t an isolated incident, they probably should check the entire batch under that code number, just to be safe.  After all, I didn’t want anyone else to have to suffer from the lingering taste of mildew.

The company contacted me almost immediately.  Their representative wanted details.  Where were the jelly beans purchased?  Did they make me ill?  How many did I eat?  Was the bag still factory sealed when it arrived?  Were there any holes or tears in it?  Any signs of tampering?

I then was instructed to go to a particular branch of their wholesale club, where they said product inspectors would be waiting for me and the jelly beans. I wasted no time heading over to the store.

When I plunked the bag down on the service desk, I got the distinct impression the employee hadn’t yet been informed of my impending arrival with the jelly beans. I’d half-expected to be greeted by men in dark suits and dark glasses who would whisk me off into some back room with only a bare lightbulb for light, and then interrogate me.

I explained everything to the girl at the service desk.  She did a lot of nodding, then asked for the membership number of the person who’d bought the candy.  I had no clue what Laurie’s number was, so she asked for her full name and state of residence.

The computer showed over 300 name matches, which popped up on the screen only one at a time, and in random order.  The employee stood there and read each and every one of them, one by one.

“This one’s in Florida,” she said, sighing as she stared at the computer screen.  “And here’s one in Pennsylvania.  Nope, nothing in Washington yet!”

Fifteen minutes later, there still was no sign of a Laurie in Washington.

I didn’t have my phone with me, so I didn’t have Laurie’s phone number, otherwise I just would have phoned her and said, “What the heck is your membership number?”

Five minutes later, I could tell, from all of the muttering and heavy sighing going on behind me, the people in line were becoming just slightly annoyed. I told the clerk to help them, that I had no problem waiting, but she said she would have to close the computer program before she could ring up anything for them, and she didn’t want to have to start all over again with the search for Laurie’s membership number. So the slow-but-steady search continued.

The woman behind me, who was returning a blouse that looked about four sizes too small for her, finally snapped at me, “I have NEVER had to wait this long in a service-desk line before! Are you telling me that all of this hassle is just for that one lousy bag of jelly beans?”

I momentarily toyed with the idea of offering her a handful of them, but decided against it.

Finally, Laurie’s address and membership number were located on the computer, and her purchase of the jelly beans was verified. The bag of mildewed candy then was wrapped, tagged and attached to a bunch of official-looking paperwork.  I actually felt a lump in my throat as I watched the little chocolate, blueberry, lemon, cherry and vanilla morsels being carted off to their impending doom.

“We’d like to give you something for all of your trouble,” the employee said to me. She then handed me a $10 gift card. I was tempted to head straight for the candy aisle and buy another bag of the jelly beans, but the fear that a new bag would be just as bad – or even worse – made me hesitate.

So I used the card to buy something else…a giant box of English toffee.

I heard that not long after that, my dentist bought a yacht.

                                                                  #   #   #



  1. That was too funny Sally@ And the tick in the underwear was just as entertaining too!!