It was lunchtime, and we were parked alongside a back road under the shade of a large tree. Some of the guys were sitting on the trailer, while others were perched on the edge of the truck. A lone car drove by and disappeared.
As I wolfed down my sandwich, I reached into my lunchbox and pulled out a small box. Crew Leader Carl was sitting beside me, and he watched as I tore off the top.
“What you got there?” he asked.
I held up the box. “Cracker Jack. My girlfriend bought a case at the store. I guess she got a deal on them.”
“Huh,” Carl said, crunching into a green apple. He had to bite with the side of his mouth because of all the teeth he was missing. “I used to eat that stuff when I was younger. I always liked the prizes best.”
“Oh, that’s right,” I said. “I forgot they came with prizes.”
I dumped some Cracker Jack into my hand and crunched it. Then I shook the box, trying to dredge up the prize.
“Find it?” Carl asked.
I reached in and pulled out a slip of square paper.
“I guess so,” I said, frowning.
“What’s that?” Carl asked.
“I don’t know.” I held the paper close, examining it. “I think you’re supposed to peel off this layer.”
Peeling the paper back revealed text and some numbers.
“What in the world?” I said.
“I think it’s a digital code,” called Stan, who was sitting on the edge of the trailer, watching us. “You know, you’re supposed to download their app to your phone and use it for that. They’ve been giving those out now instead of tangible prizes.”
“Huh.” I shrugged. “Well, that’s kind of cool. I guess.”
“That ain’t cool,” Carl said. “It’s lame. When I was young, they had the best prizes. Rings, cars, plastic toys — whatever. I guess they don’t include those types of things anymore.”
“I wonder why not?” I said.
“Because some idiot kid would probably choke on them, that’s why,” Carl said. “Your generation is a bunch of clueless, sue-happy wussies. Back in my day, we didn’t eat the Cracker Jack prizes and then whine about our tummies hurting. It’s because of you guys that we can’t have anything cool anymore.”
“I hate to say it, but you’re probably right,” I said. “I think I missed out on a lot of the cool stuff in life. We were a little coddled growing up. Everyone was afraid of us hurting ourselves.”
“Exactly,” Carl said. “It wouldn’t kill you all to choke on a plastic toy once in a while.”