Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 12.18.13
Stanstead, Quebec


Where'd the peanut go?

I was sitting in my kitchen trying to reconcile two ideas. The first involved a peanut -- the single peanut on the smooth surface of a freshly opened jar of what used to be Squirrel brand peanut butter in Canada and then became Skippy. I wondered how that peanut gets there.

This is a rare instance when the Internet has let me down, because I was unable to find out the mechanics of peanut placement. Is it a huge corporate secret, like the Colonel's eleven herbs and spices? Or is it simply that no one cares?

The explanation is probably out there, it's just that search queries like "peanut on top of peanut butter" won't get you too far because, as everyone knows, you can put peanut butter on top of anything and make it instantly more delicious (or deadly, depending on your allergies).

It was probably once a real person's job to deposit the peanut in each jar, and I bet this person had some specific title like "nut wrangler" or "goober topper."

What must that have been like, day after day plopping peanuts in place? Did the nutter (possible job title) take pride in his work? Did people joke that the job must drive him nuts? Did he want to strangle those people?

A machine probably replaced him, and, while part of me mourns the loss of the leguminist (could be), I can't help but marvel at the engineering and mechanics, the sheer creativity involved in devising a contraption to lower a single non-butter-molesting peanut in jar after jar. I think of that auto-plopper, of getting that peanut from where it was grown to its place in the jar, and I stand amazed at our ability as a species to resolve complex problems, peanutty and otherwise.

That was one thing I was thinking about. The other thing was my visit to the bank that afternoon, which, trust me, is not something you want to do in the weeks leading up to Christmas. You don't want to interrupt a day of damn-the-torpedoes shopping and sit in the bank to review your investments and, of greater concern, your debt. You don't want to see that sheet laid out in front of you outlining your net worth and realize that, without your house, you have negative net worth, that you are actually worth less than zero, and that, well, maybe the kids don't really need those gifts. Or food.

But we did go to the bank, Deb and I. We met with our account manager to see how we could lower our fees and better manage our payments (which I accidentally mispronounced "pain-ments," and, yeah, that seems right). Our manager was quite helpful, but my big takeaway was that, if we do all our banking on-line, if we eschew the old-school bankbook, we can save $2 a month.

That's a pack of gum a month. Maybe two if we go for the cheap-o brand.

I've never done online banking because, quite frankly, I've never had the need. Money goes into my account on payday, it disappears over the next two weeks, and repeat. I've never awakened in the night and wondered how my account is doing. I've never thought that maybe my investments would make more sense to me if I could stare at them blankly online compared to staring at them blankly in print.

The only real benefit to on-line banking was that we could transfer from one account to another any time. That and the Gum Dividend.

And so our manager set Deb and me up with online accounts. We had to go to separate ATM machines to enter our codes. "I'll race you," I said. Our manager then talked us through passwords and ways to transfer and how we could give names to our accounts like "Not Much In This One" and "Even Less Over Here." I felt antique. I felt like I was our parents and someone was showing us how to record on our new-fangled VCR.

At the same time, I was once again amazed. I was amazed at the unfathomable complexity of banking. Just think about what went into that single website tab that asked me the name of my first pet in case, flawed human that I am, I forget my password. Astounding! In a world that revolves around money and, perversely, debt, in an industry that makes millions off people who fail to opt for the Gum Dividend but hang on to their old ways, it's mind-boggling that even a net-worthless person like me benefits from the creativity of the machinery that keeps it all running.

I…am a peanut.

Except yesterday, I went to the store, picked up a jar of Skippy and looked under the lid; the peanut has been purged.