The Biscuit Thief

The Meenister’s Log

Happiness isn’t something we do, but something we experience by sharing our gifts and lives with other people.  This wonderful touching “Cookie Thief” story helps support the fact that our role is to receive, thank the Lord, and share the blessings we have received .Thank you to the anonymous author for this significant story.

The Cookie Thief

A woman was waiting at an airport one night

With several long hours before her flight.

She hunted for a book in the airport shop,

Bought a bag of cookies, and found a place to drop.

She was engrossed in her book but happened to see

That the man beside her, as bold as could be,

Grabbed a cookie or two from the bag between,

Which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene.

She read, munched cookies and watched the clock

As the gutsy “cookie thief” diminished her stock.
She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by,
Thinking , “If I wasn’t so nice, I’d blacken his eye!”

With each cookie she took, he took one too.

When only one was left, she wondered what he’d do.

With a smile on his face and a nervous laugh,

He took the last cookie and broke it in half.

He offered her half as he ate the other.

She snatched it from him and thought “Oh brother,
This guy has some nerve, and he’s also rude,

Why, he didn’t even show any gratitude!”

She had never known when she had been so galled

And sighed with relief when her flight was called.

She gathered her belongings and headed for the gate,

Refusing to look back at the “thieving ingrate.”

She boarded the plane and sank in her seat,

Then sought her book, which was almost complete.

As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise.

There was her bag of cookies in front of her eyes!

“If mine are here,” she moaned with despair,
“Then the others were his, and he tried to share!”

Too late to apologize, she realized with grief,

That she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief!


There are several variations on this

 When American folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand first discussed this legend in his 1984 book The Choking Doberman (new York: W.W. Norton), he referred to it as an “English story” dating from around 1972 or earlier, one he had not yet encountered in the United States. As the above variant shows that  it became  an American story, too. It has also made its way around Europe, Australia, and New Zealand since the 1980s. In a variant reported by Arthur Goldstuck in The Rabbit in the Thorn Tree (London: Penguin Books, 1990), a South African woman traveling in the U.S. mistakenly believes her biscuits are being “purloined” by a black man sitting next to her in a restaurant.

Wherever it may be told, “The Package of Cookies” (or “The Packet of Biscuits”) is a cautionary tale about prejudice and jumping to unwarranted conclusions. The supposed thief is usually a member of some minority group, be it a black person, a homeless person, or an immigrant, and the supposed victim most often retaliates in some way that proves personally embarrassing when he or she later discovers there had been no thievery after all.

The tale was famously included in So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (New York: Harmony Books, 1984), a novel by Douglas Adams, who was also known to relate it in interviews as if it was something that had happened to him in real life. According to a flurry of news reports in June 2008, a version of the story also turned up in an unfinished manuscript by novelist Ian McEwan, who expressed surprise when audience members recognized it during a public reading.

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Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

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