In my youth, I would get a box of Cracker Jack and tear it open looking for the free toy or prize that was included inside every box. What excitement! I seem to remember getting some pretty cool things, like a spinning top, a magnifying lens, scuba equipment and a .22-caliber rifle, although my memory may be a bit fuzzy, because for a while there I thought I got my first car inside that box of caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts. Later, I realized that it was not my first but my second car.

Hoping for a new laptop, one with a lightning-fast processor, too much memory and massive solid-state hard drives, I recently acquired a new box of Cracker Jack. The experience was sweet on the tongue but underwhelming in the prize department.

I should have checked Wiki-pedia, which plainly explains that Frito-Lay, who has owned Cracker Jack since 1997, “announced in 2016 that the prizes would no longer be provided and had been replaced with a QR code which can be used to download a baseball-themed game.”

On the front of the box, right at the top, it declares, “PRIZE INSIDE!” I suppose there is no law that Cracker Jack has to use the word “prize” as defined by Merriam-Webster, which would be “something exceptionally desirable.” They don’t even have to use the word “inside” as conventionally defined. By those stuffy old definitions, there is no prize and whatever there is, it’s not inside the box.

Sometimes I tend to overanalyze things but, in this case, the entire product from package to prize deserves some up-close scrutiny.

Sailor Jack is featured near the top of the box with his dog Bingo. How is it that a sailor has a dog? I mean if you have your own boat of course you can have a dog. But Sailor Jack is dressed in a navy uniform, implying that he serves on a naval vessel, which would make having a dog problematic.

Furthermore, Sailor Jack looks to be about 10 years old, 12 at best. Even in 18th-century England, when boys were recruited to serve at sea (Boy Seaman, 3rd class — and other positions in the Royal Navy), a boy had to be at least 13 years old, unless he was the captain’s son, which would allow him to start his seamanship training at 11. This may explain why Jack was able to keep Bingo around, although the uniform with the neckerchief and white hat is clearly more reminiscent of modern times.

The only plausible explanation left is that this is the fantasy of a young boy — serving in the navy with his dog happily eating caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts (because that is what they do in the navy) while enjoying a major-league baseball game. The baseball game is suggested because the illustration on the box pictures Jack and Bingo half-emerging from a baseball, like a stripper from a cake at a bachelor party. Well, not exactly like that but who can resist the comparison?

So today inside the box we find not a laptop but a small, sealed paper packet that states “Blipp a Surprise” and invites you to lift and peel back the corner. Inside are vague instructions about how to Blipp a Surprise, which clearly state: 1. Download the free Blippar app, 2. Aim and frame your prize inside and 3. Reveal a fun digital experience. Right.

There was also a sticker that said “Surprise inside” and “Guess what’s inside?” (I’m guessing a surprise) but there was nothing that looked like it could be a scanning code and nothing under the sticker. One thing for sure, I was in for a “fun digital experience” trying to figure out what to download, from where and what to aim and frame.

Confusion ensued. I was directed to the wrong application and later got bogged down in the study of the massive Terms of Service and the Privacy Policy. There were too many probing questions and permissions. I never got to that electronic baseball game.

So what have we learned? After a good deal of thought, we have to conclude that the Cracker Jack prize is really the gift of a valuable life lesson. Specifically: There is no free prize. And to help you get that bitter taste of a life lesson out of your mouth, there’s always the caramel popcorn and peanuts. Not bad. Not a laptop, but not bad.