Man vs. Pop Machine

VendingHave you ever tried feeding a dollar into a soda pop-machine on a sultry summer afternoon?

There might be worse tortures – but none come to mind.

At anything above 70% humidity, paper currency becomes as limp as week-old lettuce which makes currency readers about as finicky as a child during their “I’ll only eat it if it is white” phase.

It goes like this:


The machines nibbles tentatively at your offering – but nothing happens so you wiggle the soft edges, trying to coax it into the rollers.


Finally, a soft tug. It’s like a fish trying to suck the worm off your hook. So you jerk the dollar back, tempting the machine to take a proper bite. After much interaction, it eventually does.


The dollar waggles into the slot.


The bill reader clicks its metal teeth while ruminating on your dollar.


It swallows the currency whole but moments later, a rumble rises from within the depths of its mechanical tummy. This is good.

But not really… Phhhtoooo!

Out spits your dollar like a mouthful of force-fed broccoli.

You retrieve it off the floor and meticulously straighten the edges, making sure George is oriented properly before slowly feeding it back in.

Pzzt-grr-thhtt-mmppth. Phhhtoooo!

Pzzt-grr-thhtt-mmppth. Phhhtoooo!

Pzzt-grr-thhtt-mmppth. Phhhtoooo!

The definition of a fool is someone who repeats the same action over and over while expecting a different outcome – which means you have made yourself a fool three times over.

Still, the lure of cold soda pop trumps the fear of humiliation. You try another bill.

Pzzt-grr-thhtt-mmppth. Phhhtoooo!


Pzzt-grr-thhtt-mmppth. Phhhtoooo!

And Again.

Just as you despair that some things are not meant to be, you spot a nearby candy-machine.

A bag of Cheetos garishly displays itself behind a dirty pane of glass like an Amsterdam hooker.  The price is a mere 50¢.

Hmmm, two dollars for two bags of Cheetos yields four quarters in change for a cold can of soda pop. That works.

You feed in your first dollar.

Pzzt-grr-thhtt-mmppth. Whrrrrrrrrrrrr!

The spiral holder corkscrews your Cheetos toward the big drop, but nothing drops. The bag just hangs there, held by a burr of cellophane.  It mocks you.

Still: clink, clink.

Two quarter rattle into the coin return.


You feed another dollar into the candy machine.

Pzzt-grr-thhtt-mmppth. Whrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Now two bags of Cheetos dangle out of your reach, mocking you double. Yet you have a dollar worth of quarters, hence the last laugh.

You feed the pop machine.

Clink, clink, clink, clink, brump, thump, rumble, tumble, tud…silence.

Your cold can of pop has jammed itself somewhere in the clammy bowels of the soda pop machine.

Hot and frustrated, you locate one of those palm-sized manilla envelops and wielding your pen like a chisel, you scrawl across its face – $2 lost – GIMME BACK MY MONEY, YOU THIEVES!!!. You try to stuff it into a metal box mounted on the side of the vending machine…. but no go. The box is crammed solid with palm-sized manilla envelops.

As you ask yourself, how the world has gone so terribly wrong, little Ms, Sweetness from HR wanders into the cafeteria. She feeds a dollar into the pop machine and out comes both her selection and yours.  You tell her that the extra pop is yours – but she says no, it’s hers from yesterday.

Then she says, “Oh look, two bags of Cheetos.  Watch this!”.  She thumps the candy machine with the palm of her hand.  The bags fall freely into the trough.

Struggling to contain your temper, you ask what she did to make the machines work – but she just smiles sweetly and winks.

The machines wink back.

Author: Almost Iowa

29 thoughts on “Man vs. Pop Machine”

  1. I was going to leave a comment about coming down to Enzed, where $1 and $2 are coins… but I’ve had too much fun reading the comment thread.

    1. The name fits but sadly there is too much competition for the role and the name was taken years ago.

      Speaking of the devil, I have a great quip:

      Q. Do you know what the problem is with selling your soul to the devil?

      A. The long, long lines.

        1. Now, now, now as an employee of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the good people at the DMV are my esteemed colleagues.

          I work for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), if you have read any of the John Sanford mystery thriller novels (Prey series), you will know who we are. As the state’s counter-part to the FBI, we are tough, disciplined and scared of nothing – nothing but the DMV that is.

  2. You can never win against the machines. A long time ago I used to work at a place with a faulty vending machine. It was one of those refrigerated machines and it had plastic doors you had to slide open to grab the sandwich/snack. I don’t remember how I figured it out, but I found that if you put in your quarters and then jiggled the coin return lever with one hand while jiggling one of the plastic doors with the other hand, the quarters would drop into the coin return slot and the plastic door would slide open. It was a great machine. The job wasn’t so good and when I eventually got laid off I missed the machine more than I did any of my co-workers.

  3. That’s why we here north of the border have an advantage – our 1 and 2 dollar forms of currency are coins. The Looney. And the Tooney. I kid you not. The vending machines are identical, however. Vile, evil, demon spawn from Hades.

    Thanks for the chuckles, even though they were at your expense. Literally.

    1. South of the border, we have the “Susan” dollar coin, named after the suffragette Susan B. Anthony but the coin never caught on. Perhaps if it were named Looney and Tooney, it might have.

  4. Sometimes feeding a credit card in the parking garage can be just as bad, without the excuse of high-temperature limpness. Then, to add insult to injury, the machine will loudly spout “Your card has been refused.” Everyone turns around to stare. You think, well, it worked in the store five minutes ago…

    1. At the edge of Almost Iowa, just before the black-top ends, there is a car wash. It is where people who on dirt roads have to go to wash their car before showing up at a wedding or funeral.

      On those special occasions, cars wait in long, long lines.

      Why is it that the full line of cars can rumble passed the pay-kiosk but when I get there, not a single credit or debit card in my wallet is accepted? Nor will the machine take my currency. Am I the only person in town too stupid to bring a fist full of dollar coins?

    1. I would hope that the proprietors would have the courtesy to provide sledgehammers. Here, they provide 12 gauge shotguns with slugs….it’s that part of the country.

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