Rage Against the Machine

VendingIt is a hot and humid summer afternoon. To save the planet (as well as a few bucks), your employer has set the thermostat to 79°.

But you need not despair, the lunch room hosts a well-stocked soda pop machine.

It has been calling your name all afternoon.

The thing is, you have no change and with the full knowledge that paper currency becomes as limp as week-old lettuce at anything above 70% humidity, you take your chances.

First the machines nibbles tentatively on your offering.



You wiggle the soft edges, trying to coax it into the rollers.



Finally, you get a soft tug.


It’s like a fishing.  You tease the dollar back, tempting the machine to take a proper bite. After much interaction, it eventually does.

Thhhhhhhtttt… The dollar waggles into the slot.

Mmmmmmmmppppth… The bill reader’s metal teeth click contentedly as it ruminats on your dollar.

Gulp. 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.

Zzt-grr-thhtt-mmppth. Phhhtoooo!

Zzt-grr-thhtt-mmppth. Phhhtoooo!

Zzt-grr-thhtt-mmppth. Phhhtoooo!

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

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

Pzzt-grr-thhtt-mmppth. Phhhtoooo!


Pzzt-grr-thhtt-mmppth. Phhhtoooo!

And Again.

Just as you convince yourself that some things are not meant to be, you spot a bag of Cheetos garishly displaying itself from behind the glass of a nearby candy machine.

The price is a mere 50¢.

Hmmm, you figure, 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 manila 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 the envelope into the metal box mounted on the side of the vending machine…. but no go. The box is crammed solid with palm-sized manila envelops.

As you ask yourself, how the world has gone so terribly wrong, 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 can 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


46 thoughts on “Rage Against the Machine”

  1. Ms. Sweetness and the Machine have been best friends for awhile now =)
    I love this story.
    And by the way, I wanted to comment on your post “The Old Man Who Death Ignored”, but comments were closed. So I thought why not type it here? Haha
    The character of my book (Gertrude) could have been a great side kick of the old man (but not friends, ofcourse). She waited for quite some time, too.
    I love the ending though. Keep on writing! =)

  2. The bothers and sisters and cousins of these machines came to live in the Netherlands too.
    The notes sometimes have to be few in one side up rather than the other, but with the same teeth grinding results. Worse, I need to use one of these machines to put cash onto my electronic work card so that I can pay for my lunch (we have a subsidised restaurant).
    It seems that the lower the account on my card the more the machine refuses to swallow the cash needed to replenish it, even in the air-co environment it balks at the note: just one corner creased? rejected!
    I feel your pain.

  3. In Italy we have such devilish machines at petrol stations. It’s 35 centigrade, humidity’s as sticky as in a bamboo steamer and those bastards will leave you there, sweating like a pig, trying to feed a 20 euro note in.

  4. Hahaha!! We’ve all been there. I never win the day with those vending machines! In fact, machines in general seem to hate me. It’s a phenomenon that even my husband has noticed. Things that work beautifully for him always make a mess for me!

      1. Me neither!! I think it’s because I’m left-handed. Or at least that’s what I blame a lot of my kitchen appliance problems on 🙂

  5. You have perfectly described my ongoing battle with the vending machines at the animal shelter where I volunteer. They almost always win, but I struggle on, desperate for a cold Diet Coke after walking dogs in the heat.
    I did like the HR character at the end, though! I worked as a sub in an HR office for years, and trust me, you don’t mess with those people…..They hold all the cards.

    1. Naw…. wait until they all start squabbling with each other. I spent thirty years trying to get machines to talk to one another and cooperate. They are worse than politicians.

  6. The best system I’ve seen in some time is located at an el-cheapo motel in east Texas. All the goodies — the Cheetos, the candy bars, the peanut butter crackers — are hanging on a rack behind the front desk, with a sign above them that says “Everything $1.” The sodas are in a cooler behind the desk, too. They’re also $1. If you have the right change, great. If you don’t, the desk clerk makes change for you. Let’s hear it for the hicks and rubes of the world — they’re a lot smarter and a lot more accomodating than many people think.

    1. “Is this a good place to work?”
      “It’s the best,”
      “How so?”
      “We have had an ‘honor box’ in the lunchroom for as long as anyone can remember.”

  7. It is said of females that “You can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them.” Apparently you feel the same about vending machines.

    1. According to several disreputable sources (the kind I rely most on) 37 people were killed by vending machines between 1978 to 1995. So obviously, they are fighting back. 🙂

  8. Ah, memories. I need to learn how to make my coffee machine brew two cups instead of one cup and one superstrong drip. But that’s for the colder weather.

    1. I gave up on coffee machines and went back to a peculator. I always like it when the kids and grandkids ask, “what’s that?”

      “It’s something new,” I tell them, “not even Starbucks has it yet.”

  9. haha! We leave little sticky notes on the confounded machines–‘you owe me $2–signed, Betty in HR.’ You know the soda guy loves coming to our place. PS: you have the machine sounds down perfectly.

  10. Satan’s little spawn…and I’m not talking about the soda pop dispenser either.

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