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.

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