Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Revenge of the vending machine

The day was wonderful, and it was time for an evening drink. My workplace is blessed by the presence of a wonderful vending machine right by my own lab, serving the choicest of flavored milk delights. In it Wilcox farms sells aesthetically designed bottles filled with Mocha, Vanilla, Strawberry, chocolate, and old fashioned chocolate milk, and I gratefully insert a dollar almost daily, to enjoy a most refreshing drink, convincing myself that it’s milk, so it’s all healthy.

That late afternoon was no different. As I walked to the vending machine, I noticed that a colleague was staring at the machine intently.

I walked up, and discovered the reason. There it was, a nice bottle of chocolate milk, that had fallen from its slot, but hadn’t fallen down. It was stuck, and perched tantalizingly midway to the bottom. Neither in its rack, nor off it. If bottles could be demons, this one would be called Hiranyakashipu. But demonic indeed it was. It managed to tempt me, and I coveted it though it didn’t belong to me. “It’s a freebie, take it” urged a demonic inner voice.

First I tried the well-tested method of “kicking the vending machine”. I rained powerful blows (at least, I imagine them to be powerful. I suspect they weren’t strong enough to even break cardboard). Nothing happened. The bottle remained wedged right where it was.

Frustration resulted in more blows landing, blows that were angrier and increasingly ineffective. I even rose up on one foot, and leaped up to kick the damn machine, a la the inimitable Karate kid. The blow would have felled a (weak) ox, but the bottle still remained, unmoved.

I decided to resort to subtle strategy. Searching, I found a long piece of wire. I surreptitiously looked around, and finding no inquisitive eyes, pushed the wire in to the machine, to see if I could release the bottle. It was too short, and remained out of reach.

By this time my conscience was beginning to make feeble noises. “You haven’t paid for that milk, you scoundrel.”

My dark-side spoke to me in a sugary, logical and convincing voice. “Perhaps, if you put in a single dollar, and press the button to release the milk bottle ABOVE this wedged one, it would fall, and hit the one below, and then you’ll get TWO for the price of one.”

Human nature is weak. I succumbed to temptation once more. I inserted the dollar, and pressed the button for the milk bottle in the shelf above this one. I watched it fall. It hit the target, bang in the middle.

And then, it was stuck as well. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!
Cheaters, as a wise soul once said, never prosper.

I was frothing in rage, drowning in my own embarrassment, and panicking. The vending machine was much too heavy to lift or shake. So I charged at it, and rammed into it with my shoulder. Finally, one bottle fell off its rack. It was not the one I wanted. Damn, it wasn’t even the flavor I wanted.

But I got just my dollar’s worth. Humbled, I took it and went away, a wiser and (dare I say it) better man.

The next morning, I saw the attendant removing the wedged bottles, and fixing the system. I skulked away in acute embarrassment.

Never again will I doubt the power of a vending machine. It has made me (once again) an honest man.


Anonymous said...

are you sure the machne did not swallow your dollar and poke its tongue out at you ? :)
(what is this about kicking vending machines - or any machine large enough to be kicked - we all seem to do it believing something will give)

Michael Higgins said...

Hi Sunil
Another classic!
But I have heard stories of people shaking vending machines and having them fall on them. It certainly is not worth such a risk for a snack or a drink.

I have always wondered about the candy that occasionlly is just hanging off the hook. Anyone could buy the candy behind it and get two for the price of one. Why would the person who just lost the money not want to do that? My feeling is that most people visit the vending machine during a moment of moral weakness and when they see that thier candy is stuck they see it as an omen and repent.

Me said...

lol...been there done that...but i wasn't lucky enough to get anything....went and complained & got my dollar back....just one not became honest in the same way...;)

Sunil said...

Charu.......the machine positively laughed at me.

Michael.....i don't know, but i'm blaming it on the demonic powers of a hanging candy bar or a balancing bottle. Strange powers the dark side has. are a good person! :-)

gawker said...

why didn't u procure the wedged bottles from the attendant since they rightfully belonged to you? After all, the crime was already commited. You should at least have benefited from it.

Sunil said...

it was the shame.........i couldn't face him (the thought crossed my mind many times).

Anonymous said...

Hitting it from the side, if its possible, is always the best strategy! But you do have to hit hard. I have tried it and it worked, of course with my own legitimate bag of chips which got stuck .. not that we are passing judgement here.. ;-)

Anonymous said...

This happened in like 1999 when I was interning at a tech giant in California. In the evening, to have a moment of relish in the lonely building (it was the dot-com boom - so regular employees would hardly work; as an intern, I had a lot of work - read "CHAT"), I would go to the vending machine, buy a pop-corn or some chips ($0.80).

One day, I bought "Doritos". It got stuck at the edge. So I thought, maybe if I buy one more, that one will make the first one drop further. The second one got stuck. Finally after multiple attempts and $4 in expense, I got multiple Doritos(read 3 or 4) to savor. "Persistence and Hard Work Prevails".

I still have not told you the story when the vending machines would eat your money and sit quietly saying "Out of Product" and then pressing return money/coins - yield nothin'

Sunil said...

mangesh.....i did that :-((

Anil...hehe......yes! But at least you got your money's worth, and your way to obesity! The "out of product" story sounds much, much more frustrating. :-)

Anonymous said...

Who in their right fucking mind is going to waste their stupid as lives righting about how a vending machine pissed you off you are a complete dumbass life shouldn't be wasted on your pathetic excuse of a person