Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Vending, Venting

Ah, the convenience of vending machines. I’ve grown fond of, addicted to, reliant on, and frustrated with these marvelous byproducts of the Industrial Revolution and the free enterprise system. In fact, the moment I check into a hotel, my first mission is to hunt down all vending machines and make a mental note of their contents and locations. I am on a first name basis with the guy who maintains the vending machines where I work. And, most importantly, having typed the last two sentences, have come to realize how deeply disturbed I must be. What follows are just a couple of the frustrations that I wish the vending machine and or the psychological community would address.

I really hate when I put a dollar bill into a vending machine, and it proceeds to spit the dollar bill back at me. I am in constant wonder if this is a simple (or possibly not so simple) flaw in mechanical engineering or just a sign from somewhere that I could do without Three more Musketeers in my life.

Once an acceptable dollar bill has been digested by the machine (which requires persistence, a lot of one dollar bills, or advanced preparation-that is, having a fresh crisp dollar bill that appears to have been pressed and starched like a fine dress shirt at the corner laundry), there’s the pavolvian drool of anxiety/anticipation that occurs after pressing the correct letter/number combination that triggers the polished chrome spiral mechanism to turn just enough such that the Three Musketeers are released from it’s stronghold, ready and willing to drop into the receptacle to fulfill my chocolaty desires. Alas, the stronghold is stronger than strong should be, leaving the Three Musketeers to dangle dangerously over the edge of my building frustration; increased exponentially by the following unfortunate recurring circumstances:

(a) I am not strong enough to beat/shake the vending machine vigorously enough to free the Three Musketeers from their dangled state.
(b) The only other cash I have is a crusty one dollar bill previously rejected (several dozen times), and no one in the building has either change for a dollar, or another dollar that the vending machine deems acceptable.

Anyway, enough griping and onto some historical facts about vending (extracted from The History of Vending Machines, which can be found on the Internet here.

Vending (or "automatic retailing" as it is increasingly known) has a long history. The Greek mathematician Hero seems to have got the ball rolling in 215BC, when he invented a machine to vend holy water in Egyptian temples.

The first commercial coin-operated vending machines were introduced in London, England, in the early 1880s. They dispensed post cards.

Vending machines soon offered everything including; cigars, postcards, stamps, etc. In Philadelphia, a completely coin-operated restaurant called Horn & Hardart was opened in 1902 and stayed opened until 1962. In the early 1920's, the first automatic vending machines started dispensing sodas into cups. In 1926, an American inventor named William Rowe invented a cigarette-vending machine.

Finally, since one of the purposes of this blog is to reveal pieces of me, here’s something about me. I was once in the vending industry. Ever notice those machines as you leave the supermarket offering prismatic/metallic stickers of action figures, cartoon characters, superheroes, and the sort? For three years, I worked for a company in Brooklyn, New York called “Stuck-on-Stickers.” We had an in-house art department that created the designs, which then were sent to a printing company for mass-production, then returned to us for distribution and wholesale to vending machine operators. I assembled and repaired machines, and managed the office and employees.

I must go flat-iron and starch my "ones" in preparation for tomorrow. Therefore, until next time, May God Bless You All!


jennifer said...

vending machines. i have a love/hate relationship with them. i love them because when i'm hungry they are always there. i hate them because they are always filled with the same crap. i can eat cheetos for only so many days in a row before i loose my mind! ;)

Daisy Doria said...

Oh God, I hate it when the wretched thing spits the dollar back out again, and I subsequently spend an age trying various techniques (smoothing it out, putting it in slowly/quickly) to get it to accept it. It is one of those degrading moments of one's day.