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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
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Ravings of a Stonewalled Caffeine Fiend

Look. I’m begging you. Please, for the love of all that is fizzy and potable, listen to my pleas, soft drink vending machine operators. Heed my words, and rescue me from this nightmarish torture that your diabolical machines hath wrought.

My anguish is twofold. Observe, o masters of the vending machines, and right the pair of wrongs that torment my thirsty, decaffeinated soul. Gather ’round, and hear the tales of woe I weave:

First, I have to ask — what the hell has happened to the ‘SOLD OUT’ indicators associated with each button on your machines? Look, it’s not difficult, dammit. We had this shit in the seventies, when the bottles were made of glass, and the machines were run by hamsters in wheels and held together with duct tape and bubble gum. This is not fricking rocket science.

I’ve noticed an alarming trend over the years, and finally, you bastards have gone too far. See, back in the day, the actual buttons that were pressed to deliver the drinks were small, and the indicators for each were relatively large. Smallll. Larrrrge. It wasn’t the best system, I suppose — a slight slip of the thumb, and you’d be facing down a fart-flavored Fresca, instead of the Pepsi or Coke you were looking for. Still, if a slot was sold out, you’d know about it miles before you reached the machine. You could strip down to your undies and tan yourself in the fierce and fiery glow of the ‘old-skool’ ‘SOLD OUT’ indicators. Let the machine get low in two or three slots, and you’d need sunglasses and asbestos gloves to get near the damned thing.

For us, that system worked fine. It wasn’t perfect, and it took a steady hand, but you always knew where you stood with those vending contraptions. We had information, knowledge, options. But that wasn’t good enough for you vendy type of people, was it? Oh, no. Why, there were only five or six little pictures of the actual product on the machine — as the era of product placements and no-holds-barred Cola Wars geared up, the game was to maximize the eyeball-to-logo ratio. So, you embiggened the buttons. Fine. We all managed to get along, and buy our colas, for a couple of years. Ya-frickin’-hoo.

But oho! The buttons were still labeled with text. Dirty, complicated, need-some-schoolin’-to-decipher text. Outrageous! How could you expect the modern busy, dopey, lazy consumer to bother to actually read a word or two, when faced with a parched gullet? You can’t! Or at least, you didn’t.

(And we really appreciate the benefit of the doubt, there, skippy. Why don’t you haul your ass over here and change our diapers while you’re at it, you lousy condescending corporate marketing handjobs? I got a word you can read right here: ‘Suggit!‘)

So, you ballooned up the buttons again, this time large enough to hold a logo for the beverage of choice. Meanwhile, the real estate around those buttons got shrinkier and dinkier. The ‘SOLD OUT’ signs, once proud and obvious, were relegated to tiny little flickering orange numbers, pale and obtuse by comparison. On many machines, they were damned near unreadable; you had to stoop to bring the indicator to eye level to have any hope of deciphering whether the thing was on or off, and even then the pissant wattage those things gave off made it a crapshoot, at best. You’d think, in the golden age of LCD displays and neon artistry, that we’d have evolved a goddamned soft drink machine that would tell you, unequivocably, whether it was worth dealing with or not.

But no. No lovers of technology, you bag-munching venda-shits went the other direction. The new machines are the antithesis of the straightforward delivery systems of yore. Now, the machines are the fricking buttons — each selection is represented by an enormous, can’t-miss-it, bigger-than-life-sized, press-it-with-your-palm panel emblazoned with a picture of the bottle or can you’re looking for. From a usability standpoint, I’m sure it’s a triumph. A fetus could use the damned things, by simply banging it’s soft little head against whichever button it chooses, and grabbing the soda out of the tray.

(Of course, where an unborn child is gonna get a buck fifty or more to actually pay for it’s little slice of caffeinated heaven, nobody seems to know. Maybe it’s expected that the mother will pay for the soda, and the kid will just kick at the buttons through her belly until it gets what it wants. Hey, maybe that would work.

Just don’t ask how mommy’s gonna get that thing to her not-yet-cutie to drink, all right? I think I’ve gone just as far down this ridiculous road as I want to right now. This ain’t ‘Pregnant Penthouse Letters’, people. Let’s move on.)

So, the buttons are fine. Just so long as your definition of ‘fine’ encompasses the concepts of ‘garish’, ‘unnecessary’, ‘ostentatious’, and ‘overgrown’, that is. Still, the buttons aren’t the biggest problem here. No, the real travesty is that putting these fricking manhole covers that we’re supposed to push on the machines leaves no room for the ‘SOLD OUT’ indicators. Even the little ingrown penlight doohickeys are gone. Now there’s nothing. Nada. Zima. Er, zilch. Sorry, I meant ‘zilch’.

So there’s no way to know whether your particular cup of caffeinated poison is actually in the infernal device without plunking a half a roll of quarters in the damned thing and punching a button. How fucking ‘user friendly’ is that? ‘Have a Coke and a smile?‘ Sure. But what if the machine is out of Coke? How about you ‘have six quarters and my foot up your shiny metal ass‘?

All I’m saying is that it can’t possibly be so fricking hard to let me know that I’m wasting my time on the stupid machine before I waste said time. My father’s vending machine’s did it. My father’s father’s vending machines did it. Who in the Sam damned hell ruined my fricking vending machines?!

Which brings me to the second point of contention I have with these tallywhacking tincan teases. How’s about giving me a choice between using exact change, or overpaying for your product? Who could possibly lose in this scenario? This baffles me completely. See, a few minutes ago, I went in to get a Pepsi from the machine in our office. Miraculously, it wasn’t out of the juice this time. (Not that I could tell that up front, but I think I’ve pulverized that particular dead horse well enough for now. I’ll move on.)

However, all I had on me were two dollar bills. The machine takes a buck fifty. Fine. I fed the first dollar in, *shoop shoop shoop*. I fed the second dollar in, *shoop shoop shoop*. The little LCD screen showed ‘$2.00‘ credit to my name. Fantabulous. So, I pressed the billboard-masquerading-as-a-button for my Pepsi, and… nothing. Press. Press. Press. Leeeeean. Bupkis. So, I checked the display, vowing that if it said, ‘SOLD OUT‘ one more time, I would rip the assmunching machine’s refrigeration coils out and feed ’em down it’s frigging coin slot, one at a time. But lo, that was not the particular brand of seething frustration in store for me today. Nope, today, the little pixels spelled out:


Bitches. Ever-loving, over-carbonated, fizzy fricking bitches. Here I am with only two bills to my name, and this punk-ass machine won’t give me a soda because it’s too much?! I thought we were living in a dog-eat-dog, penny-pinching, orgaistic capitalist haven here. So where’s the fricking button that let’s me tell this overgrown toaster,

I don’t care. Right now, that extra fiddy cents is worth far less to me than the sweet, sweet sting of caffeine and sugar running through my veins. I can make it til five pm without these two bucks, but I will not make it to the end of the day if I don’t get my sweet, sweet, sugary soda to slurp on! NOW!!

Of course, no such button exists. And thereby, the thirsty consumer is bent over and screwed once again, without so much as a nice dinner or a ‘Gee, I like your hair today‘. Sure, we’re expected to pay two bucks — or more — if we want a nice little cola drinkie at the ball game, or a concert, or our favorite boobie bar. But actually choosing to pay the extra cash to get a soda when we’re really desperately in need of one? No. Sorry, can’t do that. No soup for us. Again, I say, ‘Bitches!!

So, there you have it, vending machine magnates. Somewhere back there — near the beginning, I suspect — it morphed from ‘impassioned plea’ to ‘potty-mouthed rant’, but I think you get the picture. I’m not convinced that you’ll actually do anything about these issues, but at least I’ve been heard. I suppose that’s enough, for now.

Well, that and the Pepsi I managed to get by trading the guy down the hall a dollar bill for two quarters. Hey, maybe you soft drink asstards don’t want to make a marked-up profit on my desperation for caffeine, but I can always find someone who will. Your loss, ya carbonated bozos. *thhhhpppppttttt*

Permalink  |  7 Comments

7 Responses to “Ravings of a Stonewalled Caffeine Fiend”

  1. Erin says:

    LOL! Ranted like a true addict, but you are absolutely right!

  2. Jeff A says:

    our machine at work had a tendency to rip us off here and there and it got annoying really quick. I told the vending machine guy that it was doing this and he said it seems to be fine now. After having this conversation 3 times I was quite miffed (read pissed off). I have a three soda a day habit and they were the ones who were supposed to be feeding it. In a fit of anger I went home and brought my cooler and several bottles of soda to work with me the next day. I sold my soda to my co owrkers for 25 cents less than the machine did. I was doing a brisk business and they were losing out. After about three weeks of his checking the machine and finding nothing he asked why we weren’t buying any sodas. I told him! We now have a new vending machine that seems to work really well so far.

  3. Adrienne says:

    Pop machines that do not work are evil. Just when you need a quick fix and you can’t get it, its just not right.

    Here in Canada you can put more than the exact change and it will give you change from the machine. Don’t know what is wrong with your machine if it will not do that.

  4. Amber says:

    Now you are going to bring in the sickos with all your “Pregnant Penthouse Letters” talk lol

    I’ve always thought the Coca-Cola machines have been pretty and therefore stuck faithfully by their sides when chosing a coke [also known as pop, soda, and cola]. Pepsi is evil.

  5. Amber says:

    Grrr comment did not save….


    Now you are going to bring in all the pervs with your “Pregnant Penthouse Letters” lol

    I’ve always thought the Coca-Cola machines are pretty and stand faithfully beside them when choosing a coke. [also known as pop, soda and cola] Pepsi is evil.

  6. Amber says:

    i’m a dumbaaa….ya you know.

  7. tj says:

    i hate that machines don’t have a choice anymore. you can’t just go to ONE machine and pick what you want. if you want coke, go to that machine. oh, you want DIET coke? go to that machine. there’s 50 buttons to press … but they’re all diet coke. why not just make one BIG button that you have to use your whole body weight to push? take three steps back … run at the machine … and give a great big slam, just like moshing. *BAM* give me my diet coke!

    damn, i missed and hit the machine that sells fart-flavored fresca. i hate when that happens.

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