The Card Readers on Vending Machines Eroded My Trust in Our System

Written by:

By Michael Hernandez
Enlightened Eater

It’s 2003, and you’re sitting in the lounge of an office building that looks as if the ’90s was swallowed, trapped, and then died here. Your mother is talking to the receptionist and you are looking down at your shoes. You tap the rubber soles on the linoleum floors to see a sparkle of red, white, and blue LED lights flash across the mirror surface. You tap more and more, harder and harder, commanding the lights that are stationed within your shoes, until your mother says, “Michael! Stop tapping!” She regains her composure with a curt, “Here, take these and go get a snack from that vending machine over there.”

You waltz over and grab the handful of coins and crunched dollar bills from her hands. You have recently gotten into quarter collecting and realize that you don’t yet have Connecticut in your collection, so you quietly pocket it while arranging the payout. Two dollars and 75 cents. She clearly didn’t realize that she gave you this much; you’re only five. You waddle down the hallway onto a short carpet that once was blue, but is now teal due to coffee incidents over the decades. Your feet guide your path, flashing red, white, and blue along the walls, your personal Presidential motorcade leading you to a decisive victory. A drink and a snack. 

You smack into a machine with a small thud. You were so caught up in the moment of having these commodities that you didn’t hear the hypnotic buzz of the two machines. You back up slowly to reveal the stylized Coca-Cola contraption with five different drinks, including Powerade, and the classic, cool, and refined black snack machine, filled with assorted candy and pastries. Now, the story no one has to tell you: about the press of a button, the release of a latch, the drop of the pressurized canister, the resounding crash into the tray where a cool metal can of Sprite now lays. It’s a simple and fantastical display, but your mind is already racing to the real prize. You look at the skyscraper of snacks before you, and then you look at your balled up fist: one dollar and fifty cents. A literal gold mine within your clutches, you look at the honeybuns, a fifty cent upcharge from the usual assortment of snacks, but worth it. You key in the code and the numbers light up on the display. The engine whirs as the hypnotizing spiral brings forth your bounty. 

Look at what they did to the machines. They added card readers. You can’t even tell the price on the drink machines anymore, and the snacks are all at whole-dollar values. Yesterday, I was so thirsty, I stopped at a random vending machine outside the bank and swiped my card. A ginger ale ran me three dollars. Three dollars for a ginger ale? Not even a Coke or a Sprite, a ginger ale? 

I sat in my apartment silent for 15 minutes staring at the wall. The unopened can of ginger ale just sat there on my table. I turned on the news. I went to bed.

Managing Editor at The MQ

Andrew Sitko was recently arrested by the comedy police and charged for Possession of Killer Jokes. This is their second offense following a Grand Larceny charge from January 27th, 2003.

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