Island Packet – By nature I am a happy guy. I enjoy sunrises and bluebirds and French toast, babies seem to like me, I enjoy the smell of hot fresh coffee on a sun-kissed morning, and I’m generally pretty easy-going, unless you encounter me when I’m driving on 278, when I turn into a vicious, inhuman valkyrie of destruction who chews bones and breathes hate.
But aside from what is a constant and psychologically diagnosable issue with road rage (and a few other lower-level bothers, like country music, mosquitoes and James Dobson), I like to think of myself as laid-back, which you kind of have to be in today’s climate, which is stressful, fast, financially chaotic, uncertain and overstimulating, in addition to being very, very humid. I find it helps to just let things roll off your back as much as you can, because otherwise you will turn into a frazzled, fingernail-less psychotic wreck, like a character in a country song, or a hateful little weasel, like James Dobson (OK, the easygoing thing is a work in progress. Bear with me).
So it’s in that context I bring up the Adventure of the Vending Machine, which is something that happens here with the decreasing number of people who work in my office and very likely also happens in yours (unless you work in a company that makes vending machines, where it’s probably not that big of a deal and you have much bigger things to worry about, such as inventing a way to make it so my bag of Sun Chips doesn’t always get hung up on that little spring-dispenser system that hasn’t worked in forever and despite over a century of human technological evolution evidently cannot be improved upon. Sorry. Once again: work in progress.)
The Adventure of the Vending Machine takes place whenever someone puts his change — or, as we call it in the newsroom, the week’s take-home — into the machine, ostensibly to enjoy a Snickers, or a nice cold beverage or some delicious cigarettes.
But the vending machine will have other ideas. For whatever reason — mechanical problem, technical snafu, revenge — it will not properly produce the item requested and paid for, leaving the original purchaser disappointed and angry, and the vending machine coldly impassive and unhelpful.
Now this is just one of those little things that goes wrong throughout the day, one of those minor, near-insignifcant issues that you have to deal with if you are to get by in the world without tearing out your eyebrows pretty much on a daily basis.
Yet apparently many years ago, someone discovered that by leaving a Post-It note on the vending machine they achieve some sort of payback to this tiny defeat. I cannot speak to what this payback is — maybe the vending machine guy walks around the building every week while he restocks the machine, going around the office like a dime fairy refunding people’s lost change. Maybe there’s not even a vending machine guy, maybe it’s an actual magical fairy with wings and a change purse, although I’d have to guess that if you were a magical fairy and you ended up being the magical fairy who goes around refunding lost scraps of vending machine change, you would be extremely resentful of the fairies in the cool departments, such as Tooth, Tales and Godmothers.
So on any given day, when I head back for my morning Pop-Tart, there’s a pretty decent chance that the machine will be graffiti-d with the Post-It notes of a thousand failures, people who have lost 60 cents and aren’t going to stand for it. This makes me amused and sometimes sad, because on the one hand, it’s 60 cents, and come on, but on the other hand, it’s 60 cents, which is what gas went up per gallon while I was writing this column. I don’t think there are any grand, important, Mitch Albom conclusions to be drawn from this, other than these: Things don’t always work out as you plan, and there’s no such thing as fairies.