Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Psnyckers Psychology

Good Morning World – it’s me, Jennifer.

Today’s topic – vending machines. Very ordinary, everyday objects. Handy for a snack or beverage on the go. Not really a deep subject, you’d think.

Try sitting by one on a Washington State Ferry during rush hour.

First off, there’s a whole insight into mood and personality to be observed by watching someone’s reaction when the machine stubbornly refuses to yield the requested snack. You have the “shrug and walk away person”, who clearly wasn’t that hungry to begin with. Then there’s the poor soul with anger management issues who somehow believes that thumping, kicking, and/or shaking the machine will convince it to fork over lunch. Some people actually discuss their disappointment with the machine, as though it will listen to the voice of reason, “aw, c’mon, that was my last $1.25”. Then there those obsessed, compulsive sorts who attempt to out-wit the evil machine by simply shelling out for the same item a second time, figuring that the process will dislodge the original stuck bag of chips and also dispense a second bag. Congratulations! You’ve just spent $2.50 for two 12 oz bags of Chili Cheese Fritos!

Also entertaining is to play “Guess the Goodie”. The ferry vending machines are actually better stocked than most 7-11 convenience stores. Conveniently, labels display the health benefits of various selections. One might choose among “low-fat” (pretzels), “low-carb” (beef jerky), or “no sugar” (peanuts). Pop-tarts, gummy bears, a variety of cookies, you name it, it’s all there. The well-dressed business man (my guess - pretzels) elects a plain Hershey bar. No imagination whatsoever there. The young fellow with longish hair and a backpack (my guess - trail mix) goes for Lay’s Sour Cream and Onion chips. A young girl (Junior Mints) wants Garden Salsa Sun Chips, which promptly get stuck and refuse to fall. She chooses to buy another bag, which pushes out the first bag but doesn’t give her the second. Great. $2.50 for one bag of chips. She spends the rest of the ride trying to get that second bag. As we dock, she gives the machine a last thump and is finally rewarded as the machine reluctantly gives up the prize.

The vending machine at my work is no less evil. Periodically, and totally at random, it will ignore the fact that I’ve clearly keyed in selection “D-4” (trail mix), and it spits out something annoyingly full of fat and sugar, like a Snickers bar. The Snickers hits the glass and taunts me for a moment before gleefully sliding into the drawer. Fortunately, a universal truth about health insurance companies is that you can always find someone having an “I need chocolate” day.

Earlier this week I learned that Japanese vending machines dispense a variety of goods including beer, umbrellas, and dry ice. I fully grasp beer and umbrellas. Good ideas that I fully support. But dry ice? I had to look that one up. ( Apparently, dry ice is available to keep ones groceries cold on the commute home. Okay, I can see that, I guess. But how does one react when ones dry ice gets stuck in the vending machine? Does one kick it, reason with it, or just buy another dry ice? And then what do you do with the second dry ice? How much does dry ice cost in a Japanese vending machine? The mental image here is of a Japanese person with an umbrella and a grocery bag of fish, vegetables, and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream, kicking a Tokyo vending machine.

On that note, the train has made it to Seattle, and I haven’t had breakfast yet. I think I’ll go get a Milky Way.

Remember to find something amazing in your day.



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