“The vending machines that time forgot” – by Tim Greening

(“The vending machines that time forgot,” The Shreveport Times, June 10, 2006 — by Tim Greening)

Excerpt:

“Our soda machine has Tab in it, fer-cryin’-out-loud! Tab! I thought Tab went out when Ronald Reagan was sworn in. I wouldn’t be surprised if it still had Crystal Pepsi in it.�


Office vending machines hold a special place in the American work environment, especially at a newspaper, where roughly half the staff relies on our snack room for too many meals.

The last time I had dinner at a friend’s house, out of habit I stuck a handful of quarters in his mouth.

It’s not the best way to eat. But when you’re stuck for time and can’t leave the office, we’ve actually got it pretty lucky. (Two words: free sporks.)

The Times has the Bella Fresca of vending machine snack rooms. A refrigerated machine offers Blimpie sandwiches, Mama Michelina dinners and various microwave burritos and chimichangas. There also are Hot Pockets, but I am one with comedian Jim Gaffigan, who said “I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a Hot Pocket and, afterward, I was glad I did.�

We have machines stocking the finest in name-brand salted snacks and desserts. Anyone remember Zingers, the Dolly Madison snack cakes endorsed by the Peanuts gang? We’ve got those. And actual peanuts.

Our drink machines are filled with name-brand sodas — colas both Pepsi and Coca — and a wide array of sports drinks and fruit juices.

There are sausage biscuits and breakfast burritos, too; you can eat three squares a day without leaving the building. And did I mention the free sporks?

You gotta admit, that’s a pretty good coin-operated lineup. Hell, in a pinch, you could take a gal on a pretty decent date down there.

But not every office is so vending-fortunate. I complained to The Girl one day that I went to get a sandwich but the machine was out of Blimpie turkey, my favorite of the coin-requiring sandwiches. It only had Blimpie roast beef.

“What? Your snack machines sell Blimpie sandwiches? And you’re complaining?� she shrieked.

The Girl works at the American Rose Center, where they don’t have a very big staff, they’re not exactly close to town and, thus, they sit on the lower end of the vending machine food chain.

“Do you know what’s in our vending machines? Three different kinds of vanilla cookies, which is three more than I need. And don’t get me started on the row of ancient honey buns.

“Our soda machine has Tab in it, fer-cryin’-out-loud! Tab! I thought Tab went out when Ronald Reagan was sworn in. I wouldn’t be surprised if it still had Crystal Pepsi in it.�

How old are their vending machines? Some of them don’t even take cash, only Confederate scrip. But things are looking up out there.

“We just got grape drink! We’re very excited about the grape drink,� she said.

Great. Enjoy a vanilla cookie and a grape drink. Just make sure you have correct change … er, scrip.

And the sporks are on me.

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