Since the blogosphere and the media are working themselves into a frenzy heralding the emerging Moral Values Revolution, I’d like to relate a tale of my own, of when I recently rose up in defense of my Values© and struck out at the corporate behemoth that had offended them.
I was at my weekend job, sleeping on some chairs and footstools that I’d managed to line up comfortably enough for the all-day nap that passes as work. At one point, when I came out of my slumber, I thought that if I was going to work so hard, I should go and get some water. You know, stay hydrated.
So I rolled off of the chairs and stumbled out of the room. I went down the hall and into the breakroom, my shoeless feet sliding across its shiny tile floor. I glided to a stop in front of the drink machine.
(It bears mentioning at this point that the greedy evil vendor company that runs those machines raised the prices not too long ago. Not only does a 50-cent pie cost 90 cents in the snack machine, but the bottled water in the drink machine costs $1.25. It used to be a dollar. At the time, I wasn’t willing to pay that much for “Maine Spring Water” that was probably bottled from a tap in North Philly, but I ultimately decided it was better than drinking on-site tap water that smelled like it came directly from the building’s septic system.)
So as I began digging into my back pocket for change, feeding the machine one coin at a time, the thought occured to me that I might not have $1.25 on me. No problem, I thought — I’d just leave and scrounge up some more change if I came up short. It might’ve taken another round trip, but it wasn’t like the machine was going to erase the $1.10 I’d already inserted. I mean, why would it do that?
Still scrounging, the scenario played out in my mind: A customer inserts three quarters and then walks away. Logically, the machine should allow the next person to complete the purchase. There wouldn’t — shouldn’t — be a timeout. Why should there be one? The company loses nothing if a different person adds the additional 50 cents. Nah, they wouldn’t just take the money. Why would they do that?
Sure enough, I was down to pennies. Chagrined, I walked back out of the room and down the hall. Of course, I could have put my shoes on and walked to my car, which was parked probably 20 feet away. But, nah. It was cold out. So instead I walked around the office, scanning the desks of the 9-to-5 employees, looking for that spare change I always see when I never need it.
After looking closely at every desk, I was still empty-handed. Incredulous, I then peered into a few top drawers. Still nothing. Vexed, I slapped on my shoes, clunked my way out to the car, snatched two quarters and headed back inside.
As I entered the breakroom again, I looked at the vending machine’s display for a sign that the manufacturer had some sense. What I saw made my blood pressure jump by 20%: the “—” on the display meant no money was currently inserted.
“Okay, no problem,” I thought. “If I just push the ‘COIN RETURN’ button, it will return my money and I’ll reinsert the coins.” So I pushed the “Coin Return” button. Pressed it hard. Punched it. My coins were not returned.
As the realization washed over me that my hard-earned money was, in fact, gone, my mind flashed to the reaction that my old college roommate would’ve had. The trademark swish of his hips and three-finger-snap in “Z” formation would’ve said it all: Oh No…You…Di’int!
So I did something so dastardly, I hesitate to mention it on this site. Did I break the glass display? Well, no. Did I topple the fucker? Nah. I thought about that, but then I remembered those diagrams on the side of the machine that show people being crushed by vending machines because people tried to shake them to get the goods they’d been cheated out of. The companies had clearly anticipated such activity, and used the predictable shaking as a means to crush the irate customer to death and keep their money. I wasn’t going to let them win so easily.
Instead, I went to the back of the machine and unplugged the fucker. In exchange for my 75 cents, the company would lose all commerce from the weekend staff and the Monday morning rush.
Yeah, yeah, I know: The goods were bottled, which means they didn’t spoil. And besides, I could’ve kept the machine out of commission for a longer period by placing an “OUT OF ORDER” sign on it.
But I wasn’t trying to spoil goods — just make sure the company lost more in potential sales that it gained from taking my money. And as for the possibility that the next employee would just re-plug the machine? Well, no. Trust me, I work there. Tech staff or not, 99% of them would walk over to the machine and watch their money fall down to the coin return slot five times before walking away bewildered.
Satisfied by my disabling of the machine, I walked triumphantly out of the breakroom and quenched my thirst at a water fountain. Yeah, I had to drink septic water, but that was a small price to pay for a victory that smelled oh, so sweet.
Ralph Nader would’ve been proud.