Phil Friedman

7 years ago · 3 min. reading time · ~10 ·

Phil blog
Vending Machines Are People Too

Vending Machines Are People Too

Text Copyright © 2016 by Phil Fnedman — All Rights Reserved


Preface: This started out as a comment for Jesse Kaellis's "Vending Machines" , which triggered this memory from another life. Which must be some sort of recommendation --- for Jesse's writing, that is. Anyway, it got too long, and I didn't really want to shorten or over-edit my comment. So I am publishing it as its own post.

(Author's additional note: This piece is now specifically dedicated to Jesse Kaellis, who died a few years ago at far too young an age. He was a writer in the raw, a rare gem of tough, honest emotion and pent-up creativity. We first met online whilst engaging in some knock-down, drag-out verbal fisticuffs … later to become friends. He was one of the people whom I've met online over the years for whose writing I developed genuine respect. And the online world is less for his passing. – PLF 2022)

I believe it wrong to portray vending machines as unthinking, uncaring creatures. For they do respond to appropriate human stimuli. This is how I know.

Years ago, I was working the graveyard shift at the Chicago U.S. Parcel Post routing depot --- where we handled, among other things, the bronze gravestone plaques being mailed by the government to families in exchange for their sons, brothers, fathers, and husbands whom the nation had left in the dirt in Southeast Asia, during a reckless and futile military adventure.

Twice each night, between 11:00 pm and 7:00 am, we were allowed a 15-minute break to grab a vending-machine-dispensed cup of coffee or soup, or some chips or other pretty disgusting snack. But disgusting or not, all of us on that mind-numbing shift looked forward to those breaks and to being able to grab something small to eat.

Unfortunately, about 75% of the time, the machines took our money and refused to dispense the paid for food stuffs. We pleaded with the machines. We talked nicely to them. We stroked them. We even punched and kicked them. All to no avail. They were stony-willed, silent jerks.

We complained to post office management, but were told the machines worked for private contractors, and that the only recourse available to us was to report the problem, using the 800-number printed on a label near the bottom of the machines. Which we did tens, if not hundreds of times.

Again, all to no avail. No refunds. No improved performance. The machines continued to take our money. And laugh at us. Like the gods of the war in Southeast Asia did when some of us silently cried as we handled the specially shaped and marked corrugated cartons that held the bronze gravestone plaques, each of which represented a needlessly lost life.

One night --- or rather, early one morning --- while management was either in a meeting or sleeping in the back of a 14-wheeler waiting to be loaded with canvas bags full of parcels --- a few of us, who shall remain unnamed, put the forks of a lift truck right through three of the offending vending machines. 

We wanted in our hearts to smash every one of those smarmy machines into smithereens. However, caution overtook our anger; and we withdrew anonymously and quietly. Even though it left us feeling unfulfilled, being kind of like destructus interruptus

But lo and behold, the very next day when we showed up to work, the three skewered machines had been replaced by new ones. And apparently all the machines had all been retrained. For from that day forward, until I stopped working at the Post Office several months later, they dispensed exactly what was paid for, without hesitation or reluctance. 

Proving that you can reason with a machine. Just not with a war machine.  --- Phil Friedman

Author's Notes:   If you found this post interesting and worthwhile, and would like to receive notifications of my writings on a regular basis, click the [FOLLOW] button on my beBee profile. Better yet, elect there to follow my blog by email. As a writer-friend of mine says, you can always change your mind later.

Should you be curious about some of my previous postings about on and about social media, you're invited to take a look at some of the following Chicago Stories:

“Two Pizzas and a Shovel”

“Wake Up Little Susie”

“Life is Like a Monza Wall”

As well, feel free to "like" and "share" this post and my other articles — whether on beBee, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, provided only that you credit me properly as the author, and include a live link to my original post. 

About me, Phil FriedmanWith 30 some years background in the marine industry, I've worn numerous hats — as a yacht designer, boat builder, marine operations and business manager, marine industry consultant, marine marketing and communications specialist, yachting magazine writer and editor, yacht surveyor, and marine industry educator. I am also trained and experienced in interest-based negotiation and mediation. In a previous life, I was formally trained as an academic philosopher and taught logic and philosophy at university.




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Image Credits:  Phil Friedman, Google Images



Life Lessons

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #21

Jim, please know that I am sincerely touched by your sacrifice, for I know that you are a seriously dedicated baseball fan. I agree that something might be lost in translation in my exchange with Maria, which is why I began, I believe, in a light vein. Unfortunately, I have found --- and you all can, if you want to, lay this off onto having a "negative" outlook on life --- that a high percentage of professed Messengers of Lightness and Positive Energy have a dark component that emerges when they meet what they see as the slightest bit of resistance or rejection. I lay this off to them actually being posers, whose out-flowing love is only a facade that covers their core desire for bringing attention to themselves. For I believe that a true proponent of positive energy and love would meet perceived negativism with even more love, or at the very least with indifference. I think I remember a Jew named Jesus once telling people that. Thank you, as well, for noticing the metaphor that runs through the story. I was starting to think that the whole thing was simply too obscurely written, and that I should go back to writing exclusively about boat building and the marine industry. And your comment has at least encouraged me not to give up --- yet. I think. I hope that by now, you've returned to your game, and enjoyed the rest of your evening. Satisfied that you sent some genuine positive energy my way. Cheers!

Milos Djukic

7 years ago #20

Fractals forever, WTF? haha

Milos Djukic

7 years ago #19

Phil, Just be careful, ugliness is a serious disease. Just look at me :)

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #18

Actually, Milos, my current photo strikes more people as a WTF? expression --- which is appropriate. :-)

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #17

Milos, you are just afraid that one of my old friends back in Chicago will skewer you with some lift truck forks. Not to worry, once I became an academic, I also became civilized. :-)

Milos Djukic

7 years ago #16

Ugly Machines (like me) Are People Too.

Milos Djukic

7 years ago #15

Jim Murray, Perhaps the problem is related with his "grumpy" face? :) It is generally known fact that the face is the most important in social media. Unfortunately, I am unlucky, since I am not only grumpy face, but also very ugly. Perhaps Image of happy and carefree face will dispel negative magic and provide eternal unity and harmony. Then we'll all become demigods I'm clueless or something.. Mr No-Muzak, my friend, forever.

Jim Murray

7 years ago #14

OK I just sacrificed a whole inning of the baseball game to read your posts and all the comments including the pigeon English comments of Maria with the Three Last Names and I cannot, and you know I have several brain cells to rub together, figure out what her problem is. My only conclusion is that she is from an alternative universe where everything is groovy all the time, and that through some malfunctioning black hole, has landed on your post with marching orders to try and fuck you up. What she does not know is that you are unfuckup-able, and social media is littered with the intellectual corpses of all those who have tried to do that to you. There's even a small part of me on that trail. I got the metaphor that your story represented. And I'm sure a few others did too. But in all deference, you sorta kinda have to have a writer's intellect to put it together. People who cannot, but have an inkling that it might be something metaphorical, can end up being frustrated. I get that way when I try to remember that Jeff Daniels is Jeff Daniels, and not just half of the Dumb and Dumber duo. If this Maria person reads English as poorly as she writes it, there may be something or a lotta things lost in translation. beBee should add that feature once we make them big and powerful. Then everybody will be able to live in the same universe.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #13

Thank you, Maria, for your kind and positive thoughts. I am not, however, worried, as I have a good friend in the Caribbean, who is an Obeah Woman; and she has protected me with spells and amulets from bad thoughts and wishes from self-proclaimed Angles of Goodness and Light. I reiterate, have a good life. May our paths never again cross.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #12

@ jesse kaellis --- You and your work are mentioned at the beginning of this post. Since you and I previously have had some strong words privately, I wanted to make sure you knew this, and also that I will remove that reference should you so desire. If not, then consider this my expression of regret for the turn taken by our previous conversation, and an expression of solidarity with what you've published as ( ) and ( ). My best to you.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #11

Kevin, I am sure you can rent one, even have it delivered from the Guelph or Mississauga areas. And I'm sure the marinas in Port Credit have some big ones. But what kind of machines are you getting ready to negotiate with? If academic, then you will need a lift with case-hardened steel forks.

Kevin Pashuk

7 years ago #10

Do you know where I might acquire a forklift? I have some negotiations coming up.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #9

Thank you, Maria, for reading and for commenting with such self-professed "positivity" and such an open mind. It baffles me, however, I may be misunderstanding what you saying, but if not, then it baffles me how you can consider yourself an Angel of Love. Have a good life.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #8

I have found through the years, Franci, that you can often actually reason with a recalcitrant machine long as you have a 4 lb. sledge hammer in your hand. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #7

Thank you for saying so, Pascal. I have a few more stories to squeeze out. But as I am sure you understand, they have to pass according to their own schedule. :-)

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #6

Thank you, Praveen, for reading and for the kind words. It is, in fact, an expression of rage against the machine --- a rage that continues to this day. Just not at the vending machines. Cheers!

Pascal Derrien

7 years ago #5

the Italian job vending machine style , a great short story Phil Friedman :-)

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #4

Maria, that is your prerogative. I perceive that you are unthinkingly positive --- which to my mind indicates you do not possess authentic positive energy. Since you have not bothered to read my reply below, please feel free to distribute your "positive" energy to those who will appreciate it more than I. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #3

Maria, that is you prerogative. I perceive that you are unthinkingly positive --- which to my mind indicates you do not possess authentic positive energy. Since you have not bothered to read my reply below, please feel free to distribute your "positive" energy to those who will appreciate it more than I. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #2

Thank you, Maria, for reading and commenting. My German is not good enough to answer in detail, but in English this is what I have to reply: I agree that it is a good thing to have positive energy in life. However, to me, positive energy is having the strength to face the negatives of life and keep going in the drive to make things better. Most of the talk on social media about "positive energy" strikes me as insipid and self-delusional. Being brave does not involve never knowing fear, but rather feeling fear yet doing what needs done in spite of that fear. So too, being positive does not involve mindlessly denying the existence of negatives in life, but rather recognizing fully those negatives, yet striving always to make things better. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #1

Je länger ich lebe, desto weniger kenne ich das Leben. Vielen Dank.

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