19 March 2002

Where’s My Drink?!

Vending machines are evil. They must all be destroyed.

First there was the Streets icecream machine at Parramatta Station, that happily ate my $2.20 without so much as a single kachunk. Hitting the coin eject button achieved as much as putting the money in had done. This was one week ago.

And then! The Coke Machine From Hell!

Arriving at Parramatta Station and waiting to change trains to get home, I thought to myself that it was rather warm and I wouldn't mind a cool drink. Strolling over to Platform 3, I noticed the requisite pair of Coca-Cola drink machines.

One was an older coinslot model that I thought I would avoid, given my previous experience with the icecreams. The other had an older method of coin insertion where you sit the coins one by one in a circular cutout, and slide the coin upwards into the machine. Not much could go wrong with that, could it?

Yes it could, apparently. Placing a 50c piece in the cutout, I tried to slid it upwards, but it jammed. Obviously there was something stuck just at the top of the slot, and I went to take my coin. But no! Somewhere in the depths of the Coca-Cola drink machine engineering department, some brain had decided that the cutout need only be exactly as big as a 50c piece. After all, no other coin is larger...

However, good luck to anyone wanting to remove a 50c coin from the slot after they'd put it in there. The coin fitted snugly with less than a millimetre gap around the edges. My fingers wouldn't fit. A credit card wouldn't fit. My keys wouldn't fit. Train tickets and other paper would fit, but were too flimsy to pull the coin out. By now I was rather frustrated with this machine and shook it back and forth, hoping to nudge the coin out.

In another flash of brilliance however, this amazing engineer had also made the slot sit at an angle of some thirty degrees back from the vertical. This made it impossible to shake the coin out, short of dropping the machine on top of myself. I furiously pulled everything from my pockets and tried digging the coin out with them. "Chewing gum!", I thought, "now there's the solution!" And I chewed it, hoping to make it soft and sticky and pull the coin out with that.

While chewing, my connecting train came and left, but I didn't go. Worse than the fact that I would lose fifty cents, it was the chance that someone else would come past and be able to succeed where I had failed. Nobody was getting that 50c except me!

After chewing for some time, and playing with the gum in my fingers, I realised that the gum I had was not turning sticky at all. Maybe it was the "tooth whitening" ingredients that made it non-stick, or maybe I hadn't chewed for long enough, but when the next train arrived I had to concede defeat and make my way home.

I now see the vending machine design as a kind of Russian roulette, where the machines are designed to fail with a set frequency. It seems like a wise money-making ploy by the companies, since people will put money in and not get a drink, but never bother to make a complaint.

It is time to take the power back! We must stand up for our right to fight convenience! No vending machine will ever receive coins from me again, and for the good of us all, I ask you to Shun Your Vending Machine!