Mocha Polka


I’m not a coffee drinker, but I need something to keep me awake during my three-hour afternoon seminar, a class that meets in a crowded, sunny room with window air conditioners someone invariably turns off to reduce noise. Occasionally I catch myself dreaming about Hegel. Then I quickly try to make eye contact with the lecturer and nod, or pretend to write in my notes.

Today I thought I’d shell out $2 for this Starbucks drink, chilled in a vending machine that accepts only $1 bills. But I had just a $5 bill, and I didn’t want a pocketful of quarters from the change machine. No problem I thought, I’ll just get some dollar bills from the friendly-looking people working a counter that sells fruit, bagels, and the like.

“We don’t give out change.”

“Okay, I’ll buy this banana. How much is it?”

“A dollar.”

Hmm. I was getting change to pay $2 for 9½ ounces of bottled coffee and cream. A dollar for a tiny banana that’s seen better days just added insult to injury.

So I got a fistful of quarters from the change dispenser and put eight of them in the Starbucks machine. One fell through to the change slot, but I put it back in. When I pressed A5 the LED’s message said “Price: $2.00.” I’ve already put in my $2. Gimme my drink.

“Price: $2.00.”

I rattled the change handle, but nothing happened. Some girl standing behind me made impatient noises. It works on TV, so I hit the machine. $3 in quarters fell into the change slot. That’s right–I just made a buck from the last poor guy whose quarters got stuck. Not bad–I’ll have to remember to come back here again.

I realized that if made sure the change lever was up and I gave the quarters an extra push, they’d register. So I loaded in my $2 bucks and pushed A5. The machine whirred, the gate holding back the bottle folded in, but the bottle didn’t move.

I tried shaking the machine, but “shaking” doesn’t happen to something that’s either bolted to the floor or weighs a ton. My best hope was that vibrations would go through the Plexiglass and free the mocha. But I also remember seeing a friend in high school shatter the glass trying to do the same thing.

More people were orbiting behind me, but I’d just gotten a nudge out of the bottle. I tried to be dignified but quick, before the campus police arrested me for trying to get change and assaulting a vending machine. So I ratcheted up the pounding–and the bottle dropped down.

Another perilous adventure in academia.

One Comment

  1. LOL Good story! Sounds like a rough life you lead.

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