Vending machines usually just take your money and give you nothing but a snack or a drink in return.
That all changed for me earlier this semester.
Almost late for my 2 p.m. modern literature class and desperate for a cold drink, I shoved 60 cents into a vending machine outside Cooper Hall, pressed the button, and … nothing.
After multiple and rapid presses of the change return button did nothing, I stood there, confused, with my hands on my hips.
Unfazed, I moved left to another machine, inserted a dollar and pressed the button. I heard the bottle clunk and clink inside the machine, and it took me a couple seconds before I unwillingly realized I had been mugged again.
I was so irritated that I just stood there, staring at nothing and shaking my head.
Motivated by frustration, I rolled up my sleeve and reached my left arm inside the machine in a desperate attempt to get what was rightfully mine. With my arm still reaching around inside the thief machine, I began sweating and was showing early signs of panting. “How embarrassing,” I thought, as I started to whisper curse words to myself.
I eventually stood up, wiped the sweat from my forehead and attempted to regain what little dignity I had left by nodding and shrugging to the small but supportive crowd of spectators gathered around me. I was beaten, and more importantly, still thirsty. I stopped by the water fountain before I went to class.
After class ended, I went back to the vending machine forest and decided I was hungry. Sour cream and cheddar chips hollered my name as I headed towards the snack machine. Admittedly, apprehension dominated my thought process as I slid a dollar bill into the slot.
“To be robbed three times in one day,” I thought, “Impossible.” I pressed ‘A’ then ‘2’ on the pad and waited for my 90-cent cheesy, crunchy snack.
As the coils spun to release my food, I couldn’t help but think I would be robbed again, and shrugged my anxiety off as foolish skepticism.
Then I just stood there, nodded my head backward and sighed the sigh of a defeated man as the coils stopped twisting without dropping my chips. I was now dollar-less and in the red $2.50
How could this happen? I didn’t remember walking under any ladders or breaking any mirrors. My world was a dark storm, and I was standing in the middle of it without a raincoat or an umbrella.
But then the craziest thing happened.
As I practiced my karate on the caged machine, a fellow USF student approached me. Dressed in baggy clothes and wearing headphones, he offered his condolences and joined me in pushing and hitting the machine. We gave it our all, but the snack refused to budge. “Oh well,” I thought.
And that’s when something even crazier happened.
My new buddy reached into his pocket, pulled out his wallet and withdrew a dollar bill. I told him that wasn’t necessary, but he insisted. He inserted his dollar, pressed the chip’s corresponding buttons and the two snacks tumbled into the bin. Then he leaned down, grabbed the food and tossed both bags to me. I muttered a stunned “thanks,” and he scooted off. I never got his name.
I opened the bag, leaned against the machine and realized that was the nicest thing a complete stranger had ever done for me.
For a complete stranger to stop what he was doing and donate money to another complete stranger is a rare occurrence these days. So thank you, mysterious vending machine savior, for restoring my faith in the human race and for reversing my mood from depressed to content.
You showed me that good people doing good things still exist.
It was the best $2.50 I’ve ever spent.
John Calkins is a junior majoring mass email@example.com