Ode to the Vending Machine. In B Minor.

In the world of casual Fridays and awkward going-away parties, there is no friend more loyal to the office worker than the vending machine.

It’s like a husky pal who’s always up for ordering pizza. It doesn’t discriminate, dropping chips, chocolate bars and mini muffins into the waiting hands of mailroom clerks and CFOs alike.

Your thinking, “Aaron, you don’t know squat. The coffee machine is the most loyal friend to the cubicle jockey.”

To wit, discerning reader. And let me take this moment to say that you look handsome/pretty today.

However, I must respectfully disprove your foolish observation.

Yes, the coffee machine hath many loyal devotees. But it does not returneth the good will. It giveth sludge (unless you work at a place that cares enough about its employees to buy beans at Whole Foods). The water cooler can be a meet-up point, sure. But it has been directly correlated with urination, which means more chit-chatting at the urinal with the guy who stands at attention with both hands on his hips.

The internet helps pass the time, and yes, there’re pictures of Paris Hilton, but Big Brother watches all. Seriously, check out this study.

When you goof, the vending machine is there to throw a familiar arm over your shoulder and say, “I know you just replied-all to an email with, ‘Did Jen gain a ton of weight, or what?’ but – look at me – you’re a damn good worker and this place needs you.”

Fritos, Ring Dings, Snickers. My god, the Snickers. Even gum, should the need arise to pay 50 cents for the inflation-proof, five-pack that always costs 25 cents.

When the 5:00 munchies set in, the benevolent disher of treats peers at you with those come-hither dollar and change slots. You remember the envious eyes of Darren and Paul in Accounts Payable when you, yes you, nabbed the last of the Peanut Butter Cups.

I’ve yet to encounter an office problem the Vending Machine can’t fix.

Glued to online betting? Hit the break room and bet with friends about what the next bloused employee will buy. And tell the boss it’s a bonding experience like that time you went to the ropes course.

Boyfriend incessantly calling you at work and talking dirty? Tell him you just ate a bag of Mesquite Bugles.

Swiss Cake Rolls cured my friend Cliff’s festering paper clip wound.

Interfacing with the slinger of sugary delights is the most thrilling part of the day. The 1.5 seconds when its mechanical rings rotate to expel hermetically sealed empty calories are as titillating as a space shuttle liftoff. We all know there’s a chance of mechanical failure. Sorry. Go to your happy place.

The best moment of 2006 occurred on July 17 at fourteen-hundred hours (military time put in use here for added emphasis). The day started like that of any mortal. Sugar cereal for breakfast. Fifteen minute commute to work. Browse MySpace for single women between 24 and 30. Ok, 18 to 24. Eat lunch. Do a little work. Take nap in the mail room. Shuffle over to the break room. Insert soggy dollar bill (yeah, I’ve got mad skills).

The rest I remember in slow-motion, video highlight form. I pressed C4 with authority. I always press buttons like I mean it. Then – TWO Nestle Crunches fell to the bottom receptacle. The world started spinning. Up was down. Fed Ex was UPS. Did I just win the Heisman? The Pulitzer? I barely knew how to express my feelings in the post-game interview. I deserved a Gatorade shower.

You’re thinking, “that cheapo writer, he should have put one back, not celebrate.”

Well Mr. McCandyreturner, I can’t break the glass to put it back, now can I?

The funny thing is, I rarely press C4. I usually hit C2 for Fritos or D3 for the Holy Grail of snacks, Hostess Powdered Donettes. Hostess Powdered Donettes make you think … Who created a universe with Powdered Donettes? Is he a loving creator for making them or a vengeful one for letting the stock guy forget to refill it. It all makes you feel so insignificant. What does it all mean?

And there’s plenty of time to wonder once I sit down into my back-ache-inducing chair. For as long as I’m supplied with tasty snacks at slightly unreasonable prices, I’m not prone to steal office supplies. Well, at least not full jars of ink toner.

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