The Soda Experiment
Watching truckers react to a broken pop machine
I spotted it in the corner of a maintenance shop. Something I hadn’t seen in a good many years — one of those soda machines that drops a paper cup, then crushed ice, then six ounces of your favorite soft drink.
Excitedly, I walked over to it, placed my money in the slot and pressed the button for a Coke. The soda machine reacted and started making noises. I watched as a clump of crushed ice dropped, followed by six ounces of soda pouring freely down the drain.
The cups were probably jammed. I gave the machine a couple of solid bangs where I thought the bottleneck might be, and again inserted money.
The same thing happened. Ice and soda was dispensed, but no cup.
That’s when I heard laughing behind me. I turned and saw that it was coming from a couple of amused truckers who had been watching. One informed me that cups for the machine were to be had at the parts counter.
As I headed to the counter, I noticed another trucker on his way to the soda machine. I was about to warn him of the situation, but decided to be an observer. I couldn’t help myself.
The trucker got the same results as me: no cup, then ice and soda going down the drain. He tried a second time, then a third time. Then, to my amazement, he went and got change and tried several more times.
I walked up to the driver and asked him why he kept putting money into the machine when he wasn’t getting anything in return.
“I’m crazy about one-armed bandits,” he told me. “I’ve never seen one like this before, but I know that if you play them long enough, you’re bound to hit the jackpot.”
The next victim put his money in the soda machine and watched anxiously as the soda made its way down the drain. Suddenly, in desperation, this trucker stuck his hand under the spigot, withdrew it damp with soda, and then walked away licking his hand.
I’d call this type of trucker an opportunist.
Next up was another unsuspecting driver. He placed his money into the machine and made his selection. Noticing the soda pouring down the drain, he began violently shaking the machine, accented with an assortment of choice cuss words.
Walking into the shop and spotting this, a trucker hurriedly ran toward the scene shouting: “Stop rocking that machine. I had a friend that was badly injured when the vending machine he was fighting with fell on him.”
The trucker shaking the machine begrudgingly stopped and focused his attention on what the man was saying.
“That’s a wise move,” said the other trucker. “You don’t want to fool with those darn machines. They topple onto people to defend themselves. They don’t like people hitting them or sticking their hands up their orifices.”
That was enough observing for me.
I went back to the parts counter and asked why the shop didn’t have a sign warning that the soda machine didn’t dispense cups.
“Are you kidding?” he replied. “If we did that, we’d miss all the fun of watching people. It’s like our very own Candid Camera.”