“The God of Vended Things,” by Damien Galeone

Feb 17th, 2016 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

It’s lunchtime on Thursday. The university commons room is abuzz. Students mill about, others dart their way to class. Blazer-wearing faculty walk to classes or offices. Administration rush around in an attempt to keep the whole operation from crashing. I weave through them with determination. I have a meeting with a vending machine.

When I arrive, the machine is unoccupied. Despite the activity buzzing around it, nobody is perched in front with hands on hips, peering through the window at the sandwiches in their cubbies.
I take out my 50 Koruna and approach.

The last two days I have put 50 Koruna into this machine and selected a ham and Dijon sandwich (code 52, 47 Koruna). On both days I have received both my ham and Dijon sandwich and all of my money back. Day one I figured it was a fluke, but when it happened again yesterday, I realized that the Vending Machine God was showing his face.

Today is day three. If the Vending Machine God (Herman) pulls the same trick, I think it’s safe to say that he is showing me favor.

I’ve developed a number of crackpot theories in my life. Mostly their main function is to allow mindless explanations of things that piss me off or scare me. I usually keep them to myself.

One of these theories (and probably one I should keep to myself) is that every single thing has its own god. Everything. There’s a God of Airplanes, a God of Library Books, a God of Whiteboard Markers, and a God of Celery. There’s a God of Trams, a God of Pizza, and a God of Supermarket Checkout Lines. (It might seem that one god should be able to oversee both supermarkets and supermarket checkout lines, but considering the sheer volume of misery and frustration that these things need to dole out on the human race, the God of Food-Related Gods thought it best to delegate the responsibilities to two gods.)

The gods’ essential job is to relegate their object’s interactions with people. Sometimes the gods are good to people and sometimes they are cruel. Sometimes they are just pricks.

One guy has never bitten into a piece of pizza without burning the roof of his mouth, no matter how long he holds off. Another guy realizes how lucky he is to always stumble upon a leftover slice of pepperoni in the fridge. One lady has perfected the art of arriving at a tram stop just in time to watch the tram disembark. Another lady has always noted the friendly tram drivers, who seem to wait with open doors as she saunters up.

The gods favor all people differently.

Some of the gods whose favor I am in (most of the time) are:

The God of Erasers, Undercooked Meats, Ink, Lost Pens, Bus Schedules, Aerial Wildlife, Laundry, Landlords, and Distributive Weight Gain.

Some of the gods whose favor I am not in (most of the time) are:

The God of Shoes, Public Transportation Seating, Flat Renovation, Karaoke Machines, Whiteboard Markers, Waiters, Supermarkets, and Supermarket Checkout Lines.

The Gods of Supermarkets and Supermarket Checkout Lines are especially cruel to me. I have never walked into a supermarket not swarming with people, often very old people. Usually I feel as though I have stumbled into a senior’s shopping hour.

That said, my shopping efficiency is a moot point, since any checkout line I choose will experience a major problem the moment I step into it. Otherwise conscientious cashiers inexplicably misprice things the moment I step into their lines. New, reliable machines break down. A woman in front of me who has been shopping every day for two decades will today somehow forget to weigh her vegetables. Others misplace money and credit cards. Cashiers’ shifts end. A boy is caught stealing. No human being on Earth has witnessed as many price checks and misrung items as I have. It is my supermarket fate.

It’s OK, though, because other gods even things out. So after the God of Supermarket Checkout Lines kicks me in the karmic shins, the Tram God will delay a tram thirty seconds to allow me to catch it after shopping. It all evens out.

Still, this is the reason my interaction with the Vending Machine God is so important. If he shows me favor, it means that I can forego the supermarket at my lunch hour. My mind boggles at the implications, the time I will save, the frustration I will avoid, the onslaught of Prague 9’s grumpy septuagenarian population. Enormous. I look through the window and realize the first glitch: no ham and Dijon. I scan the other options and decide on a tuna and egg sandwich. I enter my money and hit the code.

Only then do I see the ham and Dijon already sitting in the dispensing bin at the bottom. It’s been waiting for me! I reach down and pull on the handle, which forces the ham and Dijon to wedge itself into the corner. At the same time, the tuna sandwich drops against the ham sandwich and they perch there against the window. I am confused.

After closer inspection, I realize that the ham and Dijon was not in the dispensing bin, but rather above the bin trapped in vending limbo. Now the tuna sandwich is on top of the ham sandwich and they sit out of reach, mocking me. I look around at the room filled with students, teachers, and university administration. A couple of students recognize me and wave. I flash them a sheepish smile that says: Oh, it’s about to get embarrassing in here. Because there is no way to shake a vending machine and look sane.

I shake it. Once. Twice. A lot. The sandwiches hunch together closer and wedge themselves tighter against the glass. A lingering boy steps up next to me and shakes his head. Then we each grab a side and shake the machine. Nothing. The eyes in the room are on us. He explains that he’ll get the chicken and pepper sandwich above them in slot 38 and that might knock them loose. The sandwich drops past the stowaways with no problem. He shrugs and walks off while unwrapping his lunchtime ware.

The guard comes by to help, but it’s to no avail. Some of my students are watching the whole scene, and I want to tell them that I sort of deserve this, but there’s no point. He shrugs and walks off. I smile with a red face, knowing that Herman has made his point. I am paying the bill.

As I leave the school and walk to the supermarket, I do the math.

Free: Two ham and Dijon sandwiches, eaten.

Paid for: One tuna sandwich, unattained.

Interest: Tuna sandwich blocked by third ham and Dijon sandwich

Verdict: Even.

The Supermarket God and the Supermarket Checkout Line God are pissed off and cruel. The supermarket is a mess. It’s senior rush hour, senior shopping hour, whatever, it’s as though a BINGO game just exploded. They are aggressive today, too, all wrinkly elbows and grimaces. They know. The supermarket checkout girl takes her break as I step into line. Her replacement can’t remember her login code. The woman in front of me has lost her coupons. She apologizes as she looks through her massive bag.

I tell her it’s OK. I deserve this.

The Gods have spoken.

Now, things are even.
Defenestration-Damien GaleoneDamien Galeone is a writer and teacher of English for Academic Purposes at Metropolitan University Prague. He writes a twice-weekly blog at www.damiengaleone.com and plays roulette once a month (0, 9 & 26). His essays have appeared on Nerve.com, Hippocampusmagazine.com, and Žena a Život (Women and Life). He hates supermarkets and daydreams of opening a hotdog shop that caters exclusively to exotic dancers with large noses. He encourages readers to check out his blog or follow him on Twitter @DGaleone.

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.