A couple of weeks ago while I was tutoring at the college, my blood sugar crashed. I emptied my wallet of quarters and headed for the vending machine, wondering if I would find any sugar-free, protein-laden options.
Yay—Smokehouse almonds. $1.25. I plunked my five quarters in and watched the little metal corkscrew arm make its slow rotation…and then stop. My almonds dangled there, caught on their own packaging. Then, strangely, a nickel dropped into the coin return.
I gazed at it in my palm for a moment, wondering what the heck I was supposed to do with it. Was five cents the returnable deposit on my risk? And how was it that I hadn’t realized that I was taking a risk in the first place?
Stubbornly, I went back to my bag and got more coins. I didn’t really want to pay $2.50 for almonds, but if I don’t eat, it’s possible that I’ll suddenly begin to stab my students with their own writing utensils. In went another $1.25 in quarters. This time, the twisty arm rotated, making its low whir, and two bags of almonds dropped to the bin.
Out of curiosity, I pressed the “coin return” button, and received two dimes and a nickel.
I scooped up my loot and headed back to my post, unable to shake the feeling that the whole experience was metaphorical somehow. Sometimes the world withholds your almonds. You do what you’ve been asked to do and get jack in return. Sometimes you get unexplained gifts that you’re not sure even you understand. Other times you get everything you’ve asked for and much more. And sometimes, you just get caught on your own packaging.
Vending machine as karma.
This week, the almonds are good and stuck. But I am waiting for the coins. I know they’re coming, sooner or later.