Tech & Work

The good, the bad, the vending machine

Since this blog is about workplace issues, I thought today I would address one of the most important workplace issues there is—the company vending machine. (Hey, it's a short week, give me a break.) Now, unless you work for a Microsoft-like company that furnishes its employees with a smorgasbord-like snack room, you are dependent in some regard upon a vending machine. You just can't underestimate the importance of the vending machine. On some days, around the 3:00 slump, it is a veritable godsend.

But lately, I've noticed a disturbing trend in our vending machine. One of the current choices, for example, is a bag of animal crackers with "2.5 grams of fat!" They taste like Styrofoam. Another is some organic concoction made out of oats and soybeans. Mmm mmm, now that's irresistible! It also costs twice as much as anything else in there. A healthy vending machine snack seems like an oxymoron to me. It's like going to Burger King for a tofu salad; like going to WalMart for a designer dress.

If you want something healthy, eat some fruit, or bring a couple of rice cakes from home. If you're craving something with more flavor than rice cakes, try chewing on some printer paper, because, people, the vending machine is the domain of the junk food junkie. It is the traditional home for all lard-based, nitrate-infused, sugar-stuffed, preservative-havin' crappy snacks known to humankind and I for one would like to keep it that way.

Forget low-fat! Give me Funyuns! Set me up with some Hostess Snowballs and a side order of barbeque Fritos and I'm a happy woman. Throw in some teeth-pulling Milk-duds and I'm in heaven.

Some of my most endearing life experiences came courtesy of a vending machine. Take, for example, the "Raspberry Zinger Saga." Quite a while back, a former colleague of mine went to get a candy bar from the vending machine, but pushed the wrong button and instead got a raspberry Zinger. (For those of you who don't know, a raspberry Zinger is a Twinkie-wannabe that looks like it's been dipped in a vat of Red Dye #2 and then sprinkled with coconut. It's a hateful snack even by vending machine standards.) So my friend asks if I want it and I say "no, even I have limits." Later I go to a meeting and when I get back, the Zinger is on my desk. Hours later, when my co-worker has left for the day, I sneak it back into his office. In the weeks and months to come, this same Zinger got surreptitiously traded back and forth many, many times. Once I found it pinned to my corkboard; once he found it in his mail slot. I once gave it to him for a birthday gift; I once found it pinned under the windshield wiper of my car. Eventually, the company we worked for relocated and we lost touch with each other. I was working in my home office one day about a year later when the doorbell rang. The Fedex guy handed me a package for which I obliviously signed. Inside was—you guessed it—the Zinger in all its faded glory. The ball is in my court now. (I hear he's getting married soon…)

About Toni Bowers

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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