By Kitsana Dounglomchan
It’s rumored our vending machine at work immigrated from an Eastern Bloc country to the United States sometime after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s also rumored the manufactured label reads: Made in the Motherland.
And judging by the machine’s behavior, I’m inclined to believe these rumors are true.
Every office has a piece of equipment that terrorizes its employees. For many it’s a malfunctioning printer or copier. But in my work center, it’s the sadistic vending machine — it enjoys stealing taxpayer dollars from the wallets and purses of America’s airmen.
My first encounter with the vending machine was in the middle of a 12-hour mid-shift. At 2 o’clock in the morning, eating a candy bar is one of the few sources you have to stay awake. But like I said, the vending machine is evil.
I’d already given the machine 50 cents, and was now rocking it back and forth, trying desperately to get the Twix bar to drop into the dispenser. A fellow non-commissioned officer witnessed my plight, and with no concern for personal safety, rushed over and joined the fight. We started rocking the machine together.
(Quick side note: I’m not advocating you do this if you ever find yourself in a similar situation. On this night, however, desperate times called for desperate measures.)
But the machine was too strong, and I resigned myself to deposit another 50 cents to retrieve my stranded candy bar. And for its coup de grace, the vending machine dropped one Twix instead of two.
I was soundly defeated.
After this harrowing experience, I made a vow to never use the vending machine again. I spread the tales of its sinful ways far and wide, to ensure that nobody else made the same mistake.
Some people would heed my warnings, some would not. The latter group suffered the consequences.
Just when all hope seemed lost, our savior arrived.
One evening, I noticed a letter taped to the front of the glass and a small wooden box on top of the vending machine. The author of the letter, a first lieutenant, had come to liberate us from the machinations of the vending machine.
The lieutenant empathized with our plight, and told us not to despair at the machine’s “communist ideals.” He said if the vending machine took any more of our money, we could send him an email with the amount that was stolen, and the next day he’d place our refund in the small wooden box.
His words were soothing; we were saved.
If this lieutenant doesn’t retire as a colonel, there’s something wrong with our promotion system — any person who’s willing to take care of this small detail for their people truly cares.
It’s only 50 cents, but for me it’s more than that. I guess it’s nice to know that behind the monolithic machine, there’s actually someone looking out for the little guy, looking out for me.
Kitsana Dounglomchan, a 12-year Air Force veteran, writes about his life and times for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at: