Saturday, March 18, 2006
I am the snack-whisperer. I think it started when I realized that my truck smells like fritos if i don't vacuum it out every once in a while. And then those half ounce bags of chips that come with deli sandwiches - the ones with about four whole chips - they're weirdly unexpected treasures. I horde them, little golden piles of plastic airbags in my cupboard.
The American Snack - you're completely inedible. That's what makes you so fascinating.
Snacks live in snack machines. A snack's natural habitat is to be lined up in rows facing a sheer vertical drop. The snack machine has a large glass wall so we can watch the snack as it lose its balance on the precipice. We then like to watch snacks fall, preferably a drop of three and a half feet. And we're infuriated when they don't fall. This is how snack machines get destoyed more often than not, by customer rage, not vandalism.
By the way, Japan has more vending machines per capita than anywhere else - one for every 23 humans. In Japan, vending machines also carry household items, underwear, umbrellas, and other important things for people-on-the-go. In America, aside from the amazing vend-o-mat phenemenon of the mid-twentieth century, the vending machine is filled with corn products, as well as candy bars and soda sweetened with corn products.
A little historical context: the vending machine was invented in 215B.C. in Alexandria. It's true; holy water was dispensed from a lever mechanism apparatus device situation that I don't really understand, but definitely involved placing a Greek coin into a slot. In general, all vending machines throughout history have operated under the principle of putting a coin into a slot. Modern snack machines now accept bills, of course, and some take credit cards, but the slot is still there, waiting to be filled by cash money.
Studies show, however, that people are less likely to purchase a snack when the "Exact Change ONly" warning light is flashing. People prefer to pay a little extra for their snack, probably because of the rain of coins into the change holder. Another mysterious feature is the plastic flap that covers the bin into which are snacks are caught, fallen from grace. Clearly, this feature of vending architecture has endured because many like to procure their food not through human interaction, but by sticking their hands into a dark hole covered by a plastic flap.
In closing, I'd like to meditate on this perennial question: Why do we like to watch corn products fall into a trough? It could have something to do with the triumph of the human spirit, but I'm open to suggestions.