Vending machine magic

When we were kids, my sister and I used to delight in seeing vending machines.  We never got to buy anything out of them; but they all still held a rather small, but very real, possibility: forgotten change.

As we entered the grocery store, my sister and I would linger near the cart corral, and take turns slipping a single finger into the returned coin slot of various machines; hoping (but not expecting) that someone had forgotten to pick up their overrun change – and that we would be the recipients of a valuable nickel, dime, or (*gasp*) quarter.

Usually, the only thing we felt was the smooth metal curve of the empty coin-return dish.

But once in a blue moon, we would find a bit of currency that had been left behind; and a mundane errand with our mom suddenly became a day of delight.

It’s been a good ten years since I’ve thought about those days of my youth.  But for some reason, tonight as I was waiting at my yoga studio, one of those vending machine memories came to me as I was heating up my dinner.  To my right and to my left stood several such machines.  I got a small smile on my face.  Hmm, I wonder….

I casually looked over each of my shoulders to make sure I was alone (I was); then I nonchalantly slipped my index finger into the change return of the first machine.

Empty.  Of course it was.  I really didn’t expect anything different.  I laughed a little bit; in that instant, I felt the exact same internal emotions I experienced when I was a child engaging in these very same actions.  I perceived a tiny bit of hope, followed by a tiny bit of disappointment, quickly evening out into a “que sera” kind of attitude.

I shrugged my shoulders.  But then I moved on to the next vending machine.

One my one, I slid a single finger into each change dome.  One by one, I felt hope, then disappointment, then neutrality.  One by one I shrugged, then smiled, then remembered my sister.  Then kept going.

At the last machine, my finger made contact with something different.  I nudged something cold and hard to the lip of the change bowl – and extracted two coins.

In the land of little kid logic, TWO coins easily trump one coin.  (Even a quarter.)  Clearly, tonight was a super-special one for me.

The change was a fun find; but the happy memories I re-experienced truly made my evening wonderful.

And, I got to pocket a cool fifteen cents.  Sweet.



About Stef

A "serious" gal who is trying to remember to lighten up and smile.
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6 Responses to Vending machine magic

  1. Touch2Touch says:

    Wonderful! Fantastic post, Stef. Especially the (*gasp*) quarter!
    Sure beats my own coin memories:
    if you found a penny (that was as high as our ambitions soared) you had to put it in your shoe and leave it there all day, walking around on it. Why? I think it was for good luck, but that wasn’t the point. It made a whole ritual out of finding a penny. Imagine how long ago that was, when a penny was actually money!


    • Stef says:

      Oh, finding pennies were a big deal for us, too. Our “rules” for pennies were that if you found it face-up, you got good luck all day; if you found it face-down, you only got good luck for half the day. Regardless of how you found it, you had to put the penny in your pocket; you could only remove it before you went to bed that evening.

      It’s amazing how some of these memories stick with a person, after literally decades of time has elapsed. Wild. And fun. 🙂


      • carlaat says:

        Love this! Love the post! I used to leave face down pennies where I found them and turn them over so the next person would have good luck! Actually, I still do this . . .


      • Stef says:

        Carla, it’s funny, when I was a kid I would go for walks with my grandfather whenever he was in town; and he would always walk head down, eyes open for coins on the street. Without fail, we would *always* find some sort of coin on the road – and usually more than one. To this day, whenever I see a coin on the ground, I immediately think of him – and then smile.


  2. JaxieCat says:

    I do remember those days of “silver mining” the vending machines, and using a nickle for the dime pay telephones.
    About the penny…we had much the same “rules” but I changed the rule to suit me after I grew up.
    If the penny was “face down” I tossed in in the air, and said let the next person that finds this have something good happen, heads or tails.


    • Stef says:

      I like it. These days, if I find change, I smile – and then leave it for the next person (hopefully a kid) who will be THRILLED to find it. “Pay it forward” – in a very literal sense. 🙂


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