Returning from New York, I was sitting at Boston's South Station enjoying some desperately needed ABP soup. And then I saw it.
Across the way was a vending machine. It was sleek, it was bright green, and it was intriguing. Rows of transparent tubes were displayed containing what appeared to be colorful items not of the food variety. As soon as I finished my soup, I went to investigate.
In the tubes were a rainbow of apparel items. From underwear to t-shirts, each came packaged in its own little capsule of joy just waiting to be released from its row with the swipe of a credit card. I saw some fold-up shoes that were in a tube and immediately decided that bendable footwear was not only practical, but when it comes from a machine it is altogether exciting.
I got my debit and paid for the shoes (far too much than they were worth if acquired anywhere other than a metal box) and pressed the buttons. While I was putting my wallet back in my purse I hastily looked back to the machine to make sure that I didn't miss the tube's travels down to the opening. The robot arm went up to the tubed shoes. It released the shoes from their row. It started to move down toward the opening in the machine, carefully tilted upward so that its cargo would not fall.
But the cargo could not fall because the cargo was left. Left at a diagonal angle between the glass wall and the row it came from. LEFT AND NOT BEING ROBOTICALLY DELIVERED TO ME. The robot arm went to the opening, tilted itself so that its cargo (air) could tumble lovingly into the pick-up spot. It then retired to its original spot. I hated the robot and its incompetence.
I started to panic. I looked around and saw some security men across the way and decided that since they were wearing uniforms they'd probably be able to help me.
"So, I just bought some shoes from that machine over there are they're stuck," I said, immediately starting to feel embarrassed about the sheer amount of money I was willing to spend on plastic shoes, not to mention the fact that the shoes weren't even in my possession.
"Uh, yeah, hm. The green machine thing? Ask him, he's your guy" one of the security officers answered, gesturing toward the other officer.
I looked at "my guy" who stared at me blankly. Finally he told me to go to the information desk for help. That seemed reasonable. I started to feel a little dumb for not going there in the first place.
The information desk was manned by a large, disgruntled woman who seemed to feel inconvenienced by any request for any information whatsoever. "Yeah, no clue who's responsible for the machines. It's that one over there? The green one?" She asked me, pointing across the way to where the machine was.
"Yes, that's it," I replied.
"Well, it's on the other side of the Cheese Boy food stand, so why don't you go ask them if they know anything about it?" She said, clearly attempting to dismiss me as soon as possible.
"The grilled cheese people?"
"Yeah, that's them."
So I went up to Cheese Boy and asked a woman clad in an offensively bright yellow t-shirt if she knew anything about the vending machine that was on the other side of the food stand where she worked. Not surprisingly, she knew nothing about it whatsoever and needed to get back to making grilled cheese sandwiches.
At that point I was beginning to give up hope of ever getting the shoes, or ever getting them refunded. The security officers saw that me asking the Cheese Boy workers desperately and took pity. They waved me over. One of them walked with me over to the machine to investigate the situation.
He started kicking the machine then hitting it, trying to get the tube to fall. "You didn't try this?" he asked me.
"Uh, well, no, I figured I'd ask you people what to do before I started to get violent."
"Hm. Okay." He seemed confused by my lack of determination.
The other security guard came over to us and announced that he had found the contact information for the vending machine's liaison. I gave him my contact information and, of course, I was unable to get the call because by the time the person actually called me my phone was dead. It was an almost-happy ending to a truly disappointing attempt at buying shoes in a tube. I never got to see that transparent cylinder fall, nor did I go back to the green machine. But the hope of one day finding some tubed shoes of my own remains in my heart.