By Aubrey Clyburn
A recent experience with a vending machine dredged up a memory I had buried swiftly after it happened in Europe. I’ve discovered that it is nearly impossible for a 21-year-old person to say “when I was in Europe last summer” without sounding unbearably pretentious, but I was in fact there, and that is the setting of this particular memory. It was about 9 pm, which was when my flight was meant to land in Milan, but I had not yet even boarded the plane in Bordeaux. There I was, several hours into a rather stressful day of travel (most of which was due to my own absentmindedness), sitting in a strange airport where all the signs were in a language I couldn’t even pretend to speak, and for various other unrelated reasons having Not Such a Good Day. Because I have a healthy, moderative habit of eating whenever I feel any emotion, I decided to go to the vending machine and get myself a snack. Specifically I decided I wanted a Kinder Bueno, because I had been seeing them everywhere and we don’t have them. So up I go to the machine, pecking through my little coin purse like a nearsighted bird to identify bits of money that were shortly to become useless to me, and I put in the requested amount to get myself a foreign candy bar that I shouldn’t be eating anyway. And of course – of course – the machine cranks it forward almost to the tipping point, and stops just short of liberty. But because I don’t know when to quit, I used my critical thinking skills and intimate knowledge of the laws of physics to determine that if I paid for a *second* candy bar, it would knock the first one down, and I might even get the second one into the bargain. The upshot of all this is that about thirty bemused French people watched a quietly sobbing American with a refrigerator-sized backpack buy and immediately eat two Kinder Bueno bars, muttering curses the entire time. I can only speculate as to what they thought was the matter with me.
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