All for just 25 cents

Curio & Co. enjoys candy from old-time vending machines. Photo of gum ball vending machines. Curio and Co. 

Can you buy social harmony out of a vending machine?


A strange phenomenon has been taking place in the past year or so, and it has nothing to do with the fact that Curio & Co. had a vending machine at Comic-Con (we were offering advice for 25¢, since nobody wants free advice).

There seems to be a return of old-fashioned vending machines. They are everywhere, from barbershops to Wal-Mart and the shopping malls are swarming with them. Could just be revisiting the past, but it seems more like a response to the present. It's pretty hard to make a buck, and vending machines are low maintenance and with 25¢ here or 50¢ there times one, two, tree, four, and five… it adds up fast.

The trend extends to coin-operated gismos and rides of all sorts. Though the crazy looking cars barely move, they can usually be depended on to make cool sounds and have flashing lights. You can experience the thrill of riding 200 mph for just a quarter – what kid wouldn't ask their parents for pocket change to experience that?

If I hadn’t been pulled away by my better half, I would've jumped in, and I'm past the target demographic. I would've gladly made a fool of myself in front of the group of 13-14 year olds that were congregating by the machines. And what a surprise to see that: kids gathering socially, talking to one another, without smart phones. I was shocked.

All and all, that 25¢ vending machine at the hair salon, may be a sign of a hard economy, or maybe it serves a more important purpose by reconnecting us with our not so distant past. That vending machine may make us leave our smart phones in our pockets and get our instant gratification with some chewing gum or a bouncy ball. And if you happen to pass by the machine with a friend or a significant other, you just may lend a coin, bringing even more connections.

It may be the sign of the hard times that drive us to spend the coins rather than the paper, but if it brings people together, talking and laughing, then I guess it's well worth 25¢ from my pocket.