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Front St.Trails Section - Clovis Free PressLinks St.
Vol. 17  No. 21 Final Edition
Clovis Free Press

November 14 , 2000

The Soda Machine!
A parabale for modern times.

By Lisa Swan, Contributor

    CLOVIS -- I bought a can of soda at a vending machine yesterday. The sign on the machine said "50 cents." As I didn't have change, I inserted a dollar bill in the machine, pressed the button for my soda, and waited for my change.
     When my change didn't come out, I noticed that this was a new high-tech model and it had a microphone where you could talk back to the machine.  So, I decided to ask the machine why it hadn't given me my change back.
     "I am not sure that you deserve that change back, ma’am," the machine replied.
     "What do you mean?   Sodas are fifty cents and I paid one dollar. That means I get fifty cents back."
     "It is not quite so simple," said the machine. "I first have to determine whether you deserve the money back. How much money did you earn last year?"
     "Why should I have to tell you how much money I earned? What does that have to do with anything?"
     "Our company has discovered that a disproportionate amount of the change we give back has been going to the rich. In fact, the top 5% of all taxpayers get more change out of our machines, than do the bottom 10%."
     "So what! I would imagine that the people who have more money, spend more money in your machines. What's wrong with that?"
     "But we have to be fair, ma’am. The rich shouldn't get more benefits then they need," replied the machine. "Now, I might be able to give you a quarter back if you just answer a few questions."
     "A quarter? But you owe me fifty cents. And what kind of questions do you need to ask?" "Well, first, what do you plan to do with the change?"
     "What does that have to do with anything?   It’s my money---I paid more than you asked for and I should be able to spend my change on whatever I want!"
     "Ma’am, you are sounding awfully greedy. Our company has decided that it could really use the extra change that it has been giving back to people all these years. So, I need to determine whether you will spend this money more wisely then we can."
     "What does your company want to spend my change on?"
     "Some of the workers have asked for more benefits. Child care, medical insurance for cosmetic surgery and sex-change operations, shorter work weeks. We also thought it would be socially responsible to refund more of the change to people who have been economically disadvantaged by the system. But we can't afford to do those things that unless we keep your change. Now please tell me why you think that you can spend this change better than our company can?"
     "I'm hungry. I need the change to buy something from the snack machine next to you."
     "No, that won't do at all. Nothing but junk food in that machine. I'm glad I asked you these questions because you might have spent this change very unwisely."
     "But what will I do for a snack? I’m hungry!"
     "I can print you a voucher for twenty-five cents worth of organic brown rice which you can redeem at the workers’ cooperative store."
     "But I can't stand brown rice."
     "I'm sorry---it really doesn't matter what you like or not. We have done scientific studies which show that brown rice is more nutritional than junk food from a snack machine.  You really should be thanking me for saving you from making a bad mistake. Anyway, I already have your money and unless you want some of it back, you will need to do what I say.
     "Well, is there anything else you will let me do with my change other than buy brown rice?"
     "Sure, push this red button right here and we will credit it as a donation to the Democratic National Committee."

Letter to the Editor

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