Vending machines can easily be found in public spaces: library, train station, office building. They are usually placed at the corner of the building, at the corner of the streets, on train platforms. They are machines on which people depend when the needs for snacks or foods arise. It seems that they are placed at places where the need for quick snack and refreshment happens unexpectedly. Instant and practical are two important characters of the machines. They are machines, which deal with a matter of speed.
Vending machine is always an interesting thing for me. This happens especially when I am abroad, or living abroad as I am now. Not only I started to think about it as a machine, which dispense regular food and drinks. But also I began to think about the machine as the representation of something else.
I do not use the machine that much when I am in Indonesia. Why would I buy something from a machine if shops, street side food vendors, and individual sellers abundant? I used to have a habit of buying a bottle of The Botol Sosro (black tea in a bottle) every time I went to the photocopy shop. But that was not really a vending machine. It did not work through a coin inserter mechanism. You open the machine door, take something from inside it, then walk to the cashier desk to pay.
When I saw a vending machine at the Leiden University library, and observed what things contained in it, I was amazed. I studied in the university from 2011 to 2016. The machine offer a rich variety of things: hot drinks—tea, coffee, hot water, snacks, candies, sandwiches, fruits. These are not the things I used to buy from a machine.
Once, I did a little experiment with a vending machine in a building that I worked in the university. The building is called Pieter de la Court. It is an eight-story building, which belongs to Faculty of Social Science, Leiden University. There is a vending machine in each floor in the building. But the machine placed in there is the one, which only dispenses hot drinks. If one wants to buy snacks and cold drinks, he or she has to go to one of vending machines lined up on the ground floor. The distance between the room where one sits and the vending machines may influence snacking appetite negatively. I have never used a bankcard to buy anything from a vending machine. So I decided to use a bankcard to buy cracker. The brand of the vending machine in the university is ‘Mass International’. I bought crackers with basil, tomatoes, and cheese cream. It has become my favorite snack. I inserted the bankcard, then the machine asked me the number code of the cracker. It was 47. It is a one Euro snack. The machine did not ask me to type the pin code of the bankcard. After typing the number code of the cracker, a notification that the snack was ready to be picked.
I got off the train from the city in Richmond Station one afternoon. It is the closest station to our place. It was a bright summer day. But it seemed very quiet in the station. As I walked down the platform, I saw a vending machine stood in the middle. I began to see it not as a machine, but a friend. It is always there, waiting patiently in case we need something from it.