Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Get up in the morning, get dressed, go to work, eat lunch, drive home.

Now let’s take a closer look.

Every morning you wake up. You get dressed in a freshly pressed cotton shirt. You make your way down to the kitchen where you quickly slap together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You pop your sunglasses on your face, hop in the car, and make your way to work.

Let’s take an even closer look.

The cotton gin, the sewing machine, peanut butter, sunglasses, the assembly line… all things that you probably used this morning. But what do all of these things have in common?

My friend once told me that you can never go wrong writing about America. What teacher would not give you a good grade for writing about the greatest country in the world? Wouldn’t you think a country that invented all of these things, things that are becoming essential in our everyday life, would be on top of the world right now? Not down in the dumps in debt.

It’s a conundrum to me, really. How can the country who created the light bulb, the airplane, the computer and the internet for heaven’s sake, be in debt? We should be richer than Dubai!

So what’s the problem? I say it’s simple.

Vending machines, yet another American invention.

With the creation of the vending machine, as well as many other inventions after, we at the same time created a monster of a trend.

The vending machine, while ingenious in its own right, also perfectly displays the ideology of Americans while simultaneously setting them on a crash course for the future. The combination of American problem solving mixed with the poison of instant gratification was born, and this time it was neatly packaged in preservative-laced, trans fat filled, partially hydrogenated health bars. Yum!

While it may not be fair to argue that the vending machine is the root of all our problems, it does provide an excellent example.

People love what they love, and when they want something, they want it now. The difference is Americans, in their nature, have found a way to satisfy that need. But greed has made us stupid. Yes, we can get what we want anytime, almost instantly, thank you iTunes, you are single handedly taking down the music industry, but at least my CD’s from eBay are cheaper, but what is the real cost?

I think the real cost is all the waste it creates. The U.S. had become a throwaway society. We are inefficient. Millions of dollars are lost or tied up in red tape. Our society is sick, our economy is sick, and our country is sick (from all the trans fat) but somehow, we have managed to keep our heads above water. But how long can that last?

If it were possible, and our nation could sit down and get its act together, start making decisions based on what is best for people, and not what works best to instantly gratify them, things may really start to turn around.

Because that is all that instant gratification is: a quick fix. A temporary patch. Great ideas take time. You can’t just create a masterpiece overnight.

Take an author. That book he just published did not just get down on paper the first go round. There was a first draft. And it was horrible, but it was that first draft that created an idea for the second draft. And then came the third, and the fourth, and the fifth. And eventually, after work, and time, and love even, the words on the paper can become meaningful and epic. There is no immediacy (instantity) in that.

Dubai has vending machines that vend gold bars. We, the U.S. can’t even think about gold bars much less if we need to get rid of our dog because we can no longer afford to pay for dog food.

My mantra, if you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. Sure, I want a new car, a lot of people do, but just because I can get it, doesn’t mean that I should get it. Same goes for the house. Living within our means is something that our country has forgotten after marching downs the gratification trail for so many years.

Look where that has gotten us. Something has got to change. But will we as a people ever take that initiative? Is it possible, or is it too late?

So do I think that one can blame all of America’s failures on the vending machine? No, but you have to have someone (or something) to blame it on, right?


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