We grow up whining for penny gum balls at the grocery store, and end up in a dark theater pleading with a faceless popcorn popper for more butter. Coin machines are bringing us to our knees.
I used to look forward to my morning trips to the deli for homemade muffins and freshly squeezed juice. Now I line up glumly at the Donut Delite in the office, insert a quarter, and watch last week's cinnamon buns crumble down the chute. The hot drink carousel is even more depressing, with its tepid gray water and soggy cups. No wonder people kick it.
On my weekly visits to the laundromat, it's not the variety of machines that staggers the senses. It's the demands they make. Every washer is programmed for a different color and fabric load, but no matter how many dials I turn, I still get cold water. And when I'm not checking wash cycles, I'm running back and forth between the parking meter outside and the steely-eyed alchemist inside -- the one that shreds dollard bills and spits out unpredictable quantities of quarters, dimes, and nickels.
I know I should be impressed with a soap powder vendor that promises dazzling white and good clean living. But I'm not. Too much efficiency and cheery helpfulness makes me nervous. Why are coin machines suddenly so eager to please?
It's difficult yet to detect a master plan, but the advance columns surely are upon us, spreading confusion. Just try to get directions from an automatic ticket taker in the subway. Or try to figure out how many gallons of gas you want from a pay-in-advance pump that computes one-half the total price per liter.