You unwrinkled your dollar bill so perfectly you can almost make out the wooden teeth hidden behind George Washington's closed lips. You located your preferred snack in the grid and plugged in the numbers. You watched the various complications mechanisms find said snack, push it out to the ledge, mere seconds away from being in your stomach, and... it just hangs there. In mid-air. Taunting you.
This is the great horror story of the vending machine, one that nearly everyone's experienced before. But instead of these regular malfunctions sending the vending machine to the bin of failed technologies, it's actually become the domain of items more expensive and fragile than Cokes and candy bars. In airports, you can snag new iPods, earbuds, or digital cameras by simply pressing a few buttons. In Europe, there are vending machines that unleash bicycles. And just last week, the most recent addition to the vending machine family was unveiled in L.A.-area malls: caviar dispensers.
At the Westfield Topanga, Burbank TownCenter and Westfield Century City malls, Beverly Hills Caviar has installed machines that allows passersby to plug in their debit or credit card and choose between their caviar options. Want a little pick-me-up? Get some American Black Caviar for $30 an ounce. Feeling like you earned that day? Go elite with the Imperial River Beluga, a hoity-toity $500 an ounce. Which all means it's time for Los Angeles to go full steam into the vending revolution and begin offering other foods to make the Christmas shopping season a bit easier on the senses. These should be first on the list:
Conveyor belt sushi is already an accepted practice in the raw fish-eating community, so why not extend that concept into malls? If designers wanted to go the novelty route, they can even install grabber-arms and force the customers to actually physically pick and choose their preferred sushi option. If Weird Al's "UHF" taught us anything, it's that the best games are the ones played with fish.
There are plenty of arguments why these newly-ubiquitous bar Happy Hour items should be kept out of vending machines: The burgers need to be grilled, the bun can get soggy or cold if not kept in proper conditions, the various toppings like caramelized onions or sauteed mushrooms need to be tended to by an expert hand. I say, those are not reasons to halt development, but instead small hurdles to our slider-eating utopia. If we can put a man on the moon and a robot on Mars, we can accomplish this.
Seeing as there's a sense of responsibility that has to come with installing machines in a public space, it only makes sense to have a vegetable option. "But, Rick," you work up the courage to interrupt, "don't you need ample space, water and sunlight to grow vegetables?" Yes, you do. But coming up with those is not rocket science: Japan's already done it.
Skip out on breakfast and looking for something a little more substantial than a Nutri-Grain bar? Why not head over to the nearest EggSellent Scrambler (patent pending), tell the computer which vegetables or meat bits you want, how many eggs you'd like, and have the machine whip up a hot and ready-to-go batch of scrambled eggs?
Ever sit at the bar of a throwback cocktail joint and just zone out watching the expert bartender blend together various liquors, peels, and spices like a master apothecary, all to create the perfect drink? What you're watching is really simply just a series of steps being completed in a certain order. And like anything that's a series of specific steps, that process can be automated. Throw an ID scanner and ATM camera into the machine to make sure purchasers are of age, and you've created the ideal way to navigate through the hordes of screaming babies and irate shopoholics during the Christmas season: Heavy doses of delicious alcohol.