A convenience store without a clerk

Adams Morgan
Saturday, Sept 28
12:30 a.m.

Eggs and condoms sold right next to each other in the same vending machine. Was I seeing straight?

For the first time in my college career, I walked down the main strip in Adams Morgan completely sober. My sister and I were spending quality time during her last week in D.C. before her big move to L.A. We passed all the bars filled with college students and young professionals tripping over themselves. Pizza Mart was crowded as usual, overflowing with customers chowing down on monstrous, delicious, greasy slices of pizza. I smiled, remembering all the times I ended my nights there with a slice.

My sister and I pushed our way through the crowd of drunks and made our way to a bar farther down the street, where we were meeting my sister’s boyfriend.

Along the way we came across this huge box of a thing that called itself a vending machine. It was equivalent to about 10 normal-sized vending machines and taller than the average basketball net.

I had heard about it, but finally looking at the monster of a machine, it was overwhelming. Not only were there typical snacks one buys from a vending machine, but the candy was all king-sized and the soda was in two-liter bottles.

This vending machine carried more essentials than my own dorm room has in stock. There were three or four different kinds of milk, including organic, fat-free and soy. There was toothpaste, deodorant, DVDs, laundry detergent, tampons and disposable cameras. There was also Advil, Pellegrino water, freshly made sandwiches and Pantene Pro-V conditioner.

All the perishable items were in a glass refrigerator. If you walked to the left of the food there was a place to rent DVDs, but only with a credit card. A sign told customers if the movie was not returned within 14 days, it’s assumed they want to purchase it and a $25 charge would go on the credit card.

The prices, surprisingly, were relatively reasonable. The DVDs for sale were a bit pricey at $25, but to rent one was no more expensive than Blockbuster or Tower. A two-liter bottle of Coke was $1.75 and a roast beef sandwich was $4.75. I decided to go with a bag of pretzels, not too original, but I craved something salty. I watched this big metal box go to where the pretzels were and bring them down to where my hand was waiting. Soberness allowed me to really take humor in all the people who approached the vending machine. Girls in black pants and short skirts could not walk by without stopping to take a look.

One group of people must have stopped to look for 10 minutes. Everyone who walked by seemed more amazed than the previous pesron. Another guy literally started hugging the machine, calling it his god, and then got a bag of chips.

Almost everyone just had to stop to take a look and some people had to buy – just to see how the vending machine worked.

I can imagine what a haven this machine must be after a long night of drinking. The whole idea of convenient store items being available 24 hours a day is a dream come true for me, because almost nothing is open past 2 a.m. in D.C. and my cravings conveniently start at 3:30.

But this whole idea of getting everything from a machine worried me. I’ve never been to keen on jobs that are taken over by machines, especially after seeing Terminator 2. One guy who walked by called it the future of quick marts. I don’t know about that, I’m still a Philly girl and I still love my Wawa.

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