Change You Can Count On
Here's a bureaucratic adventure from this morning.
Patricia and I visited her family on the peninsula this weekend and were fairly lucky with the WA state ferry to and from Bainbridge Island. We had to wait maybe 10 minutes on the way out and no minutes on the way back. This morning it was waiting at the dock for us like it was trained. Like it cared.
On ferry boat rides, Patricia tends to read magazines inside, in the front seats, while I, with a history of motion sickness, often stand on the prow of the boat and take in the Sound. Lately I've been switching up my routine, walking back and forth, up and down the steps, generally staying outside. I did this for half the trip.
Back inside I passed a “Seattle's Best Coffee” vending machine, which, on the way out, had been plastered with OUT OF ORDER signs. Not now. Maybe we were on the other ferry (the WENATCHEE rather than the TACOMA). Maybe it was fixed. Either way, I decided a cup of coffee sounded good right then. But the machine wouldn't accept my $5 bill. Didn't even whir at it. A sign flashed that it wasn't accepting credit cards, while another sign flashed something like “Insert Mug.” Was it out of cups? Were we supposed to bring our own mugs now? Like canvas bags at the grocery store?
Next to the coffee machine stood a change machine and I thought, “Maybe coins will work.” So in went my $5 bill. And out came four $1 gold coins and a fifth gold coin reading NO CASH VALUE.
What do you do? You look around. There's no one around. I tried a $1 gold coin in the Seattle's Best coffee machine. Spit it right out. Tried the NO CASH VALUE coin. Ditto.
You feel like a schmuck. You wonder: Is it worth it to try to get a buck back? Of course not. But you shrug and think, What the hell.
So I talked to the guy at the convenience store at the front of the ferry.
“Hey. I put a $5 bill in the change machine...?”
Dryly: “Those things work great, don't they?”
“Right. Four $1 coins and a coin that says NO CASH VALUE.”
“That's not us. Talk to the second mate. He can help you.”
“Around that corner. Right before the women's restroom. Dutch doors.”
I found him, explained.
“Yeah,” he said, “that's not us. But there's a number on the machine. Call that number and they can help you.”
It was a Sodexo coin machine, from Sodexo, Inc.: “World Leader in Quality of Daily Life Solutions.” The woman I spoke with asked for the CV number on the machine. For a second I wondered if they had the capability to remotely discharge another $1 coin from the machine. Nope. She took my name, phone number, address. I assumed they would mail me a buck. Nope again. They're mailing me a $1 check.
A $1 check? I have $50 checks I haven't cashed.
Anyway that was my ferryboat ride this morning. I wanted a cup of coffee and got no coffee, four $1 gold coins, a NO CASH VALUE coin, and a $1 check coming in the mail.
Fight the power.