the _____________ of the story

WARNING: Here is a long and essentially pointless story, which I am telling you because I am back in school and teaching my class this morning felt like running into a brick wall. Repeatedly.

Once upon a time, when I was a brand-spanking new mid-year hire, I discovered the magic coke machine. Sometimes, when you put in a dollar bill for a 75 cent diet coke, the machine would give you an extra quarter back as change. Magic coke machine!

Legend had it that the coke machine could predict the future. Extra quarter= good day. No extra quarter= bad day.

I am already a superstitious person. I did not need any extra help believing in the machine. I also may have made a spreadsheet documenting correlations between cheap coke and good teaching days, but I may have not done that, either.

Sometimes, though, shit happens and you don't have a dollar. So you frantically dig through your bag and your desk searching for 3 quarters.

But alas, in your early morning delirium you mistake a nickel for a quarter. You come up short. It is going to be a very bad teaching day. You accept this, and hit change return.

And get back 4 shiny quarters.

You try the same tactic again the next day, and it works. And the next day. You get your diet coke, and you make a small profit. 55 cents = 1 dollar= 45cent profit=Diet Coke for 30 cents.

And then you feel bad. It isn't a magic Coke Machine God that capriciously grants you an extra quarter and a good day of teaching. It's a broken piece of machinery that you deliberately manipulate every day so you don't have to pay as much to feed your addiction.

This of course causes much internal reflection. Am I stealing? Do I care if I'm stealing from the Coke Corporation? Is it my fault the machine is broken? What about that one time the machine ate my dollar? Can I consider this compensation for how little I get paid?

If I clutch my husband's coat-tails firmly enough, can I make it into the Celestial Kingdom despite my morally bankrupt quasi-thievery?

What do you think?

No seriously. Either help me rationalize, or sermon me into repentance.


~j. said...

If you feel bad, you could put the surplus coinage back into the machine. Make someone else's day, or let them deal with it.

You're the boss of this.

Lisa Louise said...

I don't think you should feel guilty about getting a good deal on some coke. The coke corporation is doing very well, they overcharge in the first place! so enjoy your cheap coke :)

Stephanie said...

@ j. would that make me like the peter pan of coke?

blurgh. i hate being the boss of my own moral relativism. remind me why we didn't go with satan's plan?

MJ said...

Don't feel bad. It's called a bonus. And they'll either figure it out and fix it or they don't care. But it is a BONUS.

And I'm with Lisa. Some of those machines are a total rip, so enjoy the cheapness while you can. :)

geoffsn said...

One thing to consider: in some cases, people rent/buy (you know, like a franchise thing) the machine from Coke and pay them a monthly rent on the machine and then they are left to get what little profit they can after the rent of the machine. So while I would excuse your theft from Coca-cola, you might just be screwing over someone else who's making nothing off of the machine.

Ru said...

I think it's like when you're at a restaurant and your server messes up your order and comps your drinks. Really, soda doesn't cost anything. The profit margin on soda is HUGE, which is why the server can comp you. (Remember the coffee lady who got $3 million from McDonalds? Yeah, that's the equivalent of two days of coffee profit ALONE for McDonalds. Drinks are where restaurants really make their money.)

In the grand scheme of things, Coke machines have ripped off as many people as they have unjustly enriched. You're just fine.

And in case none of that works: Pay it forward.

AzĂșcar said...

The problem is that it isn't the Coke Corporation, it's a local vending machine company.

I know a guy who runs his own vending machine company around here. He works really hard to stock and maintain his machines, which are scattered across a large geographic area. He travels all day visiting machines, arranging inventory, hauling boxes from the distributors, loading his truck, unloading and restocking, and repairing the machines his company is responsible for.

So you can make the decision, but I thought I'd lend you some visibility :)

Steven and Wendy OBryant said...

I have given SOOO much money to those coke machines. They ALWAYS steal my dollars, and what do I do? I put in another one! On occasion (I just typed that word 3 times, by the way, until spell check didn't tell me I was doing it wrong... yikes) I have even put in 3 dollars before learning my lesson and realizing that the addiction just wont be fed at the moment. Looks like 3 is the common factor here. Clearly I don't figure things out the first time. Spelling or spending... it takes me a few fails. Hmm - I feel like this turned into a tangent for me. Maybe I should go reflect and right my own post about it later? Probably not. Thanks for letting me vent in your comment section. :)

Spencer S. said...

I would have to agree that it isn't the Coca Cola company who is suffering, but rather a local small distributor who is.

Emily said...

I don't agree with the Robin Hood-esque thinking coming from some of the other commenters. (ie-Coke makes plenty of money and overcharges, therefore it's okay to steal from them.) Whether or not it's Coke or a local "poor" distributor getting ripped off shouldn't matter when deciding whether or not something is stealing.
Not that I necessarily think that you are stealing, I don't. But just stating that I don't agree with this kind of logic in making moral decisions of honesty. That being said, I don't think this is a major moral dilemma of honesty. :)

Michemily said...

There's gotta be a phone number on the machine somewhere. Call. Clear your conscience.

Tristin said...

I'm pretty sure you're already screwed for drinking Coke, so you may as well get what you can before you die and go to hell. That being said, I firmly believe Satan likes guilt way more than he likes morally ambiguous situations. Right and wrong will never be as clear as we like, so the best we can do is make our best guess and never look back. Same goes for repentance. Guilt is only useful insofar as it helps you correct yourself when necessary. After a certain point it is not only useless but harmful as well.

_________ of the story is that it probably doesn't matter. Neither does the fact that you used the s word and drink Coke.

Mrs. Clark said...

Agree with Tristin! And go ahead and call the company and just don't do it anymore. If you have to ask the question, you already know the answer--you never have to justify doing the right thing.

If I can come up with any other smarmy platitudes, I'll let you know.

This one is un-smarmy, though, and I wish I'd heard it when I was your age, and not 5 years ago: If the Lord doesn't hold you for it, don't hold yourself for it.

SGOT said...

God bless you for this post. I always feel bad about that situation -- but it's the coke machine's fault. At some point, Coke will figure it out. It should be 50 cents anyway.

You should invest the money you earn or buy more cokes

Colt said...

It is all corn anyway.

LindseyFae* said...

So I'm kinda in love with your blog. I will be back.

Mandy said...

I think that if you're feeling guilty, then you probably think it's wrong. I've had weird situations like this before, and however minor the theft may seem, it bugs my conscience too much to be worth it.

I'm also a teacher, and I would highly suggest investing in a mini-fridge for your classroom. You can save a good amount of money by stocking it yourself.

Julie said...

Hahaha! I freakin' heart you, Steph! I would most definitely take advantage of the magic coke machine. But then again, what am I, if not a heathen?

Juanique said...

Hahaha...this is Gods blessing to you in return for being such a faithful tithe payer. :P

Sharone said...

Spreadsheeters of the world unite.

Kristen Cawley said...

I figure if I'm going to go to Hell it is going to be for something really good - like robbing a bank - not for something stupid like pilfering quarters from the coke machine. Have you tried slot machines? Equally rewarding, plus they bring you free diet cokes.