Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Point Counterpoint: The Empty Vending Machine/All the Chips

The Empty Vending Machine

            The vending machine was empty again.  Karl Bloris stood unhappily in the office break room, his stomach balancing on the thin line that lies between peckishness and hunger.  He eyed his watch angrily.  Eight hours of work and only 15 minutes for a coffee break, he thought.  And then just a half hour for lunch that doesn’t even count towards my work day.  This is modern day slavery.
            Karl slumped down into a chair beside the small table that stood in the middle of the room.  He stared longingly at the circular metal rings that should have at this very moment been sliding aside to relinquish his chosen refreshment.  Right now, he should be enjoying the fruits of his hard earned dollar manifesting itself in the form of barbeque potato chips or a fudge drizzled snack cake.  Hadn’t he been told all his life that if you work hard you can achieve your dreams?  Was this dream really so big that he had yet to earn it?
            As he sat in silence, pining for his mid-morning snack, Karl could not help but feel that this moment was, in a way, symbolic of his entire life.  Since he was a young man, people had told him that he could do great things if he just put his mind to it.  Today, Karl knew that those people were as dumb as they were stupid.  Today, he knew that the hard workers of this world were just stepstools for the elite.  Men like him worked their whole life for the faint hope of some small reward, while the bosses and CEOs drank champagne and ate caviar from their own personal vending machines.  Wasn’t it their job to make sure the vending machines were full?  What’s the sense of having a manager if they don’t manage?  There’s no use complaining, Karl thought.  Men like me do all the work and they reap all the benefits.  And I can’t get a single bag of chips.
            The more he thought about it, the more Karl’s anger grew.  He began to grind his teeth as he thought of everyone else enjoying their snacks while he sat and starved.  His breathing rose sharply as Bill Morris from accounting walked by, a bag of Sea Salted chips in his left hand.  Karl was sure Bill had taken the last package.  What’s more, he was fairly certain that last time he had been in Bill’s office, he had seen a whole box of assorted packaged snacks.  The bastard is hoarding chips, Karl thought.  Who did Bill think he was, keeping all the chips to himself like that?  Didn’t they both work for the same company?  Weren’t they both at the same pay grade?  Karl was certain that Bill did not need all the chips he had been saving and it was certainly not fair to keep them from the rest of the office.  Didn’t Karl deserve chips just as much as Bill did?  Didn’t he have the right?
            By now, Karl Bloris was fuming.  He looked down at his watch and let out a harsh growl.  His break was already half over and he still didn’t have anything to eat.  His stomach grumbled as he stared intensely at the empty vending machine.  He was sick of it all; sick of the long hours, sick of the hard work, and sick of the constant oppression from the wealthy class.  This wasn’t what America was supposed to be.  He imagined an America where he could truly be free; a place where he wasn’t held back by the greed and inequities of the corporate wasteland; a place where the rich didn’t draw their profits from the blood of the working class and the vending machines were always full of chips, cookies and a myriad of other delicious edibles.
            That, after all, was what the founding fathers had intended.  This country wasn’t founded to be a haven for the rich and elite to tread all over the common man.  Here, if nowhere else in the world, people were supposed to be equal.  No one man should ever be another man’s master.  No one man deserved all the snacks. 
            Karl was red in the face by the time he had reached this crescendo of indignity.  His anger towards all the managers and CEOs hit a fever pitch and he gasped for air, trying to calm down.  When his mind had finally cleared of the rage he looked down at his watch and sighed heavily.
            Bastards made me miss my entire break…

All the Chips

            Bill from accounting always sat with his desk facing the front door of his office and his back as close to the wall as possible.  To his left sat a box full of reserve snacks in case the vending machine either broke down or stood empty.  He wouldn’t be left snackless like that idiot Karl from legal.  Bill despised Karl because he always seemed to be eyeing him up every time he walked past Karl’s desk with chips or some kind of snack cake.  Almost instinctively, Bill slid a little closer to his box of snacks.  He was certain Karl or one of his subordinates would happily steal what he had rightfully earned if he gave them the chance.  Those people were all the same and he knew it.
            Thinking of his subordinates made Bill cringe.  He had ten junior accountants and two secretaries working under him, and each one of them was as ungrateful as the last.  When he gave them an entire weekend off, they complained about the ten hour days.  When the company agreed to give them a health plan, they whined that they didn’t have dental.  Every time he graced them with a new account, they responded scornfully that ten workers couldn’t possibly handle eight accounts at once.  Didn’t they care about the company?  Didn’t they appreciate everything that he did for them?  If it wasn’t for the company, they wouldn’t have jobs!  If it wasn’t for him, they wouldn’t have a leader to direct them.  For three years he had told them what to do and how to do it and not once had any of them ever thanked him! 
            He remembered with contempt the time they had come to him with their demands; not one on one like adults, but in a veritable mob.  All twelve of them came storming into his office, hollering about the nearly empty vending machine in the break room.
            “There are only two bags of chips left,” Charlie had said.  “It’s not enough for all of us to share.”
            “So what do you want from me?”  Bill replied.  “I’m not in charge of the vending machines.  They get filled on the second Monday of every month.  If we run out, we run out.”
            “But Bill,” Charlie continued.  “It always runs out and management never thinks to increase the order frequency.  We know you must have bought at least twenty bags of chips in and put them in your box…”  Bill’s face turned red with anger.
            “And you just thought you’d hit me up for free chips?” he said, his voice rising.  “You think you can just wait until the machine is empty then come hound me for mine?”
            “No, no, Bill” Rita replied.  “We’re perfectly willing to pay for them.  We want to do our part; you just haven’t given us the chance.  We only want five of them for the people who haven’t gotten the chance to buy any for themselves to share.  It’s not that unreasonable.” 
            Bill was livid just remembering the confrontation.  Who did they think they were, asking for so many of his hard earned chips?  When you think about it, twenty bags really isn’t even that much.  It was all well and good for them to say that fifteen would be enough for him; they were the only ones benefiting.  They would be off enjoying corn chips and nachos while he was left behind, robbed of a quarter of his chips!  If they wanted chips they should have gone out and gotten some themselves.  It’s not his fault that he planned ahead for the possibility of an empty vending machine.  If nothing else, he should be congratulated for his forethought and business savvy, rather than harassed by his good-for-nothing employees.
            He thought of them, the writhing, hollering masses of workers clawing for the blood of leaders like him.  Their jealous, greedy eyes salivated when they looked at him, hungry for a piece of what was rightfully his.  How dare they?  Didn’t they know that without men like him to lead there would be no workers?  Men like him drove this nation’s economy and made it truly great.  It was his poise, his intelligence, his two extra courses in business administration that set him above these common toilers. 
            Hot passionate tears formed in his eyes when he thought of the heavy burden placed on the shoulders of men like him.  They asked so little in exchange for their efforts: a fair wage for their work, a quiet space of their own to think, and the well-deserved respect of those beneath them.  Bill knew that, if left to lead their way, men like him could pull this country back from the brink.  His heart sank when he thought of the all the people that hurled insults at business leaders like himself.  He knew that the world he dreamed of, the world where well-meaning men like himself could guide everyone into prosperity, would never come to be.
            There’s just no trust in the working class…

The End