About halfway between Blair, Kansas and Kirksey, Kentucky, there’s a rest stop on I-64 in Illinois. If my observation and memory skills even slightly surpassed those of the average comatose flaxseed, I could tell you the precise location. Instead, I will have to say that it is the first rest stop east of St. Louis on Interstate Sixty-Four. It is the same rest stop at which I locked my keys in the car a couple of years ago. I did not lock my keys in the car on my most recent trip. I wasn’t driving the car.
Sorry to disappoint you, but I didn’t lock my keys in the truck, either. What I did was insert a twenty-dollar bill into a vending machine. I did this because I was thirsty for something other than Illinois public water.
The propaganda message posted on the vending machine assured me that I would be given correct change after making my selection. The message was partially correct; I was given change.
It seemed to me that $1.50 was a sufficient charge for a twelve-ounce bottle of pop. Estimating the actual cost of production, transportation and dispensing, I calculated that the dollar-fifty would provide at least a dollar of profit to be shared between the vendor and the Illinois Department of Transportation. In this case, the profit margin skyrocketed.
Soon after the robot elevator retrieving mechanism deposited my Mountain Dew into the dispensing chamber, three bills protruded from the folding money shaft and a bunch of coins dropped into the change box. At first, I thought they were all quarters but it turned out there were three one-dollar coins and two quarters. Now, had the three bills previously mentioned all been fives, the change total would have neatly matched my expectations.
The first two bore the quite familiar image of our sixteenth president. The third one, though, retreated a century or so, back to the earliest days of our nation and its very first premier official. No disrespect, George, but you were definitely a disappointment on this particular trivial occasion. Between the retail charge and the shortchanging, I’d just paid five dollars and fifty cents for a small bottle of pop. Normally, one has to attend a major sporting event in order to negotiate that sort of bargain in personal refreshment.
Reflecting back over my life and a few of the other bargains I’d made, this was definitely not the worst. At least this one left me with no scars and no further payments.