The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

The day the vending machines turned against me

Sometimes, when your soda machine hasn’t been restocked since September, you take matters into your own hands.
Emery Little
There’s nothing like the pain of walking all the way to another Commons house because your house’s vending machine is out of your go-to snack.

You don’t really notice that they’ve stopped restocking your house’s vending machines until it becomes an inconvenience. At my home in East, all positive relations with the machines stalled indefinitely when my beloved Grandma’s Cookies were replaced by Cool Ranch Doritos. 

It was sort of like when they replaced the original Aunt Viv with another actress on “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and thought we wouldn’t notice—except now, your longtime incredible edible study-buddy was the one being erased from the history books. (Grandma, if you’re reading this: what they’ve done to you is a terrible injustice and I hope our paths can someday cross again.)

It’s not like there aren’t other snacks, though. Although Grandma’s Cookies are by far the superior munch, it was fairly easy for me to find alternatives within the few weeks it took me to realize my favorites were never coming back. The moments where you actually can’t overlook vending machine inconveniences come, rather, when it’s 5 o’clock in the morning, you just got out of a boiling shower, about a week’s worth of procrastinated readings have liquidated the few brain cells you had left, your fridge is empty and your throat is dry. They stopped restocking your house’s soda machine in September. You have class in a few hours. And your head hasn’t touched a pillow yet.

Over the past month or so, whenever I was thirsty, I would routinely make short trips to the vending machines in either Stambaugh or Gillette. I knew this wasn’t going to last when (1) Stambaugh’s door eventually stopped letting me in, and (2) Gillette’s vending machine straight-up stopped working. On this particular Wednesday morning, rather than make the empty-handed walk of shame back to East, I convinced myself that I wasn’t taking no for an answer. I zipped up my jacket over my pajamas and tied my shoelaces. I wasn’t going to sleep until I found a working vending machine—and I was going to visit every house on Commons if it came down to it. 

The plan was all worked out in my head: I would try Gillette one last time, then make a trip to the Upper Quad, then come back down to the Lower Quad, then hike all the way to whatever isolated territory North and West Houses are rumored to inhabit, before coming home.

When I arrived at Gillette at about 10 minutes after 5, the soda machine was in even worse shape than my last visit. It’s already bad news when you look down and see the graveyard of failed transactions through the plexiglass—battered Rockstar energy drinks, sticky Pepsi residue, assemblages of bottles stacked on top of one another—but it’s even worse when, even after seeing all the warning signs, you yourself work up the nerve to swipe your card and smash “E8” into the keypad. I watched in horror as the mechanical arm landed slightly askew to my cherished Pure Leaf sweet tea and offered its best overdue Vanderbilt football tryout, somehow, someway, fumbling both the drink and my little hope in one shot. Memories of tear-filled childhood claw machine attempts flashed before my eyes. There the answer to my problems lay, bound to the graveyard with its fellow sugary soldiers: mangled, forlorn, never to be consumed again. “THANK YOU,” the green text on the card reader told me. 

I’ve never really had any reason to venture to the Upper Quad, so for some reason, I always thought the staircase led to some kind of mystical parking lot. Whether because of this, or because my last two brain cells were still on page 117 of “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” I refused Google Maps every time it led me to the stairs and consequently wound up hiking all the way around Wyatt Center to get to the front entrance of Crawford House … only to look to my right and see the same damn staircase leading back down to where I was standing five minutes ago. I grumbled a greeting to the security guard and found two vending machines in a corner. I let out the greatest sigh of relief my parched throat would allow. That was, until the soda machine decided not to read my card. In a frantic attempt to confirm that my card was, in fact, working, I tried it on the snack machine. It worked. I swiped again on the soda machine. It didn’t work. I desperately whipped out my credit card. “CARD NOT READ. TRY AGAIN.” 

I wished the security guard a good night, and walked across the lawn to Murray House. Here, the security guard was watching something on his phone when I walked in, so I figured he would be chill with me giving him a respectful head-nod and letting him get back to what he was doing. As much as this shouldn’t be the case, it’s a weird place I’ve come to in my relationships with the officers that witness my vending machine struggle every day—at a certain point, instead of asking me for my ID, they sort of glare at me annoyedly and give me that awkward nod with the straight mouth and the low eyes.

This security guard in particular didn’t know me. He peered up from his plastic frames, piercing my soul in a way it hasn’t been pierced since I got caught hopping my neighbor’s fence to retrieve a basketball in third grade. I fumbled for my wallet in my pocket and hurriedly flashed him the card. He didn’t acknowledge that he saw it; his eyes moved back down to his phone without him making a sound or movement. I stood there for a moment, confused as to whether I was allowed to keep walking. My legs flinched when we locked eyes again. In a last-ditch attempt to break the ice, I asked him if he knew where the vending machines were. 

“What?” he said.

“Do you know where I can find the vending machines?”


“The vending machines. Do you know where I can find them?”

He sucked his teeth and rolled his chair from behind the plexiglass. For a second, I thought he was getting up to lead me to the vending machines, so I half-smiled at him in gratitude. But he wasn’t actually trying to lead me to the vending machine. He was coming out from the plexiglass to lean in and tell me to speak up.

“Listen kid, you’re gonna have to speak up. I can’t hear you. Whaddayou need?” 

Now I was irritated. I had already raised my voice as high as it could go without coming off as rude. I was going to have to yell.

“The vending machines!”

He asked to see my ID again. I slid the card out of its compartment and watched as he gave it a cold, hard look. After a few long seconds of inspecting my ID, he handed it back to me and returned his gaze to mine. I asked him one more time if he knew where the vending machines were.

“I don’t know,” he told me. 

I took an elevator to the basement floor, turning a corner or two before letting out one more breathless sigh of relief at the sight of flickering, blue-ish light projected onto a wall. With the loose ID card that was already in my hand, I gave the soda machine an exhausted swipe. “CARD NOT READ. TRY AGAIN.”

All the while grumbling obscenities under my breath, I visited Hank Ingram and Sutherland Houses—two of which I had never set foot in before—and got the same result every time. I couldn’t feel my feet, or my throat really, as I trudged along to Memorial. If this didn’t work, it was going to be a long walk to the other side of Commons. I asked the security guard here about the vending machines; he muttered something about “downstairs.” I walked down the hallway and, in a strange moment of humanitarianism, opted to take the stairs upon seeing a poster for “Unplugged Week” pinned onto a cork board. As I traveled down the few steps leading to an alarm-equipped emergency exit, I realized that instead of another flight leading down to the basement, there was a wall. I looked up and saw the door close behind me. The scanner was red. I was trapped.

One of my favorite anti-Drake memes insists that he’s the type to lean against his girlfriend’s closed door upon getting rejected, put his head in his hands and slide down as dramatically as possible. I had been laughing at that meme for years—and yet here I was, doing the same exact thing on the door of a random staircase in Memorial House at 5:30 a.m. There was no way to get out of this one without waking everyone up. I could technically bang as loudly as I could until someone came and set me free. Or I could walk out through the back door—past the piece of printed paper that read “Emergency Exit: Alarm WILL Sound!!”—and leave all of Memorial House frantically awakened while I made a break for East. I called the RA on Duty; a robotic voice told me that (1) it was after hours and (2) I should call VUPD if it was something urgent. I searched my old text messages for the term “Memorial” to see if anyone I knew lived here. Nada. I sat there in disbelief, wondering how a single soda could have brought me to the measure I was about to take. I dialed VUPD. 

We discussed the prospect of them sending a team to get me out, all the while I assured them that this was relatively minor and that I was sorry for all the drama. After several minutes of weighing the options—I really couldn’t stand the idea of an entire police force getting me out of a staircase because I wanted a soda—I told the officer that I would stay on the phone while I went through the emergency exit. 

“If you get some kind of alert, it’s my fault,” I told her, wasting several minutes working up the courage to wake up the entire house.

Except, when I went through the door, there was no alarm. 

I wished the officer a good night and hung up the phone, too angry to be thirsty anymore. I got back to my room, took off my jacket and sat at my desk. I hopped into bed. I couldn’t sleep.

And as I watched the sky get bluer and bluer outside my window, I laughed to myself as my alarm went off.

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About the Contributors
Samuel Hyland
Samuel Hyland, Former Magazine Editor
Samuel Hyland ('25) is a student in the College of Arts and Science majoring in English. When he isn't fighting off sleep at Stevenson Library, he can be found silently praising campus squirrels for their work ethic. You can reach him at [email protected].
Emery Little
Emery Little, Former Social Media Director
Emery Little (‘22) is from Birmingham, AL. She majored in communication of science and technology and Spanish. In her free time, she loves to design graphics, follow tech news and run her photography business. She can be reached at [email protected].
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