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Let the chips fall where they may


In the beginning, there was a bag of potato chips — a Holy Grail that took Heaven and Earth to move from inside the vending machine to inside my mouth.

Well, that is, the potato chips … not the bag.

In my hand, briefly, were a pair of dollar bills that disappeared into the slot and allowed me to press the “A” and “0” buttons to retrieve the remedy for my mid-afternoon craving for a snack.

Gears set in motion, the potato chip bag dropped from the top row of available items and …

… promptly got stuck on the way down — wedged between the dispenser’s glass window and the roll of frosted mini-doughnuts housed in “F-0.”

I am not, it must be said, a genius when it comes to mechanical engineering. I once put together a desk from a kit in the spare bedroom of our Florida apartment … only to discover, as we were moving, that the desk was too big to get out of the room’s doorway.

So, odds were against my suddenly becoming MacGyver or Goldberg to extricate myself out of this circumstance weren’t very promising.

After attempting all the traditional dislodgement methods — asking around for the key (no dice), rattling the cage of the machine (not enough leverage), sticking my arm through the retrieval bin to knock potato chips to my grasp (not flexible enough … me, not the bag) — there remained two alternatives.

I could break the glass … although classifying this as an “emergency” would be stretching the definition.


I could retrieve my three quarters change, pull out another single and send a second bag of chips downward — the potential benefit of which would be getting two bags for the price of … no, that’s not right.

Or is it?

At the very least, the second bag would fall, bounce off the first and I could just be satisfied knowing I’d disproven the insane notion that you can’t get a different result from performing the same action over again.

Honestly, what’s the worst that could happen?

Damn you frosted mini-doughnuts … damn you straight to Hell!

There I stood — alone with my thoughts and 50 cents burning a hole in my pocket — contemplating my next move while checking my wallet to see whether I has any more Washingtons.

That’s when it hit me: This … this right here is why she doesn’t allow me near the checkbook.

Speaking of which, we recently discovered a $25 error in our account. Actually, the use of “we” in this case gives one of us far too much credit.

That one would be me — whose job in such matters is to track down a pesky mistake after she has calculated and recalculated her checks and balances at least twice.

And had them verified by the cat.

Then, and only then, am I allowed entry into her ledger domain to perform some mathematical magic trick and bring peace and tranquility to the kingdom for the next few weeks … until the next bank statement arrives.

We (and this time, I actually do mean “we”) have functioned in this way for more than 40 years — she hunched over the income and out-go; me across the room, mistaking her periodic mumbling as attempts at conversation; the cat pacing the floor, anticipating its role in this process.

Well, the two of us, at least. We don’t have a 40-year-old cat … although, if we did, we could become social media millionaires and not have our retirement hopes dependent on winning the “Take Your Shot Oregon” lottery for those who have been smart and selfless enough to get their COVID-19 vaccinations.

Back in the break room, I had pulled out another dollar, figured out which of the remaining quarters looked the luckiest and inserted them into the vending machine. That buck-twenty-five wasn’t going to last very long in our golden years, anyway.

I am not, it must be said, a genius when it comes to probability theory. My basic answer to questions in that regard is usually that everything has a 50% chance of happening — either it will … or it won’t.

That’s not true, of course. I’ve read that if you flip a coin three, the Cerberus Principle holds that the chances of getting three heads is 1 in 8, but I wasn’t going to allow facts to trump what I know to be true … the third time’s the charm.

A … 0

The chips fell, bounced off Bag No. 2 and made there way to a spot where even my arm could fetch them. Success.

Sure, it had taken $3.75 and a good 15 minutes. And, yes, there were still two bags which had to be left behind … but, I had emerged victorious, right? I’d completed my objective … carpe’d my diem, so to speak.

In the afterglow of accomplishment, I contemplated the plateau behind the glass when another thought made itself known.

After the second failure, I could have pressed “F-0” on the final attempt and used the offending snack as a bulldozer. That way, both of my intended targets would have been in my possession and I would have two bags for the price of … nope, still not right.

Besides, I shivered at the thought of admitting to her that I’d spent money on a pack of frosted mini-donuts I had no intention of eating.

Are you kidding me? I’m not even supposed to have the chips.

Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin lands on either his head or his tail at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com