Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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"My Crisps Are Stuck" Button

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Bob rummaged through his pockets, and was pleased to discover (after a quick feat of mental arithmetic) that he could muster 40p in silver - enough to buy a packet of crisps from the rather ornate looking vending machine.

This was possibly the best news Bob had received all day - nothing had seemed to go right since he woke up, but now he'd scraped together enough money for the chips, he felt sure things were on the up.

As his index finger felt its way across the keypad, Bob selected B9 and the steel coil rumbled into rotation, forcing its identical packets reluctantly forward, like a column of conscripts being ordered to the front-line until suddenly - mutiny.

As the front packet tilted forward and prepared to fall lemming-like towards the tray where Bob could collect his lunch, disaster struck. The top edge of the packet of crisps lodged against the vending machine's glass window; as close as they could get to Bob, and yet further away than ever.

Bob took a quick look around, and, seeing that the coast was clear, he proceeded to try to unite owner and object by giving the machine a damn good shake. Despite his best efforts, the crisps were lodged more tightly than a pint of Guinness in a flock of alcoholic penguins, and they stoutly refused to move.

Bob cursed, and then took a deep breath. And then cursed again. He had no more change, his day had been rubbish, and this vending machine was the last straw. Defeated, Bob slumped forward and allowed his head to rest on the front of the vendor. Almost immediately, he jumped back in alarm as the machine whirred into action.

In an unusual, perhaps unique, moment of good fortune in Bob's day, his weary head had come to rest on the big red "My Crisps are stuck" button, and had unwittingly initiated the process for removing blocked objects from the vending window. A laser 'eye' zipped up and down one side of the vending column, sending its beam across the space where a mischievous piece of confectionary might be clinging desperately to its coil or else be too portly to decend without assistance.

Simultaneously, the plastic cover was falling over the unsold goods, to protect them from the carnage which would soon ensue. As the laser eye spotted that there was indeed a blockage, speakers at the top of the vending machine crackled into action:

"Please stand aside, disco dislodgement will begin in seconds... warning, disco dislodgement will begin in moments..."

Until they flickered into life, Bob hadn't even noticed the disco lights and glitter ball on the top of the machine, but as they began throwing light across the canteen, Bob figured that a step backwards might be prudent. After all, if anyone was likely to be crushed in a bizarre disco-vending disaster, it was likely to be Bob.

After a couple of seconds of flashing lights, the vending machine begin "disco dancing" to the sounds of Anita Ward's "Ring My Bell" (one of several random selections available), flinging itself from side to side with gay abandon, straining at the bolts which held it to the floor. The "pimp my ride" style hydraulics flung it around as dry ice began to emit sweet-smelling smoke from somewhere behind its chassis.

After a minute, the music faded, the lights stopped flashing and the smoke subsided. Tentatively, Bob reached inside the dispenser and discovered his crisps waiting for him. "Maybe today won't be all that bad" thought Bob, as he walked out into glorious sunshine, munching on his well-shaken lunch.

The crisps tasted all the better for the lengths Bob had been through to retrieve them. He didn't even notice as the shadow of the grand piano grew larger all around him...

Fishrat, Jan 13 2008

(??) Now maybe if there was a button... http://www.youtube....watch?v=WKE507sUJH0
[4whom, Jan 13 2008]

[link]






       [+] for story, [++] if i could.
erlehmann, Jan 13 2008
  

       On the cheaper vending machines, the "My Crisps Are Stuck" button just illuminates a small display which displays the message "Your Crisps Are Stuck".
hippo, Jan 13 2008
  

       that's awful, hippo. "kick here"
po, Jan 13 2008
  

       kick where?
Fishrat, Jan 13 2008
  

       Lester cautiously approached the shiny new vending machine, his slightly-moist hand holding a collection of loose change. He eyed the tempting array of unwholesome snacks, chocolate bars, and assorted candy, their gaudy wrappers beckoning to him under the bluish-green fluorescent light. He spied the familiar label of his favourite treat and took note of its assigned designation.   

       Gently, he slid coin after coin purposefully into the slot, watching as the garish red LED display flashed each plateau toward obtaining his desire. Lester licked his lips as he let the final coin drop, nearly giggling when he heard it fall amongst the collection.   

       As he raised his finger to press the button that would deliver him along the path to ecstasy, Lester was briefly distracted by a new button he had never noticed before. "Press here if your selected item fails to drop into the hopper" was written on the sign beside the button. Lester smiled, and confidently proceeded with his selection.   

       The shiny new vending machine whirred and clicked, the sleek spiral urging the delicious morsel ever closer the edge of the shelf when, suddenly, the package fell slightly sideways and became firmly lodged against it's neighbour, as if inebriated and in need of steadying support.   

       Lester's heart fell to his feet. His knees buckled and he swooned, his hands banging against the plexiglass window that now separated him from his one true love. Through a veil of tears, he gazed upwards and he once again saw the new button. "Salvation" he thought.   

       The strength returned to his legs and he stood. Wiping the tears away with the back of his left hand, he raised his right and, applying a soft but firm pressure, he engaged the button he hoped would unite him with his heart's desire. Lester stood back waiting for the shiny new vending machine to spring into action.   

       There was slightly audible click then a garbled automated voice crackled through a tiny speaker "We're sorry you have had difficulty with our machine. Please call the number listed on the card in the hopper for assistance. Have a nice day." A small piece of paper wafted gently down into the chamber at the bottom of the machine.   

       Lester retrieved the card and began to softly sob once more as he shuffled away. After all, it was Sunday, and nobody works on a Sunday...
Canuck, Jan 14 2008
  

       //a column of conscripts being ordered to the front-line// Brilliant simile! That's exactly what they look like.   

       Your bun is under the piano.
pertinax, Jan 14 2008
  

       Which pia....? <crash>
Fishrat, Jan 14 2008
  

       "Yes, it's an emergency."
...
"Yes, that's right" {gives address}
...
"That's right; a crane and a piano tuner. Thank you."
pertinax, Jan 14 2008
  

       "Thank God for that!" said Bob, "There's a "The "My Crisps are Stuck" button is broken, damn it!" button!"
hippo, Jan 14 2008
  

       4whom, great vid, thanks for the laugh Fishrat and all
dentworth, Jan 14 2008
  

       "Fishrat cursed as his crisps dangled invitingly behind the thick perspex screen .... but then he spotted the inviting red-and-yellow striped T-shaped handle on the side of the machine. Inserting the two keys in the two keylocks, he simultaneously turned them, and to his delight a large panel flashed into action, showing the legend, 'Crisp unsticking system armed !'   

       His mouth filling with drool at the imminent prospect of the salty, lard laden snack food, he pressed firmly on the plunger.........."   

       The coroner recorded the cause of death as "presumed suicide, since there was no actual evidence, just a huge smoking crater. He noted that BorgCo had promised to retrofit all their vending macines with a slightly less vigorous back-up mechanism."
8th of 7, Jan 14 2008
  

       + fun-*disco-dislodgement*! haha
xandram, Jan 14 2008
  

       // .357 Magnum //   

       That's the retrofit we're doing ....
8th of 7, Jan 14 2008
  

       Freeze, punk.
Fishrat, Jan 14 2008
  

       Bob's packet of crisps dropped neatly into the bottom of the vending machine. His mouth watering involuntarily, he reached into the hatch, took out the packet and tore it open, stuffing the crunchy, salty, delicious snacks into his mouth.

Suddenly, he couldn't breathe and was aware only of a sharp, tearing pain in his throat. There was no one around to help him. As his face reddened and his vision blurred and narrowed, his eyes fell on a button on the front of the vending machine. "Agh, yes - my crisps are stuck", he thought, his finger frantically stabbing the button which promised to start up some kind of automated Heimlich manouvre mechanism. As he lost consciousness and sank to the floor, the last thing he heard was some futile mechanical operation happening inside the machine...
hippo, Jan 14 2008
  

       Having just shook holy hell out of our vending machine in order to retrieve a packet of crisps for one of the front office girls who was in the midst of an early morning snack attack, I say bun.
Noexit, Jan 14 2008
  

       On the basis that the piano is descending vertically, and the light source is directly overhead, then the shadow will actually get smaller, more sharply defined (the penumbra will diminish in proportion to the aspect ratio between the light source and the projected surface on which the shadow is cast), and, in the central area, darker , as more and more light is excluded.   

       The orientation of the piano (legs up/legs down) can probably be neglected if the lid is fixed closed.   

       However, this is mere theorising, and the only way to obtain the necessary data is practical experiment. [Fishrat], if you would be so good as to step over there .... yes.... just on that spot chalked on the concrete .... yes... now... keep still ......   

       <Signals to [pertinax]>
8th of 7, Jan 14 2008
  

       Look, Bob and physics were never close friends, ok?
Fishrat, Jan 14 2008
  

       Since the sun is significantly wider than a piano, the shadow of the piano *does* actually get larger - by a very, very small amount - as it approaches the ground. No?
jutta, Jan 14 2008
  

       That's because the lightbulb is smaller than the saucer. If you perform the same experiment with two light bulbs, spaced about a shoulder width apart, one on either side of the plate, and observe the behavior of the dark intersection between the two shadows cast by the plate, you'll see the effect I'm referring to.
jutta, Jan 14 2008
  

       If ANYONE can bring back Anita Ward's "Ring My Bell," it would most certainly be a vending machine.
Letsbuildafort, Jan 14 2008
  

       What is being discussed here is a phenomenon known as a Falling Piano Eclipse.   

       When an object is interposed between a light source and a surface, the inner portion of the shadow is the umbra, and the outer purtion the penumbra. In a solar eclipse, the umbra is the zone of totality; those in the penumbral region experience only a partial eclipse.   

       The key here is the angular size of the sun compared to the piano. There will be a point in altitiude as the piano is raised higher and higher where the observed angular width of the piano matches that of the solar disc. At that point the zone of "totality" will be a single point on the ground directly in line with the centreline of the sun and the piano, presuming that the piano suspension mechanism is so adjusted to continuously compensate for the respective rotations of the earth and sun (both diurnal and annnual, plus precession).   

       When [Fishrat] looks up, if he is standing in the "right" spot, the piano will completely obscure his view of the sun (presuming the piano is circular, or is so manipulated such that it presents an approximately circular form; it may be necessary to raise the keyboard end somewhat). Around him, the ground will be in faint shadow, as any movement away from the centre will disclose the piano equivalent of "Bailey's Beads" (q.v.).   

       When [pertinax] pulls the release, the piano falls under the influence of the local gravitational field; the time of descent should be suffciently short that no further active correction of trajectory is required.   

       [Fishrat] will observe a rapid change in the light level. As the piano descends, it obscures more of the solar disc as its angualr magnitude relative to the observer increases. This effect will become more marked the further it travels. At the same time, the penumbra "pulls in" and becomes darker and better defined.   

       When the piano reaches a point h + dh above [Fishrat], who is still presumably looking up with his eyes open, where h is [Fishrat's] pre-piano height, the point of maximum obscuration will have been reached as the piano now fills his entire visual field. At which point, as far as the observer is concerned, eveything goes black.   

       If we now look closely at the piano (trying to avoid stepping in the stuff oozing from underneath) we will note that under the piano it is dark (presuming the legs ahev collapsed) and the shadow has a slight fuzzy edge; this is the residual penumbra resulting from the fact that the sun is not a point source but has a significant angular magnitude. Only when the distance between the object and the surface approches delta x does the penumbra effect cease to be significant (disregarding diffraction).   

       Does that answer your question ?   

       Can we drop the piano now ?
8th of 7, Jan 14 2008
  

       The piano of damocles.
Fishrat, Jan 14 2008
  

       Hang on a minute - this will all have to happen between the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer and then only at local noon and on certain days in order to get the Sun overhead.   

       And it will have to have stopped raining.
DenholmRicshaw, Jan 15 2008
  

       <hands [hippo] an Anno Oscar - awaits speech>
wagster, Jan 15 2008
  

       All my writers are on strike. Bastards.
hippo, Jan 15 2008
  

       [Hippo], could have ended it with,   

       "For YOU this adventure is over."
theleopard, Jan 15 2008
  

       "If you only knew the power of the Dark Side of the piano"
8th of 7, Jan 15 2008
  

       Pity this is under "food: vending machine," when by all rights it should more easily be found under "Product: Musical Instrument: Piano: trajectory: optics."
csea, Jan 15 2008
  

       Well, life is just full of these little disappointments, ain't it ? At least, yours obviously is.....
8th of 7, Jan 15 2008
  

       Falling pianos aside, oftentimes vending machines around here have a sensor in the bottom opening that detects if anything's fallen through it. If it hasn't, the machine assumes you've been gyped and gives you your money back.
RayfordSteele, Jan 15 2008
  

       ...Which you can then feed back in, make the same selection, and probably get two.   

       Then of course an audit will reveal the discrepancy, theft will be assumed, and the struggling restocking person will be summarily dismissed, causing his kids to go hungry and eventually turn to a life of crime.
Texticle, Jan 15 2008
  

       // causing his kids to go hungry and eventually turn to a life of crime //   

       Who is turning to a life of crime, the dismissed restocking person or his hungry kids ? Is the restocking person hungry too ? Are you sure the restocking person is male ? How do you know ? Do you have some a priori knowledge of this you're not disclosing ?
8th of 7, Jan 15 2008
  

       [8th] You *do* know what [Texticle] does for a living, don't you?
hippo, Jan 15 2008
  

       Piano salesman?
wagster, Jan 15 2008
  

       He's a vending-machine restocker ?
8th of 7, Jan 15 2008
  

       He's a former vending machine restocker ?
8th of 7, Jan 15 2008
  

       One of his parents is a former vending machine restocker, and he's a career criminal ?
8th of 7, Jan 15 2008
  

       That would be awesome. Make it so that the solution is obvious to everyone except the clueless detective.   

       Another direction you could take it would be to have him involved in progressively harder cases to figure out for the reader, starting with something totally basic and moving on.
RayfordSteele, Jan 17 2008
  

       //Make it so that the solution is obvious to everyone except the clueless detective// Pink Panther?
Fishrat, Jan 18 2008
  

       Yes, rather something like that.
RayfordSteele, Jan 18 2008
  

       Lawrence had seen the new vending machine being installed on the platform of his local railway station. He had had a very long day at work and was anxious to return home.   

       Being a particularly hot day, the walk from his office to the station had made him very thirsty. He approached the machine, searched his pockets and found $1.50, giving him enough for a can of soft-drink but not enough for a bottle of water. He slid the coins into the slot of the machine and selected a can of orange flavoured drink, believing this to be better for his thirst than any of the caffinated beverages.   

       While wiping the fluid from his eyes, he noticed the "My crisps are stuck" button on the machine, and the child sitting next to the machine with a packet of salt and vinegar.   

       [+]
reap, Jul 09 2008
  

       This is a great solution to a universal and long lasting issue of vending machines! After reading the various tilt-a-vend and other linked similar ideas I've thought of a very simple and nearly as functional solution (but without the disco fun) for when items are stuck between the glass... Have you ever had a fish tank? well when the glass gets all covered in green slime instead of sticking your hand in and scaring the fish/getting wet/loosing hand to hungry fish.... you can get a two piece magnetic wiper, one half on the inside one half on the outside.... swipe your goodies from their sticky hiding places and be feasting in seconds!
strayllama, Feb 26 2009
  

       + A bowling pin sweeper type thingy might work as well, but it just wouldn't do for a story inspiration.
Zimmy, Feb 26 2009
  

       My problem with the snails is they like to eat goldfish.
Spacecoyote, Feb 26 2009
  

       Well, that was a fun ten minutes that I should have spent working.   

       One of my cow orkers pointed out that the current generation of Coke machines is designed to drop the product a couple of feet before letting you have it, assuring that it will already be shaken up.
normzone, Feb 26 2009
  

       I can see the tabloid headlines now, "Police Break Up Impromptu Vending Machine Rave".
DrBob, Feb 27 2009
  

       Have you been reading a lot of Douglas Adams books?   

       Very entertaining. you got my bun.
gonzola, Feb 27 2009
  

       Would be useful!
Basouille, Mar 28 2009
  

       Breathe deep and slow, [21 Quest]. You're right, you did it first... but this one is fun too. Don't forget it's only a game. No actual patent royalties are at stake.
pertinax, Mar 29 2009
  

       [21 quest] began rocking from side to side, his face reddening and his hydraulic foot-stamping continuing as smoke began to whistle from his ears....
Fishrat, Apr 06 2009
  

       [Fishrat] His crisps must be stuck - give him the Heimlich Maneuver.
hippo, Apr 06 2009
  

       Nevermind 21Quest, that it was even halfbaked before you did your version.   

       The bones and buns are here to test you, that's all.
RayfordSteele, Jun 19 2012
  
      
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