The Sprite Incident: Chapter Three
Family Clothing Store, October 19, 2002:
The Day of "The Incident"
So, the next day, lunchtime came around. Tomorrow was my 1st wedding anniversary, and I wanted to see if I could get my hands on some "Phantom" Tickets. Before calling the box office though, I needed to call the bank, to see if I would have to settle for good tickets, or if I had the funds available for Great tickets. While I entered my account number on the phone keypad, Visions of Becca and myself arrayed in our finery, sitting right down at orchestra level, danced in my head. I wondered if I could get a monocle and a top hat on short notice. About this time the automatic bank phone computer lady came through in her halting, computer-assembled voice:
"Your... available...balance is... one..hundred... thirty.nine...dollars and... fifty.seven...cents... ...overdrawn."
WHAAAT! "overdrawn?" oh, this sucked! Not only did I not have enough money for tickets, I didn't have ANY money at ALL! Right then and there, my day began its descent into badness.
I returned to the stockroom and tried to continue working while we waited for our pizza to arrive. This really stunk. I mean really really, really stunk. My anniversary was tomorrow, what could I do to celebrate it? I couldn't take her out on the town, so maybe we could just go see a mov.. no, that takes money. Okay, then, just rent something on vide.... no, no money. OK, I may just cook her something nice and have a candlelit din... no, groceries cost money, and we're broke!
The pizza arrived, and I tried to put these thoughts out of my head as we Stockroom Garbage Heroes all clocked out to dine... Pizza was on the house, but not drinks. As I took the first couple of bites of hot, doughy pizza goodness, I realized how much I needed a Coke to wash it down. Drinks in the vending machine cost a dollar. I had started the day out with three dollars in my pocket, and I had already spent one of those three before finding out that they were all the money I had in the world. There was really no way I could justify spending a dollar, which was, at this point, half of my entire life's savings, on a Coke. But, justify it I did. It really would hit the spot, I decided. I really would feel better, I told myself. Besides, I'm getting food for free, so I am really only spending the money that I'm SAVING on pizza! That last one did it, so I walked around the corner to go spend 50% of my Liquid Financial Assets on a 20-ounce soda.
Now a few notes about the store's layout are necessary at this point. The store had been the recipient of a multi-million dollar remodel that same year, which had only just been completed. The break room in which my colleagues were eating pizza was the NEW break room, lushly appointed with countertops, drawers, cabinets, and even a brand new two-compartment sink. All of this occupied the space formerly taken up by the customer service window, which had been moved to the front of the store. The area that had previously been the OLD Break Room was now an extension of the stock room called the Staging Area. Not truly a room, the Staging area was just a very wide hallway, with a very high ceiling, connecting the stockroom with the various merchandising areas of the store. Clothing and other merchandise that had been opened and processed by the stockroom was pushed out into this Staging Area to await being displayed on the shelves and racks out on the Sales Floor. The Vending Machines were located in this area. I don't know why, but when they tore down the old break room, they left the Vending Machines there, while moving the refrigerator, lockers, tables, television, and everything else into the new room.
So, here I stood in the Staging Area, alone, dollar in hand, in front of the Coke Machine, feeling guilty about the utterly foolish choice I was making, but also really wanting a Coke. Here is the Lineup of Buttons.
1. Coca Cola
2. Coca Cola
3. Coca Cola
4. Diet Coke
5. Mountain Dew
6. Mountain Dew Code Red
7. Dr. Pepper
I inserted my next-to-last dollar into the machine, and pressed button number one. A click, buzz, and thump later I extracted my long awaited....
Yeah. You guessed it.
I groaned. I shook my fist at the heavens. I stared at the drink in my hand. I just wanted a drink to wash down the delicious victory pizza that awaited me in the next room! Why did everything have to suddenly be so complicated?
Now of course, the stakes had been raised. Now, if I still wanted a Coke, I would have to spend my Very Last Dollar to get it. This choice was of course even stupider and more unjustifiable than the last. But Dangit, now I was Committed!
I inserted my Very. Last. Dollar. I knew better than to press the top button again. As a matter of fact, I figured I'd better skip down to button number three. I had just spent all the money I would have until I could crawl up out of debt, but I would have a Coke in a few seconds, and Then I could go eat pizza and drink the pain away. I pressed the button.
If you guessed "The Machine Gave Frank Another Sprite", then move to the head of the class!
Now The Reason I went through the gigantic introduction to this moment is so that you might share in my mind-state, regarding the action I then took. I was now, literally and completely penniless, my Anniversary was the next day, and the one little bit of carbonated-beverage joy I had coming to me had been stolen by this stupid vending machine, and its stupid SPRITE! I made at this point a grunt of extreme displeasure, and what I would have described as a "flippant toss" of the Sprite bottle off to my left. Picture what happens when someone discards a banana peel in a cartoon. A casual toss of the peel off to one side, where it arcs to the ground to molest the next person to walk across it. This, I Swear, is the action I thought I made.
Apparently my Adrenal Glands had other Ideas, though. I must have been in "HULK MAD, HULK SMASH!" mode, because the bottle flew threw the air, end over end, to strike the (Newly Installed, Expensive) Drywall at a point about 17 feet high. The flips the bottle had turned along its flight path had (of course) oriented it so that it struck the wall neck first, punching a hole in the drywall, into which it stuck, like an arrow.
Sounds bad, doesn't it? But wait.... there's more!
The other thing the flips did was shake the bottle's carbonated contents until they applied incredible pressure to the walls of their green plastic prison. The sudden stop at the end of their flight gave the bottle that final nudge over the breaking point, tearing a crack along the bottom of the container,which was the end facing out into the room, transforming the innocent bottle of soda into a 17 foot high showerhead, dousing half of the room in sickly-sweet, corn-syrupy, carbonated, citrus-flavored goo.
Also, did I mention that store merchandise was stacked in large quantities in the Staging Area? Yeah, I thought I did. underneath the Sprite-sprinkler sat several racks of ladies' wool Blazers and sweaters. 500 dollars worth, according to my termination papers.
There is a little bit more to this story. There was the particularly snarky co-worker who walked in as I was trying to mitigate the damage/dispose of the evidence and who would not shut up and leave me alone until I turned on him in an adrenal rage and threatened him bodily harm, there were the comforting, supporting gestures made by my friends in the stockroom, who assured me that it was only an accident, and surely the boss would see that, and there was the rather unfortunate timing of the whole thing happening while the Regional Loss Prevention Director was visiting the store.
I was Fired within Two hours.
I took a box of Pizza with me.