April 22, 2013

April 22, 2013

The Food in the Machine

As an ardent foodie and misanthrope, the idea of the automat thrills my soul. A way to get the necessity of food without any human interaction. As you may not know (unless you grew up in the 1930s), an automat is a sort of giant wall-sized vending machine. Put a nickel in the slot (again, 1930s), open the door, and grab the food item/beverage of your choice. Behold:


Your first thought on seeing that picture should be “Wow, a wall of food!” Your second thought should be “What an interesting hat choice.”

Sadly, like many things I enjoy, automats went out of style years and years ago, replaced by fast food restaurants. And if you’ve ever gone to a fast food restaurant, you know that the automats almost certainly provided a higher level of service. (Misanthrope, hi.)

While researching for this blog entry (sometimes I research, shutup), I learned that someone of my bent opened an automat in New York City in 2005, but closed it in 2009. It’s the exact opposite of the scenario in the song “New York, New York,” I guess. Automats couldn’t make it there, so they probably couldn’t make it anywhere. Sigh. Not to sound all “I welcome our robot overlords with open arms” or anything, but replacing people with robots seems like a win-win-win. Labor costs go down. Error rates go down. You don’t have to awkwardly avoid eye contact with the help.

Maybe the food wasn’t very good at the typical automat? I can’t imagine it would have been if it had to sit under a heating lamp or whatever. Then again, I’ve been known to eat (expired) (possibly contaminated with salmonella) pot pies day after day, so I can’t judge.

We’ve automated car washes and cash withdrawals. Let’s automate lunch.

1 Fish in a Sea of Diet Coke:

In the basement of the Milwaukee Art Museum (if you take the elevator down and exit towards the waterfront parking lot, then take a sharp left before you hit the weird display of models of military people), there's a giant food dispenser, not quite a vending machine but not quite what's in your picture, which always has fresh sandwiches and stuff in it. It fascinates me every time.