When Your Business District is a Soda Machine
I grew up in a place called Economy. That small town in rural Indiana might as well have been named Irony, because the only functioning business in town was the soda machine (I called it “pop” back then) in front of the volunteer fire department. Nowhere else between any of Economy’s six bustling streets could you find a place that accepted money in return for goods on demand.
One benefit of the soda machine economy was its equality, which seems so lost in major cities. That soda machine didn’t care whether you were black, white, Amish, or a stray cat; if you put in 75 cents and pressed a button, you’d get your soda just like anyone else. There was no Fifth Avenue in Economy. There was just Poplar Street, where everyone felt at home (mostly because nearly half the town actually lived on that street).
And forget about inflation–the consumer price index in Economy remained unchanged for years at a time. Of course, when the price of a can of soda eventually rose to $1, the ripple effects were felt in the pockets of every kid in town. For good reason, too–that price increase reduced the average purchasing power in Economy by over 30%!
The main downside to the soda machine economy was that supply never seemed to keep pace with demand. If I’d had a nickel for every time I went out for Mr. Pibb only to find that the machine was out, I could have bought my own soda machine to run the original out of business. Sometimes, on very unlucky days, I might find that the only available option was a Diet Coke. 8-year-old Andrew would rather have lapped up a puddle under the hose in his backyard than waste his hard-earned allowance on sugar-free pop.
All in all, the soda machine did what a town’s economic core should always do. It brought people together in one place where they could talk, play, and enjoy the crisp, refreshing fizzle of a tangy orange Fanta. It might not make the front page of the Wall Street Journal, but if Economy had a newspaper, I’m sure it would include a daily report on the latest inventory levels, the occasional two-for-one treat, and any new flavors to hit the racks.