When I was little, I don't think I ever left a store without begging my mother for a quarter. I may not have succeeded very often in convincing her to buy the super sugary cereals or the Hostess treats that I so desperately pined for; however, securing a twenty-five cent piece for the vending machines in front of the grocery store wasn't nearly as tall of a task. If we got a quarter or two back in our change, I could almost always count on getting to chose from the cheap novelties these mystery boxes hawked.
Gumballs, handfuls of Chicle, shiny foil stickers, super balls, Micro Machines (or generic knock-offs, anyway) and even... my collecting holy grail... baseball cards!
One of my earliest card-collecting memories comes from a local ice cream parlor where, as if sweet treats weren't enough of a draw for the local kids, they had a vending machine stuffed to the gills with 1996 Fleer Ultra cards. Needless to say, I barely cared about the ice cream after I discovered that. However, at fifty cents a pop for one card, my grandfather quickly nixed that waste of money and took me to the local card shop to get more bang for my (half a) buck.
Still, the excitement of pulling Cub (Jim Bullinger) from that red-framed card dispenser left a pretty sizable mark on me and, all these years later, I'm still chasing that thrill. That ice cream parlor has long since shuttered and the building has gone through several different tenants in the ensuing decades, but I'll never forget about it.
This afternoon, I visited that same building on my lunch break - after a string of failed business, it has found some stability as a Mr. Submarine franchise. While waiting on my king-sized sandwich, I couldn't help but peruse the vending machines because I'm a child at heart:
Well, how about that... along with the temporary tattoos they have some baseball-themed stickers in this particular machine. Suddenly, I was transported back in time, back when I didn't have front teeth and my grandparents were walking me down the block for ice cream and baseball cards from that same site. Good times, indeed.
With that in mind, I couldn't help but try my hand at landing the Cubs "C" that the front of the vendor so proudly displays, for old time's sake. Luckily, I had a handful of change in my pocket and enough quarters to give me four chances at recapturing my "Bullinger" thrill. Also, shhhhhhhhhhh, don't tell anyone, but I used a Canadian quarter for one of them... I'm such a rebel.
As soon as I got my sub and my soft drink, I hurried back to my work desk so that I could flip through my vending machine spoils:
After all, since they were dispersed in cardboard sleeves for protection and the Mr. Submarine employees on duty this afternoon were especially quick with their order fulfillment, I didn't immediately find out if I got what I came for.
What's behind sleeve number one?
At roughly the size of an index card, we lead off with a sticker of the Philadelphia Phillies. Not bad, I suppose - the Phightin' Phils are my lovely fiancee's hometown club, so that's something. Not the Cubs though.
On to the next sleeve!
Hmmmm, it looks like this was a Pennsylvania hot-box, which sounds like something I wouldn't want to look up on Urban Dictionary.
A Cubs divisional rival would have provoked more displeasure out of me this time last year; however, since Chicago is running away with the division now, not so much. In fact, I hope that the Buccos can right their pirate ship and knock the Cardinals out of the Wild Card hunt. Fingers crossed!
Next up, we have the San Diego Padres, a club for which I have no strong feelings or personal connections. So, ummmmm, thanks for Hoyer and Rizzo, I guess?
Okay - there's only one more to my vending machine haul. Will it be the one that contains my coveted red, Chicago Cubs "C" logo????
Negatory - instead we get the even-numbered year warlocks known as the Giants. Apparently, I'm only allowed to pull stickers of Pennsylvania and California-based ball clubs.
Oh well, Cubs sticker or not, this still made for an exciting, nostalgia-based "rip" and it's certainly a product that one doesn't see every day here on the blogosphere. For those that are curious, this is what the backside of these vending stickers look like:
As you can see (through the grease marks) this is an officially licensed product through MLB and it's produced by A&A Global Industries. Through some internet sleuthing, I've come to realize that A&A is a major player in vending machine prizes, from gumball machines to crane machines to carnival prizes, they've pretty much got all of the bases covered.
Yay baseball puns!
I don't know if any ultra team completists out there want to lay claim to these A&A oddballs; but otherwise, I guess I'll use them to decorate my work space a little bit. In the end, that is the true purpose of a sticker, is it not?
At any rate, I certainly didn't expect to be strolling down memory lane when I walked out of my office to take lunch this afternoon, but I'm not complaining. After all, it was certainly a warm and fuzzy stroll. Plus, I still got a tasty. cold cut sandwich out of the deal, which pairs quite well with childhood memories. Thanks Mr. Sub!
Speaking of nostalgia, I've got to log off and start getting ready for the blink-182 show I will be attending tonight. Paired with All-American Rejects and A Day to Remember, I'll instantly be transported backwards in time to high school, rather than elementary.
"will you remember this night, twenty years now lost?"