Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Hostage Situation

  Of all the snack foods to munch on while on the job, Cheetos are my favorite and puffy Cheetos are my preferred choice. They may well be the perfect food. I love the cheesy taste, the artificial orange color you have to scrub off your hands, and the way they just melt in my mouth. Despite the knock offs that are around, Cheetos brand Cheetos are hands down the only brand for me. I can’t afford to eat them morning, noon, and night (if I could, I’d consider being bulimic!), but they are a great mid-morning snack to get me feeling good about life if I’ve been having a rough morning at work.

  When I first started working in Des Moines in 1994, our office had this snack tray that worked on the honor system. You would put your money into a slot in the tray and take a snack out of the tray. The tray had 2 bags of puffy Cheetos a week. I would buy them and the snack lady would stop by and refill the tray. There were only 4 of us working there so most of the stuff in this tray would just stay there. After a while, snack lady stopped bringing in puffy Cheetos, bringing in the crunchy kind instead. crunchy Cheetos are OK, but I like puffy Cheetos. I asked snack lady to bring back the Puffy Cheetos, but she said that she couldn’t get them from her supplier anymore. In protest (and because there were plenty of convenience stores in walking distance), I never bought any of the crunchy Cheetos and soon thereafter the owner told snack lady that since no one was buying anything from her tray she could just take her tray and not come back. She promised to get the puffy Cheetos back, but the owners mind was made up and I never saw snack lady again. A few years later a guy joined our company as a support person and he also had a small vending machine business. He managed to get his vending machine put in the building but never had Cheetos.

  Occasionally, I’d buy a bag of puffy Cheetos on my way home from work but all that orange stuff got stuck on my fingers and all over the inside of the car so I just would settle for walking to the convenience store at lunch and getting a bag to eat at my desk but no bag of Cheetos survived the walk back to the office. For that same reason, it’s futile for me to pack some Cheetos in my car for the trip to work. They probably won’t even make it out of town. I’ve looked in the vending machines in all the jobs I’ve been in and I’ve never seen puffy Cheetos in any of them. Maybe they take too much room or maybe they get damaged in the machine, but potato chips are just as fragile. It may be the sad truth that time has passed me by and that crunchy Cheetos are just more popular and that puffy Cheetos have been relegated to the dustbin of history as dinosaur food for fossils like me.

  On the 8th floor of the downtown building where I work, there are 2 vending machines for the 30+ employees. One has cans of soda and the other has snacks. I’ve bought one can of Pepsi in the 5 months I’ve been working there, but the other machine is always well stocked with crunchy Cheetos. I had a bag on a particularly stressful day and while it wasn’t puffy Cheetos, they were a satisfying snack and I’ve put a modern twist on my old addiction and have been having 2 or 3 bags out of the vending machine a week.

  3 weeks ago, I bought a bag of crunchy Cheetos but as the wire wheel spun the bag towards me, I noticed that the Cheetos in the rack had been replaced by JALEPENO crunchy Cheetos. Upon further inspection, I noticed that every other slot in vending machine corridor B3 had been assigned to Jalepeno crunchy Cheetos. I had a bag of the Jalepeno crunchy Cheetos the next day and I didn’t care for them. The pepper taste interfered with the signature cheesy Cheeto taste too much for my liking. 2 days later, the regular crunchy Cheetos were first in line and all was well, but for the next week, the only way I could get some non-Jalepeno crunchy Cheetos was to buy 2 bags. One afternoon, I saw the vending machine guy and asked him why the Jalepeno Cheetos were mixed in with the regular brand. He told me that they had a lot of them and had to get rid of them so he was mixing them in.

Before and after the purchase of a bag of crunchy Cheetos.
Notice how fans of the potato chips on the top row don't have to wait for their favorite variety to be at the front of the line.

  In the 2 weeks since that conversation, I’ve only bought 2 bags of Cheetos, both of the regular variety. I’m lucky that there is either a Jalepeno Cheetos lover in the office or someone who has less patience than me. I had to wait all day Thursday and half of Friday before the regular Cheetos got to the front of the line in corridor B3. While I was staring at that bag of Jalepeno Cheetos, I noticed that while the Almond Joy and Mounds alternated in one row of the vending machine and that peanut butter M&Ms were buried behind the peanut M&Ms, Sour Cream and Onion Lays and plain Lays potato chips each had their vending machine spot.

  On the 50+ mile drive home from work, the more I thought about how my regular Cheetos were being held hostage with a ransom price of the 85 cents it would cost to buy a bag of Jalepeno Cheetos, the madder I got. People who don’t like regular or Sour Cream and Onion potato chips don’t have to take this kind of garbage, why should I? Just because some vending machine company overbought or got a great deal on Jalepeno Cheetos is no reason I should be deprived of my chosen mid-day snack. I’ve decided to boycott this vending machine until they have corrected this injustice and I've also alerted the Obama, Bachmann, Paul, and Perry campaigns about this issue so they can be prepared to tackle it when they head back to Iowa for the caucuses. I didn’t tell the Romney campaign because given his religious views I doubt he would see any problem with the co-mingling of multiple kinds of snacks in the same vending machine corridor.