The Coke Machine
Story circa October 22nd, 1997 | View Post

Jeff Smith filling up a bag with our prized sodas
While there were many, many tiny acts of vandalism that occurred in my freshman dorm room, one of the most exciting ones was that of the Coke machine. It was exciting only because we had heard the details of this particular trick through the grapevine and assumed it was just an urban legend - and a bad one at that.

The idea someone explained to us was that if you managed to inject salt water into the internal machinery of a Coke machine, then for whatever reason it would provide you with free sodas. The idea was that the salt water, being highly conductive of course, would short out the machine and this was the trigger response for a failure. Again, I realize this sounds entirely improbable.

Since my roommates and suite-mates knew that I generally didn't consider consequences to most anything, they encouraged me to give it a go. We got a container of Morton salt and a regular iced-tea pitcher with a nice pouring spout. For whatever reason, the hot water in Dobie was exceedingly hot and this made the experiment all the easier. I filled about 1/6th of the pitcher with salt, filled the rest with hot water, and then stirred them together for a few moments. The water being as hot as it was allowed the salt to dissolve very easily and efficiently. In fact, I distinctly remember how powerful the salt smelled likely due to it supersaturating the water.

I walked out of my dorm with pitcher in hand and proceeded down the hall to the Coke machine. By this time I had a small audience behind me. I carefully started to pour the pitcher of hot saltwater into the coin slot of the machine. While a lot of it spilled down the front, a lot of it also managed to go in. I was probably about half-way through the pitcher when we started to hear what sounded like an electric motor shorting out. It was a sporadic hum at first, but eventually started getting louder and more consistent, almost like a broken door buzzer.

Finally when I was about 3/4 of the way through, there was a loud sound and the Coke machine literally dropped every single coke in the machine. We could hear the sodas fall down the shoot and saw them quickly bottleneck in the dispenser at the bottom. Celebrating and somewhat euphoric from such a stupid suggestion actually working, we bagged up all of the sodas and brought them back into our dorm.

I'm not positive, but I think this became somewhat of an urban legend in the dorm itself as I distinctly remember people asking me if we could really do it. Even stranger is that we continued doing it for months to come, but somehow or another never got questioned about it. Apparently nobody ever took notice of the fact that our dorm room was filled with hundreds of soft drinks and meanwhile the Coke machine right outside of our dorm was often covered with a salt precipitate, empty, and changeless.

And so it happens, if you pour hot saltwater into the coin slot of a Coke machine, you can enjoy the rewards of free sodas!

The .22 Quarter
Story circa October 18th, 1997 | View Post

Over the weekend of October 17th - 19th of 1997, and while still a freshman at the University of Texas in Austin, I took a weekend trip up to a friend of a friend's ranch near Plano, Texas.  Jake Shaw (whose parents owned the ranch) was in school with a number of my good friends, namely Jon Weitzel, Nate Christianson, Tom Kelley, and Kelly Dotson.  I drove up to Waco on that Friday afternoon, picked up Jon and Jake in my F150, and we proceeded to drive another 2-3 hours north to the ranch.

There are probably a dozen stories worthy of telling from that particular weekend (hunting catfish, Jon and Jake recreating Woodstock, throwing bullets into a fire, and on and on), but this particular one is with respect to a .22 caliber rifle, a quarter, and shrapnel.

Jon and his girlfriend at the time, Meredith Watson, were already off doing their own nightly thing and I was hanging out in the kitchen with Kelly Dotson.  I don't recall if we were playing quarters or how the idea of the quarter came about, but at some point I thought it would be cool to make it into a trinket for her necklace.  Having played with the .22 all day long, I knew it was sitting outside on the porch and so I went outside with a project in mind.  Of course, I was well beyond a safe level of intoxicated when I decided I could just shoot a hole through the quarter.

My first effort was to shoot downward and into the ground.  I placed the quarter on the grass outside and centered the barrel of the .22 over the quarter.  Without much thought for what might happen, I pulled the trigger expecting to see a positive result.  It did not work.  Instead the quarter got pushed an inch or two into the ground and had an enormous dent in one side of it (this would later lead to another story).

Although I'm sure I was amused with what had happened, I was still intent upon accomplishing my original goal.  I took another quarter out of my pocket and this time instead of shooting into the ground, thought it wise to shoot into the air.  I pointed the barrel of the gun straight up and placed the quarter atop it.  With the quarter balancing over the center of the gun barrel, I gently pulled the trigger.  The quarter flew up into the air and landed on the ground below me.  As you might imagine, it was pretty hot, but it DID have a perfect hole through the center of it.

I excitedly walked inside to deliver my gift to Kelly.  She looked at me and asked what had happened to my face.  Perhaps it was the alcohol, or being the nearly innocent and unintelligent age of 18, but when you break metal apart, that metal has to go somewhere.  As it happens, the shrapnel from the quarter sprayed through part of my face at an angle that covered part of my nose, cheekbone, and the outside of my right eye.  Thankfully none of it actually went into my eye.

I never did have it checked up on by a doctor, so who knows if I still have shards of nickle and zinc in me.  Nevertheless, Kelly got her quarter necklace and I proved to the world that a .22 shell will go clear through a quarter at literal point-blank range.

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