Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I need a (crash) helmet

My fanaticism recently jumped the shark, so to speak. It all started innocently enough with a few quarters. I made the leap from "fan" to "insane person" this weekend when I returned with a roll of quarters.

Perhaps if I was talking about slot machines and bus rides to Atlantic City, I could pass for "normal." No, I'm talking about a vending machine at my local Pathmark. You've seen the type before, just beyond the registers where kids whine for quarters as they pass temporary tattoos and giant gumballs.

The difference here is that I'm 35 and have access to a bank account full of quarters. I'm also a devoted New England Patriots fan whose cell phone always has some sort of charm hanging off of it. Can you see where the shitstorm is brewing now, just off the end of this paragraph?

Yes, Pathmark has a vending machine chock full of NFL helmet cell phone charms; several Patriots helmets are in clear view but nowhere near the bottom. I am determined to get my hands on one (just one, dammit!) -- it's only 50 cents, after all!

Three attempts and $19* later, I am now the not-so-proud owner of 35 NFL helmet cell phone charms, NONE of which has the Patriots' "Flying Elvis" logo on it.

"Collect all 32 teams!" screams the vending machine at Pathmark (left). At this point, I pretty much have. The "like I give a shit" helmets I've amassed so far (right).

The first night I encountered the helmets, I can't remember why I was even in Pathmark. It's completely out of my way and doesn't carry anything I like. Its only quality is that it's open 24 hours and is known to host some pretty entertaining characters after 1 AM (including me, apparently). If only I could access their security cameras and zoom in on the ridiculous look that must've been on my face when I first noticed the helmets.

Attempt 1
I had about $4 in quarters on me (between the change in my purse and what I had got back from my purchase). A small, childish voice in me kept thinking, "oooh, this is gonna be it, this time! Aw, man. No, THIS time is it, here it comes! Aw, man!" For all I know, I had my tongue sticking out in deep concentration as I rapidly slipped quarter after quarter into the machine. I left frustrated but naively convinced I would succeed if I went back the next night.

Attempt 2
Late at night again, same cashier on duty (now mildly interested in what I was up to). Had dipped into my parking meter supply from the car before entering. Total expenditure: $5, some pride and a good deal of optimism. Returned home that night to scour the Internet in search of a helmet I could buy outright, saving myself another trip to Pathmark. I was also concerned about the fast-growing pile of crappy helmets I'd accumulated...

Inventory from first two attempts yielded:
2 Oakland Raiders (both broken - they can't even get it right as toy plastic helmets)
1 Cincinnati Bengals
2 Arizona Cardinals (has ANYONE even seen a real live Cards fan before this season?!)
1 St Louis Rams
1 Washington Redskins
3 San Francisco 49ers (were these helmets made in the 80's?)
1 Chicago Bears
1 Atlanta Falcons
1 Miami Dolphins
1 San Diego Chargers

Attempt 3
Seems this Pathmark in Brooklyn is the only place one can buy NFL helmet cell phone charms (that aren't covered in corny rhinestones, anyway). More determined than ever to get mine, I returned several days later. Made it a point to hit Pathmark during daywalker hours so I could stop at the bank to get a roll of quarters first.

While crossing the street, it occurred to me: "This is why I'm an alcoholic. It's not because I forget where my car is when I'm drunk but because I don't know how to stop drinking once I start." Within seconds, the Addict in my brain menaced the Voice of Reason with a roll of quarters.

The look in my eye says, "They can't deny me both 19-0 AND a cell phone charm!" Next door: The machine that ultimately said, "Yes, we can deny you all that AND $10."

Leaving Pathmark without the helmet charm was the closest I've been to what the team must've felt leaving Arizona last year 18-1: So close, yet so far. Standing on the other side of the window in the freezing cold, I stared in at the machine, bitterly noticing several Patriots helmet charms trapped in the crap heap. I mouthed, "You will be mine" and dashed to the car.

Inventory from $10 roll of quarters:
3 Tennessee Titans (1 broken, perhaps in honor of Steve McNair?)
2 Houston Texans (Tom Brady's toenail clippings are more valuable)
1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1 Oakland Raiders (really?)
1 Green Bay Packers
1 Cincinnati Bengals
1 Buffalo Bills
1 Denver Broncos (great, now I have 2 and they have my offensive coordinator)
1 Detroit Lions (actually could be a collector's item after 0-16 season)
1 Cleveland Browns
3 Indianapolis Colts (damn you, Peyton! As if the VISA/Sony/Snuggie commercials every 5 seconds weren't enough!)
3 San Francisco 49ers (bringing overall 49ers total to 4!!)
2 NY Giants (the sting doesn't hurt as much now that Eli's post-season is with Oreo's Double Stuf Racing League)

In a cruel twist of fan fate, the last helmet to spit out of the machine was a Miami Dolphins one. As a Patriots fan whose 11-5 team didn't make the playoffs thanks to Ronnie Brown vs Patriots in Week 3 and Brett Favre's farewell terd against Miami in Week 16, this last helmet felt like the football gods flipping me off. Never one to care that small children are within earshot or eyesight, I gave them the finger back.

Not my best moment: giving a vending machine the finger in a crowded supermarket (left). Later that night, I modeled the Dolphins helmet that was the proverbial cherry on my $10 poop sundae.

Actually, there were several children around, including a boy who was keenly interested in what I was doing. I thought to ask him who his favorite team is and then offer him the crappy helmet if I had it. Then, in a somewhat adult moment, I realized that I can try to sell these unwanted helmet charms on eBay (why not? If someone was selling a Patriots one, I'd buy it -- for $19!). Seriously, if I can sell them at $5 a pop, it'd raise enough to cover my cell phone bill!

In the meantime, I'm keeping clear of Pathmark while I recharge my vending mojo, hoping that Attempt 4 will be the "charm" -- literally. My Man has expressed genuine concern about my sanity (I am, after all, technically unemployed and pouring money I don't have into a toy vending machine). He's afraid that I'm walking a thin line between safe driver and car wreck. He's even threatened me with, "I'm going to call your mother" (the ultimate threat between boyfriend/girlfriends, apparently).

Fine, put me in a crash helmet. As long as I get to take it off to make calls with a cell phone that proudly boasts a Patriots helmet dangling off the end of it.

* For anal accountant-types wondering how I have 35 helmets at 50 cents each but only spent $19, the answer is simple: some of the little plastic containers are blessed with 2-3 charms. Yep, I've gotten several that contained a crapfeast of helmets. In fact, there is a container in the middle of the machine that contains 3, yes THREE, Patriots helmets. The loser who gets this precious egg of joy will no doubt be a Dolphins fan.


Marni said...

Jenn, since I am an anal (former) accountant type, I have to ask: if you used $19, and they're $.50 each, shouldn't you have at least 38? If you got multiple helmets for some of your $.50, then where did the rest of the money or helmets go? I'm guessing you used it to get a DD coffee :-)

Anonymous said...

I happen to be the owner of those vending machines in that Pathmark. You seem to have suffered enough. If you still want that item, e-mail me @ candymn718@aol.com and we'll figure it out.

Thanks for the business,