I Miss the Trash Ball Machine

Busboys & Poets (the original location on 14th) here in DC used to have a trash ball machine next to the bathrooms.  And my kids and I were customers.  Maybe we were the only ones… perhaps that was the problem.

But I loved it.

The idea was that you could pay a quarter and get one of those cool, hermetically sealed capsules with a piece of trash in it.   That’s it.  Not convinced?  Well, I always figured the money went to something good, since the machine took up valuable real estate in the middle of an activism-focused bookstore.  I doubt the owners’ kids were getting Gucci loafers with the proceeds.

And here’s the other cool thing: sometimes the trash was, well, not so trashy.  Perhaps 1 out of 9,734,242 times you might get a dollar in your trash ball.  Or a homemade, hand-written fortune or message, or an actual comic out of a Bazooka gum wrapper (but alas, not the gum, which had long ago been chewed up and stuck to someone’s shoe out on U Street).

The possibility was the thrilling part.  Sort of like Las Vegas, only cheaper.

And I always felt virtuous buying trash.  Because just think about it… the trash would have been in a landfill otherwise, or it would have been litter.  Never mind that it became one of those after I had the thrill of paying for it and then opening the case with my teeth.  It’s the idea.

Well, maybe you “had to be there.”  And if you had, my beloved trash ball machine still might be there too.


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