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Grasshopper Soup: The machine said it’s OK

We have known it for a long time. Now it is more commonplace than ever. Getting what we want is more important than good manners, good citizenship and fair play.

Colorful lights from digital Touch Tunes jukebox machines cast their black magic spell throughout the dark interiors of bars all across America, wrapping their neon tentacles around the unsuspecting suckers of beer and other exotic, alcoholic beverages. The attractive lights seduce them into thinking modern computer machines can satisfy all their desires.

Beer in the company of our peers is not enough.



We all like to listen to music when we go out with friends. Music is an elixir for the soul. But who cares about souls when you are out to make a buck? Not Touch Tunes. Even if you are alone at the bar, they have a way of getting you to play.

They entice you with their pure greed option. The machine allows you to pay extra so your song will play next. Next can mean never. For an extra 50 cents you can butt in. If you put in enough money you can see to it that the person before you, who just paid to hear one song, gets drunk and goes home without hearing it. And where does his money for nothing go? To Touch Tunes!



They are counting on customers who play fair to figure out what is going on, turn colors and pump in 20 bucks to have their 48 songs play before the guy who just put in five bucks, thinking his 12 songs are next. The greed escalates, along with Touch Tunes profits. Buy out your competitor and you can have your own music monopoly.

Like good capitalists, Touch Tunes thought of everything. If you want, you can dump in enough of your hard earned money so your music plays all night, the heck with everyone else, unless the machine has a stimulus cap that I didnand#8217;t notice. You must have your favorite song, no matter what the cost, no matter how much collateral damage.

You can buy a girl a beer but it wonand#8217;t necessarily get you to first base. But if you tell her youand#8217;ll play her favorite song and walk her over to the glittering, sensual, Touch Tunes music machine, your chances increase dramatically, especially if sheand#8217;s had plenty of beer or tequila. Then again, you may end up with nothing but a sacrifice bunt because your best friend has his eyes on her too. But youand#8217;ll do anything for a good at-bat.

Technological advances sure bring people together, donand#8217;t they? Now we have machines that, for a price, will tell us itand#8217;s OK to cheat our neighbor as long as it is for our own immediate gratification. And we are listening to those machines.

Now you can act just like the rich and powerful who wage war for profit and steal land and water from poor people all over the world. Yes, you can control the music at your favorite bar and feel just like a fat capitalist pig, which is exactly how the juke box wants you to feel. It prefers to empty the wallets of amoral pawns with no conscience, but you will do in a pinch. Yes, if you want to be a selfish, discourteous, cheating, stingy pawn of unbridled capitalism, you are going to have to pay for it.

Some people probably pay for the pure greed option after complaining to everyone at the bar about all the social and economic injustice in the world.

Capitalizing on human greed is not a new concept. It has been going on for hundreds, even thousands, of years. I hear it loud and clear when I answer the phone and hear only silence for several seconds after I say hello. The delayed response of the pre-recorded message is a sure sign that telemarketing capitalists are invading my privacy to get me to buy something. When I hear the dead silence I buzz them with key pad tones and hang up.

If only the machine would play my favorite song instead. I might listen to it.

Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, ski instructor and commercial driver. He’s lived at Lake Tahoe for 27 years.


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