I need to pause here and define "tip jars" for all you people reading online in Arizona. What you do, see, is buy a tip for $1 each. A tip is layered paper about half the size of a matchbook and you peel the slips of paper apart to see it you have won any money in return.
Of course, even if you do win any money in return, you never take the money, you just use the winning paper slip to "purchase" more paper slips which you peel apart and exchange that winning paper, if any, for more paper and more peeling and by this time you are having so much fun you can barely stand it. It's like soaking postage stamps off envelopes, but not quite as thrilling.
If this sounds confusing to you, congratulations, you're normal.
I do confess to playing these jars once and it was OK and all - it's just that by the time I'd flashed through a ten-spot, my lust for the game was pretty much satisfied for the rest of my life, or so.
I'm down on these machines, though. Oh sure, they're fast, convenient and efficient - but where's the love? Will a machine light up your smoke or listen to you ruminate over whether that spot on your hound dog is a boil or a tick? I think not.
Tips in a bar is one thing. It's casual, idle fun, you can chat with the bartender, your friends are around and, frankly, everything, especially tips, is more amusing when you've had a few. If you're steadily making progress toward getting in the bag, even if you lose at tips, you can chalk the evening up to a success. Provided you have a designated driver, of course.
Speaking of which, my young friend Ally pointed out an interesting billboard in Hagerstown a few weeks ago. It pictured a six pack and read: "Designated Driver? Pop a cold one." The billboard writer must have had too many things on his mind that day.
So like I was saying, tips in a bar is one thing, but if you're driving to work and slam on the brakes to rush into a store and feed $20 into a tip machine then open them back on the road while you're driving with your knees, you may have a problem.
I'll tell you one place that could use gambling vending machines, though, and that would be Sheetz - or 7-Eleven, for you people in Arizona. That or big signs on the counter that say "No Scratching."
Three times out of five, when I'm in line for coffee and Skoal, I get behind the bag lady who buys a fin worth of scratch-offs (you too? She gets around, doesn't she?) then hunches over the counter with a dime and commences to scratch each ticket with the scrupulous care and attention to detail that one normally associates with building model skipjacks.
And of course she always wins $2 and she will always use the winnings to obtain two more scratch-offs games. Ah, but which scratch-off game? There are so many choices!
She throws her head skyward and enters some sort of religious trance as she uses all the force of her being to channel the right game. Does she go with the Maryland Crab Soup Million? The Score Four Grand Slam Extravaganza? The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Billion Dollar Backup?
By the time she's done, I know two things for sure:
1.) The lottery people who dream up all these scratch-off games are on weed.
2.) My coffee is now the temperature of pudding.
Could a machine help this situation? I believe that it could, so long as it would accept twenties and dispense sleeping gas.
Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.