What the hell happened to vending machine slime, anyway?
Once the most ubiquitous vending machine prize outside of gumballs, it’s now been more than ten years since I last saw those gorgeous capsules of neon snot. And it’s not like I haven’t been looking.
It’s hard to imagine that they’re not being sold somewhere. If you’re lucky enough to still have access to these amorphous blobs of awesomeness, don’t take them for granted. I wish I was you.
Slime capsules were absurdly popular in the ‘80s, to the point where I still consider them the quintessential vending machine prizes. (And to be clear, when I say “vending machine,” I’m referring to those red, metal, quarter-eating things that baited us from the exits of supermarkets and department stores.)
Slimy toys were around before I was born and are still made today, but it was a different story in the ‘80s. Between Mattel’s Masters of the Universe Slime and Kenner’s Real Ghostbusters Ecto-Plazm, that was the era when ooze ruled. Kids like me were practically preconditioned to love slime, and we knew that getting even a modest gob of it was worth a hell of a lot more than a quarter.
Most vending machines necessitated a gamble. Everyone wanted the digital watch that transformed into a robot, but you were fifty times more likely to get a shitty balloon that wouldn’t inflate. One neat thing about slime capsules was that they always had a whole vending machine to themselves. There was no risk. You knew what you’d be getting, and it was gonna be great.
(Well, that’s not completely true. Vending machine slime came in many colors, and every kid had their favorite. So I’ll concede that putting all of your eggs into the blue slime basket was risky. Still, even if you ended up with yellow slime — notoriously the least popular — it was still slime.)
We sure found plenty of uses for something so inherently useless.
Some kids used the slime as a prop for fake sneezes. Others took a cue from “retail slime” and gooped the hell out of their action figures. Then there were those outliers who simply let it ooze from one palm to the other. They claimed it was therapeutic.
My own relationship with vending machine slime was a bit more complex:
I had an unusually strong affinity for slime, and it was one of the few toys that I worked super hard to keep in pristine condition. On those rare occasions when I accidentally dropped it into crumbs or dog hair, I felt as bad as I’m assuming others did after committing manslaughter.
(Had my tears had been capable of reconstituting the slime, then maybe we’d have a movie.)
And the reason for all of that extra care? I liked to pretend that those pinches of slime were living, breathing, alien pets. I’d set them out in little bowls, let them stretch their no-legs, and then shove ‘em back into the capsules whether they wanted to go home or not. It was like playing Pokemon, only all of the balls were see-through and the Pidgeys looked like phlegm.
Shown above is a recreation, using an old McDonald’s container as the slime’s playground. Which is probably what I did in the mid ‘80s, anyway.
Sup, Bluey. Ready to back in your egg?
NO MATT NOT YET MORE TIME OUT PLEASE
If any of you are still seeing slime capsules in vending machines, fess up. It’ll give me hope. And I sure could use hope, because right now I only have conspiracy theories about government crackdowns and personal hells.