'A great souvenir': Edmonton airport gets first short story dispenser in Canada
At the push of a button, the machine will print you a free story to read while you wait
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Sara Almeida has travelled all over, but a visit to the Edmonton International Airport Wednesday was the first time she'd encountered a short story dispenser.
She pressed a button, and the slim, blue machine spit out a short story, written by a local author and printed on a long strip of paper. The machine is the first of its kind in Canada.
"We’ve never seen anything like this,” Almeida said, who was at the airport waiting for a flight back home to Portugal. “It’s great – it feels like there’s a lot of little things in this airport for people to check out.”
The short story dispenser is a collaboration between the airport and Edmonton writer Jason Norman. He first came across the short story dispenser on his social media feed after a friend discovered the machine in France. They're popular in Europe and parts of the United States.
It took Norman roughly three years of working with the airport to get the machine installed. It's free to use, and once a person selects a button indicating how much time they have—options are one, three, or five minutes—it prints a story at random.
From the start he wanted to use it to give a platform to local writers and highlight what Edmonton has to offer.
“There are a lot of writers here, and for the most part they’re either students or they have day jobs,” Norman said. “So your co-worker could be one of the writers in this machine … I just want more people to see how much talent we have here.”
Norman encouraged the authors to name the individual pieces after a place, as reflected in his featured short stories: ‘City of Champions’ and ‘West Edmonton Mall’.
Sherwood Park-based author Katie Bickell had her story ‘Perspective’ featured in the dispenser, which is inspired by the time a man sat next to her at a library and started clipping his toenails. Naturally, she started to move to a different part of the library.
“Just as that happens my cellphone buzzes, and the gentleman becomes mad at me saying he doesn’t want my damn radiations,” she said with a laugh.
The experience made her realize life is all about perspective.
“If we can take a step back from the moment, sometimes we can find something funny about it.”
Edmonton International Airport spokesperson Traci Bednard said it simply made sense for the airport to get on board with the idea. The airport paid for the machine and is covering the operating costs.
“What’s really important is we’re reflecting the community and what Edmonton is all about in this terminal building. And the unique opportunity we have is that when people come to the airport, they have time,” she said.
She acknowledged that travelling can be a stressful experience.
“If we can help with that experience, and make sure that as you’re on your way, you’re thinking about Edmonton, you’re inspired by our authors, and we can create some memories for you, that’s a powerful thing,” she said.
Almeida said she’ll likely take more memories home from her time in Banff when compared to Edmonton, but thanks to her newly-acquired short story, there’s at least one piece of Edmonton she’ll be taking home with her.
“This will be a great souvenir to take home.”