Saturday, September 11, 2010

Free Stuff

A bowl of nasty looking candy pieces, second-rate fare at best, is set out with a sign - "free candy - help yourself". Within the span of about an hour, every last bit is gone. It doesn't matter what it is, if it's labeled as free, folks come from far and near trampling over anyone in their path to get it. Why are we so excited to get free stuff, even if it is stuff that is nasty or broken or that we would never use in a million years?

When I was a small boy, I remember playing in my yard when the old man who lived next door called me over to the fence. He offered me a small appliance that he no longer used. He said it was mine if I wanted it. I snatched it up and happily started to scamper off with my claim. The neighbor man smiled and shook his head at me. He then asked "Do you know what I just gave you?". I didn't have a clue, but it didn't matter. Whatever this box with the yellowing cord wrapped around it was, it was now mine. What it was for really was a secondary issue at that point (it turned out to be an electric pencil sharpener).

It seems none of us are immune from the eerie spell of free stuff. It pulls us in and we are overcome like zombies. Arms out, single-minded purpose to get one before they are all gone. Looking into my desk drawer, I see a small pile of junk from past grabs. Lapel pins, bottles of hand sanitizer, pens emblazoned with various corporate logos, small pads of note paper, magnets. Stuff I took possession of and never gave a second thought to. Well, at least I used that old pencil sharpener for about 30 more years until the motor gave out.