I was never one to object to anything free. Since my arrival to Case Western Reserve University, the school has been making it rain free things. I have more buttons, lanyards, bags, pens, t-shirts, milkshake coupons and staplers than Leonardo DiCaprio has Oscars. During orientation my orientation leader said that as college students, we should start getting comfortable with taking advantage of free things. Joke’s on you, Justin, I’ve been taking free stuff since Halloween 2003 when neighbors would leave out the “Please Take One” signs in front of their candy bowl. Heck, just this last year I took the entire bowl. The entire week of orientation was about taking. I took away the fact that I could go to CCEL for volunteer opportunities. I also took three tumblers and a handful of magnets. Receiving free items equals instant gratification.With that gratification comes a belief that there are no consequences to taking whatever you want. It’s not that you need it, but the fact that it’s there for you to take. However, I had an experience after which it became obvious that there are strings attached to free items.
During orientation, I never noticed how much water I drank at home until I got to a place where Aquafina wasn’t in bulk and waiting for me in a Maytag refrigerator. The only time I chose to leave my dorm was when I was super thirsty. I needed a water bottle that could quench my thirst when needed. Seriously guys, I was peeing yellow for four days. So one Thursday morning the universe had decided to work in my favor; as I was walking to the dining hall, a school group approached me and asked, “Hey! You want a free water bottle?!” FREE?! You bet your bottom dollar I want a free water bottle! All I had to do was fill out a little survey and I could get myself a bottle. After giving them the survey, I took my bottle, said my thanks and went my merry way. As I headed to my next destination, it dawned on me that I had checked yes on every question on that survey. I was so desperate for free stuff that I could have easily given up my left nut without thinking about it.Then I remembered the questions I was asked. Turns out I joined a bible study in order to get a free water bottle.
When you do crazy stuff like I do, you hope that it doesn’t come back to bite you in the butt. Nine times out of ten, it does. One night I was sent a text from some guy named David and he said “Hey Stephen! You expressed some interest in joining our bible study after taking our survey and bottle. Would you like to come to our meeting tomorrow?” Well darn. I took this man’s stuff, drank my cold beverages out of it, and even watered my plant with it and now I knew I had to pay for my actions. It would have been super ratchet if I had not replied. So I said that I would love to come (at 8 p.m. no less). Then he said eight words that he shouldn’t have said at all: “We have all you can eat ice cream!” FREE?!
So the next night I trudged my way up to their meeting place with the idea in my mind that I would stay for the entire meeting. Coming from liberal Madison, WI, I would have expected five people at that study. Nope. There were at least a good thirty people crammed in that room.Which was kind of good because I would have felt even worse if their only incoming freshman never came back after eating all their free food. The only downside to the number of people in the room was that more than half of the people in the crowd were in line for the ice cream. I did an odd shuffle to the line in hopes of not being noticed. Once I made it to the front of the line, I noticed everyone before me got two scoops. Not me. I took advantage of the free food. I was able to fit least a good six scoops in that tiny styrofoam plate, and that’s when David approached me. The fact that he and the other members of the group were extremely kind, warm and welcoming, made what I did next really hard.
I hate crowds. I never find anyone to talk to in them and I feel out of place. So I did what any person from this century would do: I pulled out my phone and pretended to get a call from my mom. As I made my way across the room on the phone, I noticed two things. 1) I should have received a Golden Globe for my performance, and 2) David was watching me. He knew. And once he turned his back for a split second, I ran. I’m not kidding. I ran like Usain Bolt. And not only did I run outside, I kept eating the ice cream while I ran. I looked like an idiot. Also the ice cream wasn’t even that good, but maybe it was because it was not very good ice cream. I’m glad I left that club if they couldn’t afford a decent bucket of Edy’s Slow Churned Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Or maybe it was bad because my guilt and shame of eating nice people’s food without the intention of joining their group had tarnished the flavor. But frankly, if I wanted to be that sloppy, I should have just gone to Costco and taken their samples instead.
Stephen Kolison is a first-year biology student. While confining himself to his dorm, he enjoys knitting while watching Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey.