Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fear of the Free

Taking things for free makes me nervous.  It gives me the heebie-jeebies.  (Don't waste your time Google-ing the correct spelling for that, by the way...I already did, and it is correct.)  Little booths set up giving free demonstrations, or the tiny food stands handing out free samples at Costco give me a sort of indescribable anxiety.  Perhaps it's because my parents own a small business, so I'm well aware of the costs involved in handing out things for free and not seeing any return-on-investment.  Could be simply because I feel like Andy and Dwight do in that one episode of the Office where they go back and forth doing favors for one another because they hate owing someone and being indebted to them.

Either way, I don't like it.

I know they aren't giving me an adorable, Polly Pocket-sized serving of tortilla soup because they don't want me to wander the aisles hungry. I know that the 5 Hour Energy exhibit right outside my office isn't handing out samples of their new Pink Lemonade flavored energy shot (don't get's gross) just because they know a boost of B-12 is just what I need around 2 p.m. every day.  And I'm without a doubt certain that the tent offering free 10 minute massages isn't out there simply to help release a little bit of the tension I carry in my neck.  They all want something.  So I pass them by because I won't give it to them.

Some would argue if I don't go snatch a toothpick with a sample of the new, spicy sausage-on-a-stick, or if I don't go get my shoes shined with the miracle shoe-shiner, that I'm wasting their time.  That they'd rather me preoccupy them and give them a purpose for standing tirelessly for hours upon hours, as opposed to passing them by just because I won't shell out $50 for a power washer hose nozzle that removes dirt and debris from decades ago.

I don't see it that way.

The fact is...I am the person they want.  I am that girl who will get talked into some ridiculous purchase just because I feel bad that I made them stand there and ramble for 10 minutes about a miraculous, handcrafted door stopper that not only keeps your door open, but also emits a bug-repellent and scented fragrances to keep your back porch smelling fresh.  It's like word vomit.  I walk by, keeping my stare down avoiding eye contact most of the time.  But occasionally I look up, and catch someone's eye, and then the madness begins.  They wave me over, and like a moth to the flame, I oblige.

Then they start their spiel.

Their first question is the hooker, and more often than not, it's something that doesn't apply to me.  But rather than standing my ground and listening to the little voice saying, "Meg, be real.  You don't need a seat belt cover that magnetically boosts your metabolism and increases blood flow," I enthusiastically start shaking my head, encouraging them to continue.

"Persuade me."  I plead.  And so they do.  They  get all excited about whatever crockery they're promoting, and like Mother Teresa, I give them anything they want.  I'll stand on one leg so they can demonstrate the benefits of their foolproof, balancing sunglasses...I'll sample the disgusting new energy drink made 100% from wheatgerm and cow's blood (OK, that one's never happened).  But in the end, I will buy what they're selling.  Because I feel bad for them.  I'll buy the magazine subscription to send the kid to Africa for three weeks, or the remote-control car that flips and flies with the push of a button (that one really has happened).  I usually will cancel or take advantage of the return policy, surely built in because they know people like me out there will get suckered into the ploy, only to come to their senses once they're 10 steps away from the booth.  But it's the fact of the matter.  I'm weak, and my nerves get the best of me, and before you know it, my hands are full of unlimited amounts of miraculous hand soap made from seaweed found off sunken ships in the Pacific.

So do me a favor today, folks.  If you walk by one of these stands/booths/facilities/tents today, walk on by.  Because I assure you, I am giving them something to do.

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