Free. It’s such a simple word for an amazing concept. It can be argued that nothing is ever really free. There is a cost in time or effort, if not money. There will be a cost in the future, even if there isn’t one in the present. Yet there is a magical wonder involved in those things you do get without expectation, request, or condition.
My favorite food is “free food,” which has always been my answer when I am asked what I’d like to eat at a party. It’s astonishingly simple to perk up my taste buds, just don’t make me help with or pay for anything. A pizza I didn’t purchase tastes twenty times better than a pizza which has been purchased by my own debit card. The giddiness I feel when a child offers me a free piece of gum is never experienced when I nonchalantly drop a pack of gum onto the black conveyor belt of doom at a grocery cashier. Can’t we all agree that baking your own birthday cake (or pie) is never as satisfying as having a loved one bake it for you? Then you sit in the “chair of honor” as a giant slice is cut, plated, and brought to you as if you were a king (or queen). It’s just not the same if you know at the end of it all your wallet will be out and a generous tip will be given to your server.
Please don’t misconstrue my enjoyment of free with the impolite lifestyle of “freeloading.” I don’t travel around my town, sneaking into weddings and Bar Mitzvahs to partake of free food. I don’t go to a friend’s home, eat a free meal, then vanish like a ninja to appear at a different friend’s home for another free meal. I freely offer my assistance with dishes after a meal, or freely suggest a pleasant conversation or game. Because it’s not only getting things which is made better by being free, giving things freely is also a more rewarding experience. I say, “Allow me to clear the table,” with a smile and uplifted spirit. I’m told, “We cooked, so you need to clear the table,” with a frown and instant dislike of the chore. Being told such a thing robs the meal of the magic of being free. There was a hidden condition, a bit of fine print at the bottom of a social contract. Not only was I robbed of freely giving of myself, but what you had given was sullied as well.
Also understand that getting something for free does not imply one cannot complain about the quality or outcomes. I was once told I was being rude for criticizing the movie, “Pacific Rim,” because someone else had paid for my ticket. That is absurd. Simply because my ticket was paid for by someone else, I’m not allowed to point out I know second graders who could write a better script? Free doesn’t automatically make bad things good or tolerable, it magically takes good things to “Wow!” I won’t complain about the company, the theater you chose, or where you decided we should sit in the auditorium as those are all part of the “free ticket” I was given. But I will express my desire to jam pencils into my eye sockets before ever seeing that piece of crap movie again. The idea of not being able to criticize a movie because you got in for free is like not being able to complain about being stabbed in the kidney with a serrated blade because you were invited to a free dinner.
I think we all would say, “Hey! I appreciate the free turkey, but stop stabbing me with a knife, fucker!”
Are there free things I would turn down? Sure. I don’t need free dog crap in my yard, thanks anyways. I could do without a free demolition of my home. But if I have a choice between paying for something or getting it for free, I’m fairly sure I’m in the majority in my decision. Free dog crap or pay the neighbor to bring his dog over? I take free. Free demolition of my house or pay someone to demolish my house? Free wins again. Free sex is better than sex you paid for, a coupon for free food is better than a coupon that says, “buy one and get one free,” and free painted toenails from a four-year old girl is better than paying $50 to an Asian pedicurist. All other things being equal, free cannot be beat.
That is the magic of being free.