Student struggles to dodge ‘free stuff’

Column by Virginia Alley. E-mail [email protected]

Upon entering my dorm room a few nights ago, I reached into my too-full pockets and pulled out the contents.

Inside were a multitude of little pieces of paper. I had three passes to the same event taking place on a night that I didn’t even plan on being in town for, forms to fill out for offers I never intended to take advantage of (I’m in college — I can’t afford what you’re offering, trust me) and other assorted things I was handed all over campus.

As I sat on my bed with my pockets much happier and able to breathe again, I crumpled up the sadly useless offers and ended their lives with a toss to the trash.

I love free things. I think they’re grand. But generally, I only take free things that I have use for (e.g., free t-shirts). So in these first two weeks, why do we students return from a stroll across campus heavy-laden with things that would have better served other people?

It seems to me the blame lies partially on the hander-outers, with their cute children, strategically placed tables and distinct inability to recognize who’s already taken something from them. However, a large portion of the problem lies within our psyche as students.

If the problem lies with the student body, the issue is that we’re much too friendly. Close your eyes.

No, don’t, you wouldn’t be able to read the rest of this article. Pretend you’ve closed your eyes.

You’re walking along, probably past the Student Center. You see the gauntlet approaching. Maybe you panic a little. Will veering to the left keep him from reaching out his hand?

Perhaps just keeping your head down will do the trick. You know you don’t need it. As you walk past him you see the smile — they’re so very good at smiling — the fingers handing you that piece of paper to attend that random event that occurs during an hour you have class. But oh, look! Your arm, suddenly becoming an alien limb, snatches willingly, your neck inclining your face to lean up with a warm smile, and voila! Your twenty-feet worth of planning has failed you, foiled by the fact that you’re a really nice person.

Don’t panic! As atrocious of an issue as this is, there are a few things that can be done. If you are reading this, and you happen to be a hander-outer, I offer a few suggestions.

Your adorable child is indeed adorable, but she’s handed me 16,000 flyers in the past two days — perhaps a week-long training session in facial recognition?

If that’s a bit much, then maybe you should do less attacking and more passive invitation. If someone really wants that plastic animal keychain, I bet they’ll take it.

As for the rest of us, more selective friendliness would be most helpful. Taking that little girl’s last free pass may make her smile, but the kid behind you who really wanted to attend that random event is pretty down about it. If you’re not interested, try a friendly wave or smile while speed-walking away.

For those of us who sometimes can’t resist the urge to grab every piece of paper pointed our way, I promise the paper goods make delightful airplanes.