The Best Things In Life Are(n’t) Free
For two days, the companies that provide food services for the building I work in (cafeteria, coffee and ice cream shop) set up tables down the long hallway in the middle of the building and gave away treats. Coffee and munchkins in the morning, mozzarella sticks and nachos around 10am, make your own sundaes around 1pm, with all sorts of goodies littered in between. Tiny 6” paper plates serving up mashed potatoes with gravy, fried chicken, tossed salads, pizza squares, and various meats. Tiny Styrofoam cups with clam chowder or loaded baked potato soup covered one entire table. Cakes and cookies and pastries covered another.
Sounds delicious, right? It does until you stop and think that this is the same mediocre food the cafeteria serves day in and day out, the same food that is guaranteed to make you sick at least once if you dare to eat it, the same food that comes with big promises from the descriptions but generally disappoints. When my husband and I braved the cafeteria, it was either for a make-your-own salad or a Boar’s Head wrap where you pick your ingredients. It’s pretty hard to mess up a wrap anyway. I tried the pizza once (greasefest) and I’ve had their breakfast (heartburn and a general I Feel Like Dying feeling) and some of the panini’s (a wonderful combination of soggy and burnt to a crisp, I don’t know how they do it).
It only takes a couple trips to the cafeteria to get a good sense of what you’re dealing with as far as quality. Regardless, once people began to see the free samples, a riot ensued. Our building is huge. Picture your average CVS building. Now picture 27 more CVS’s. Now pile on a second and a third story and add a basement. That is this building. Filled with soldiers and civilians and a hell of a lot of people who would benefit from a meet with one of the Biggest Loser trainers. All those people, coming from all corners of the building, all forming an angry line that stretches down the center hall and around the corner, all hungry and eager for a handout.
Our IT department, who are like a pack of hungry dogs and can sniff out food or candy from a mile away, spent 35 minutes in line the first day, nearly an hour the next day, all for a couple plates of lukewarm cafeteria food for no charge. The comments about the food that I caught on the first day were not exactly positive; cheese sticks are too doughy, mashed potatoes are lumpy, soup is watery. Yet even with the complaints, the line of people doubled on the second giveaway day. Is getting something for free worth getting even when the quality is piss poor? Is waiting in line for almost an hour to get a free sample better than taking 3 minutes and paying $5 for a larger version of that sample? Or are people so desperate to get something for nothing that they will line up and accept whatever crap you throw at them, so long as it doesn’t cost a penny?
When I was younger, I’d jump on any free offer. Hell, credit card companies use that to get college students to apply; a free t-shirt can be a great incentive for some reason. But like most people who have common sense, I got picky and understood that I don’t need a Geico keychain just because I don’t have to pay for it. I don’t have to walk the long way around the food court to get free samples of Chinese (but I do it anyway!) Most important, I don’t need to waste my time and go out of my way to get something I don’t need or that is of poor quality simply because it doesn’t cost money. Call me crazy, but my time is better spent elsewhere and my wardrobe certainly doesn’t need any XL t-shirts with VISA! on the front.