Last Wednesday morning was not going well for me. I woke up at 9:48 and had to be at class by 10 a.m., so my first class was spent zoning out on the whiteboard and wishing a mocha would materialize before me. En-route to my next class, while fumbling with my bike lock, a friendly voice said “Hi!”
Since it’s my first semester at CSUN, I don’t know anybody and pretty much don’t have any friends, so as I lifted my head, I cynically thought to myself, “They must want money.”
The voice belonged to a smiling girl in sunglasses who offered me a Red Bull.
The first thing out of my mouth was, “Is it free?” They were free, and I even got my choice of the full-blown, caloric version or sugar-free.
My skills of discrimination had suddenly been challenged; not everybody who approaches you on campus wants money. Granted, these free perks might be little more than product endorsement, but if it’s free stuff with no strings attached, who cares?
Thinking the Red Bull girl wanted money wasn’t necessarily an unfounded assumption. On any given day, a student walking through the Sierra Quad can be approached by many people seeking “support.” Free movie tickets, magazine subscriptions, petitions for lower gas prices or for establishing Buddhist communities in Los Angeles, Cal-pirg. The list goes on. The few dollars in my wallet are saved for a coveted bag of Sun Chips or an overpriced bottle of water during my break.
I assume I’m not alone with my frugality, unless your loans are for luxury or mom and dad are footing the bill for everything. While I would like to help those less fortunate than myself, I’m a self-proclaimed grinch when it comes to donations. My money goes to rent, car payments and gas, and if I want to work a couple extra hours, I can afford a splurge at the Macy’s clearance racks.
I recognize how spoiled I am as a young American, but I also recognize the value of my hard work. I’ll give a homeless person a buck every now and then if their cardboard sign is clever, but I really just want to tell these people, “Sorry, you’re barking up the wrong tree.”
Later that day as I was trekking to my last class, I was handed a free rose for International Women’s Day. Sitting in class sipping my Red Bull and staring at the pink rose before me, I pondered the two occasions that had changed my disgruntled opinion about solicitors on campus. They can be annoying, but I guess they are just trying to support a cause they believe in. While I don’t want any more pocket Bibles or stickers, I’m all for free energy drinks and flowers.
Alyssa Lofgren can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.