We live in the Age of Free. Not free people, unfortunately, but Free Stuff. There’s more stuff – some very good stuff – you can get gratis these days than I can remember being available in my lifetime. In fact, most of the things you can get free now didn’t even exist earlier in that lifetime.
Perfect example: I’m sitting at my computer typing away. A fella could go broke buying software for one of these Bad Boys. Everyone needs a virus checker and/or firewall and/or malware remover. If you don’t have those on your computer, you might as well throw the thing off a bridge onto a major highway. You’ll be doing all of us a big favor by removing one source of debilitating computer viruses: your unprotected PC.
So you go out and buy a set of security packages. Or you allow some other software to install one by stealth. (There’s a sick irony to the fact that security software sometimes gets installed against your will if you aren’t paying rapt attention.) Either way, someone is shelling out some bucks.
Virtually (pun intended) every bit and megabyte of software on my computer was procured for the same price: nil, zilch, nada, goose eggs. Virus checkers, malware detectors, a full office software suite, desktop publishing, screenwriting software. I have all that and more and it was all free.
WordPress blogs (like this one)? Free. Firefox browser? Free. Skype? Free. Google search, Mail, Maps, and Earth? Have you caught onto the pattern here? Companies are giving away their products in hopes that you will either buy a more powerful version thereof or services that accompany said product. But no one’s got a gun to your head.
(One exception: social media. The software is free but the gun to your vitals is the private information you’re forking over to Facebook and their ilk. Way more valuable than cash but people seem to be OK with being complicit in their own mugging. Go figure.)
That’s all well and good for our technical demands but what about the more basic needs? What about free food? Besides the obvious lack of dinero required to acquire free food, all food tastes better and has lower caloric content when it costs us nothing.
When I’m hungry, I can sate my appetite free if I’m willing to sacrifice my dignity in the process. A few trips around the food court at lunch time and you can sample cuisines from around the world and around the block. (I’ve found that the dispensers of the freebies catch on after a couple of trips. Best to carry an extra hat or fake mustache.) The same can be said of Costco on a Saturday afternoon, but that entails paying money (yikes!!) for the privilege of shopping there. If you’re doing that, you’re missing my point.
The freebie supply doesn’t end there. Craigslist has an entire category of junk (or treasure, depending on the eye of the beholder) people are trying to give away. Freecycle is another way to benefit from others’ excess. For most of us, that beats going through their trash.
This blog is free for you to read. Newspapers and magazines post gobs of free content. Authors give away their books in order to make it higher on the Amazon sales list. We don’t care about their motives. We’re getting free stuff!
One more word: Wikipedia.
On the continuing theme of “the upside of MS”, we neurologically challenged folks have yet more avenues to free stuff. My favorite source is the MS Cure Fund. They have regular learning sessions with free meals. They’ll also point you to seminars sponsored by the pharmaceutical companies. (See their complete calendar here.) If you can put up with yet another set of PowerPoint slides of brains rife with nasty little lesions, the food is free and often very good.
There’s more than food to be had at these events. The pharma reps are loaded down with assorted googaws and tchotchkes including, among other potential plunder: sunscreen, lip balm, mints, candies, tote bags, first aid kits, note pads, pens, and the ubiquitous water bottles. If I were so inclined, I could pick up enough water bottles to equip an entire boy scout jamboree.
I haven’t even mentioned the preeminent freebies, those that have been around since Day One, the most valuable of all: love, family, friendship, gratitude, and the like. The best things in life are now, as they always have been, free. Don’t miss them.
That’s my free advice. Worth every penny.
NB: One thing that isn’t free is MS itself. It costs its targets big time. As one small attempt to end its scourge, I ride every year in at least one MS Bike fundraiser. If you want to help fight MS, please consider donating some of the money I just saved you as a result of reading this post to sponsor my next ride. Visit my support page here.