Advice Column: Ask Nick!

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Hello Nick,

I have a friend who constantly takes free things, even if he doesn’t need them. The other day, he took an entire bag of shoes that don’t even fit him. Why do people do this? What’s the point?

-Concerned Friend



Hello Concerned Friend,

You have the honor of asking the very first question in my advice column! Congratulations, I’m humbled to have the opportunity to give you advice . It’s my one true passion in life. This particular pondering hit home for me, as a compulsive collector of free things I absolutely have no business owning. A tear-drop shaped humidifier I’ve never used, a plastic R2D2 candy dispenser and Pepsi-branded headphones are just a few of the free things scattered around my bed. I have never used any of them, and I probably never will. I should consider giving the humidifier a shot, though.

This isn’t new for me, and I’d imagine it’s not for your friend either. I grew up poor, and I loved taking anything I could get my hands on. When I was in seventh grade I went through a phase where, if I found a free pamphlet, I would take it 100% of the time.

This little habit landed me in hot water once, when I decided to take what I thought was a free pamphlet from the police station. As it turns out, it was actually a copy of someone’s records that were left out on the cop shop counter. To this day, I can’t even begin to understand why this person’s records were just sitting out, and why they were pamphlet shaped, but I digress.

I ended up having to do community service, and in the biggest plot twist of all, it was an absolute blast! I logged almost all of my hours at the library, helping kids find books and running bingo parties.

I learned absolutely nothing from my punishment, and I’ve continued collecting free stuff to this day (I stay away from pamphlets, though).

What I’m getting at here, in a convoluted way, is that ownership brings a strange sense of comfort to me. I’d imagine it has the same appeal for your friend as well. I’m not quite sure how to explain it, but it scratches a deep itch. I always feel satisfied when I get something for absolutely nothing, even if that satisfaction is short lived. Is it healthy? Probably not. Is it a thinly veiled coping mechanism in the wake of childhood poverty and the unending pain of that trauma? Ehhhhhh, let’s not get into that.


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