The “something for nothing urge” is something that comes up often in the Squirreling Gone Wild series. Frugality run amok! This edition shares two instances which combined kids AND grown-ups letting their excitement over something for nothing get the best of them. A new generation of extractors has to learn somewhere, right?
The first situation, unfortunately, involved me being the catalyst for craziness. It was just in the last year or two, when we went out as a family for Sunday brunch. As we were on the way out, I looked toward the door, and spotted a gumball machines. I hadn’t gotten gum from a machine in probably 25 years, so normally I wouldn’t think anything of it.
This time, gum just sounded good, as a taste break. So, what did I do? I walked through the first door which opened to that entryway area, and stood by the gum machine. I then paused and thought to myself: Do I want to act like a child and put my quarter in the gumball machine?
I quickly looked around, and assessed the situation: nobody was watching. So, I put my quarter in, turned the dial, and out came a gumball. I quickly grabbed it while acting nonchalant. I guess it was embarrassing to be a 6’0″ tall grown man who’s a father that’s buying a gumball for himself. I did it anyway, and that gum was as good as I remembered it from the days of youth.
Then I noticed something else: the quarter was still there! I got the gumball for free. I thought that was strange, but it was quickly exhilarating, and I turned the dial a second time just to see what would happen. Out came another gumball, and my quarter was still there. Another free gumball. YES! I was curious if this was just luck or a case of a broken machine, so I tried again: free gumball #3 emerged.
At that point, a wave of guilt and a bigger wave of maturity came over me, and I stopped. I just hit me that I need to stop, so I did. However, I made the mistake of talking about it aloud with my family.
Apparently, a kid from a different family heard me talk about it, and he excitedly ran over and turned the dial. Never mind that it was my quarter that was still in there, though I didn’t care since he was just a child that was too excited to notice or care whose money it was. The kid was just so excited, and he turned the dial to get the quarter and free gum. It was good theatre, and he was happy to get the gum. Eagerly, he told his parents what happened.
The mom said, “let’s try it again!”. So, the kid does it again, while I watch. He gets more gum. Then he kept turning the dial and collecting gum. Both his parents are then laughing as he’s so excited to get free gum. He turned the dial 5 or 6 times before his parents told him to stop and give the “Nice Man” his quarter back. He grudgingly did that, and then they (and we) walked out. They were laughing about the whole thing, while I was amused by their actions.
The part that was especially funny to me is that they felt bad about him using my quarter. I couldn’t have cared less about that quarter, in reality. To me, what should have been important to them is that they were encouraging the kid to take advantage of the broken machine, and rip off the owners repeatedly. Sure, it was just gum, but they didn’t get that wave of guilt or maturity about getting something for nothing at someone else’s expense. Maybe they thought they were smart and frugal? Who knows.
Do you think that kid noticed his parents’ approach to this? He got extra laughs and attention for his antics. An extractor was born.
The second situation was at a bank, where they kept cookies in the lobby area. These appeared to be super cheap chocolate chip cookies of the stale, generic variety. They were lined up on a plate on counter. A frugal “treat” for customers.
In this situation, I eyed the cookies as I walked in. I have to admit, sometimes when I see free food, there’s some kind of magnetic attraction there. This time, I must have quickly assessed the cookies and decided that I wasn’t interested, as I walked to the rather long teller line. I then heard some commotion, and saw some kids walking in with their mom. They made a beeline for the cookies, and asked their mom if they could have some. The mom said something like “Yes, but settle down!”.
That’s the only discipline that was shown. The kids each must have taken 3 or 4 cookies, and then they sat down while their mom got in line. She said nothing. Now, 3 or 4 small cookies isn’t a big amount, and I’m sure the bank didn’t care one iota. Maybe I shouldn’t either. But to me, it’s the idea that they didn’t just take one, and that they finished off what was left on the plate. They left nothing for other customers.
Two more extractors were created.
My takeaway from these two episodes is that the something for nothing tendency can exist in all of us, and this includes kids. I can’t blame the kids, but I do think the parents should teach their kids socially acceptable behavior, and not to take advantage of others like that.
Oh well. At least these things were amusing to see
When I was a young kid, I remember visiting San Francisco with my parents, and trying to grab pennies from a water fountain in a hotel lobby. I went so far as to step in the water to collect coins. That something for nothing urge was there big time. FREE MONEY! It was a blast, for that minute I was doing it.
The fun ended when my mom yanked me out of the water. She told me that civilized people don’t do that, and people might have made wishes before throwing the coins in the fountain. I was made to drop the coins back in the fountain. Now that I’m a parent, I would do the same thing. Thankfully, my daughter seems like a more mature kid than I was at that age:)
Here are my questions:
- Do you think that these seemingly small examples are good situations for parents to teach lessons to kids, instead of facilitating their shenanigans?
- Can you think of any such examples from your own childhood, or from your experiences as a parent?
- Am I just getting old? You don’t have to answer that one, I know that I am