I always hear people say, "I'll take anything that's free! I love free stuff." But something happened recently that made me think half these people are liars.

Walking home from the bank a few weeks ago, I chanced to see a pair of pants lying at the edge of the parking lot, near the street. About five seconds after passing them (after stopping to make sure I didn't see anyone I recognized anywhere around me), I turned around and went back to investigate. I picked them up with the tips of my thumb and forefinger and slowly brought the pants to within smelling range. No smell of urine, no stains... I dropped them on the ground and stepped on them a few times; no hypodermic needles in the pockets either. Not seeing any blood or other reasons to not want them, I picked them up and carried them back to my room. After all, pants are expensive when you're on a part-time job, college-type budget. And they're actually pretty nice-looking, gray slacks. I'd be a fool not to have picked them up.

I put the pants in with my last load of laundry, and wore them for the first time today. They're about 8 sizes too big, but baggy pants are supposed to be cool these days anyway, and that's why I have a belt.

"On the side of the road?!" the first person exclaimed, "Do you have any idea where those could have been?" I admitted I hadn't any idea, but then again, did they know where their clothes from Savers, or even their clothes from the department store had been before they bought them? "No, it's different... those could've belonged to some bum, or some junkie, or, or... or something." Wtf cares? They were free, and I washed them. Just about everyone I've talked to thinks it was a horrible idea to get this free item. Apparenly, free stuff is only good when being solicited and handed out by someone, even though then it means that the person wants something out of you in exchange (like a service agreement, or your soul). My conclusion: people are hypocrites and fools.

Except for one of my more creative friends, who was probably just high when I talked to him today. His response to Hey-look-at-these-cool-free-pants-I-found-on-the-side-of-the-road:
"Well, how do you think they got there, just abandoned in the parking lot? Probably, someone was murdered, and the murderer was dragging the corpse by the pants leg (to keep his prints off the corpse) to someplace where he could dispose of it, when the body just fell out of the pants. So he left them there and started dragging the body off by the nostrils. But by picking up those pants, you're taking away the only piece of evidence that had the murderer's prints on it, man! You're setting a criminal free amongst us, to kill again. And you know the first person he's gonna go after? The guy who has the dirt on him... you!"

     It started off innocently enough. My roommate bought a new desk and wanted to get rid of her old one, so she put it out in the hall with a sign that said, "FREE! Please take this if you want it." No one in the building took it, but our friend Chad came by eventually and carted it off to his new place down the street.

     Then, a few weeks later, another resident got the same idea. Only with more stuff. Much, much more stuff. Furniture. Knickknacks. Foodstuffs. Headgear. Footwear. And since the stuff was being put outside the apartment directly across from ours, Maria and I had ample opportunity to look over the free stuff before anyone else. I walked into the living room the other day to find Maria glued to the peephole; when I asked what she was doing, she shushed me and explained in a whisper, "She's putting more stuff out. I'm just waiting until she goes back inside to go out and look at it."

     I gave her a look.

     "What?" she asked. "I put back the motorcycle helmet. And those boots."

     "Just leave that fax machine alone," I told her sternly, remembering the wistful way she'd been eyeing that bit of junk the last time we were out in the hall together. Whatever she was going to say was lost as the distinct sound of a door shutting across the hall silenced us both.

     "Let's go," Maria said, opening our door. Together, we ventured out. Fresh bounty greeted us, in the form of a blue and white ceramic rabbit, a pair of white socks (seemingly unworn), and a magazine rack. Just as we were poised to descend like scavenging hyenas, Maria remembered that she had to go to work. I snagged the socks, Maria took the magazine rack, and we legged it back into the relative safety of our apartment.

     While she rushed around getting ready, I sat on the couch and propped my feet up on our newly acquired coffee table, staring at my bare toes and wondering if those socks were really unworn, or if they just looked that way.

     "Bye dude!" Maria called from the doorway.

     "Have fun at the traumatic brain injury house," I told her. "See you Sunday!"

     The door thudded shut after her, but I didn't hear her footsteps going down the hall. A few seconds passed, and then the door opened part way, just enough for Maria's head.

     "Steal me that rabbit," she called. Before I could ask just how one steals a free ceramic rabbit, she was gone again.

     Possible or not, I would have done it. I had it all planned out -- I would haul the rabbit inside and hide it in Maria's bed. She would come home drunk Sunday night and be terrified out of her wits when she encountered its cool, smooth texture at the foot of her bed.

     It was a beautiful plan, only some asshole beat me to the rabbit. When I went out to collect it, it was gone.

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