Nothing comes for free.

Or does it?

I remember a conversation I had, several years ago, with an old bloke who challenged me to name one thing that is free in this world. He didn’t mean philosophical things like laughter, thoughts, the sun, the breeze… he meant when you get some thing for nothing.

I suggested that library’s were free. I don’t think he expected me to have an answer. “Yeah, well,” he said, “really you pay for the library with your taxes… but you can’t you think of anything else can you?”

I admitted I couldn’t and he hit me with his trump card. “Air in your tyres at a Petrol Station, that is free”. I was suitably impressed!

I often think about that conversation and wonder why Petrol Stations haven’t put some kind of price on this. After all you don’t even have to buy any petrol to be able to use the device to pump up your tyres. Not that I think they should, but it is so rare to get something for nothing these days.

Book Chaos

Image by Sharon Drummond via Flickr

I once used library’s all the time. When I was broke. And, really, it was rarely free for me due to the overdue fees… That’s probably the main reason I stopped using the library once I started to earn a decent wage. Buying a book meant I wasn’t under a time frame to get it read.

But if I’m honest, buying a book meant much more to me than that – it was a status symbol to have a bookcase full of books, even if I had never read the book, having it there on my shelf said something important about me. About who I was, what I stood for.

Going into a house and perusing the titles in the bookcase was a way of summing up any perceived connections, or potential disconnection, with the owner. Oh, they have Women Who Run With The Wolves, tick. Ah, Pride and Prejudice, tick. Eww, a stack of Mills and Boons, black mark against them.

I’m not interested in that kind of superficial judgement anymore.

I still love to buy books. New books smell nice, and they feel nice!

But in reality I don’t need to buy new books anymore, and I certainly don’t need the clutter they create. I can use the library (goal before Christmas – to join my local library), I can go to a secondhand bookshop, I can borrow from someone, or I can buy e-books if I can’t find what I need elsewhere.

It’s got me thinking about other things that are still free these days…  a glass of water at a cafe, rubbish removal… What else?

Uylsses butterfly

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