Column: For what it’s worth – nothing

Is it just me or have we turned into a society that craves free stuff,no matter what the stuff is?

I’ve come to the realization that we are a society that would hoot andholler for something we wouldn?t normally spend a single dollar on.

Recently, I was sitting in a movie theater to see a sneak preview and Ifelt the crowd I was sitting with thought they were going to a livetaping of The Jerry Springer Show. Every radio station in town was therebecause the sneak preview was a big event, and one station’s disc jockeyannounced to the audience he had free stuff to give away before themovie began. All of a sudden, this quiet group of people who came to seea serious movie turned into a frenzy of trinket collectors.

This DJ guy was giving out keychains and T-shirts with the radiostation?s logo on them. This rather large man that was sitting directlyin front of me stood up for ten minutes waiting for something to comehis way. When he caught a plastic keychain, he lifted his prize in theair as if it were a trophy. It was as if he had accomplished some greatfeat. This lady sitting behind me screamed, “It’s my birthday in twodays, I?ll be 50! Shouldn?t I get something for that?”

I ran into the DJ in the restroom before the film began and he said howridiculous it is that these people probably wouldn’t spend a dime if hewere selling the promotional items he was hurling into the seats. Thisinsanity doesn?t just occur at movie premieres.

Every year in New Orleans, women flock to Mardi Gras to catch beads.Now, these beads have no real value in our society. Of course, you canhang them from your rearview mirror in your car, but then people assumethe worst when pondering how you acquired them. The worst, of course, isthe act of exposing your breasts by flashing them to a crowd ofinebriated men with cameras. Sometimes flashing is not enough for somebeads, these are called “money beads,” and the women expose even more oftheir maidenhood for the world to see. But, they’re just beads.

However, the craziest phenomenon comes when the fans at a major leagueballpark fight each other for a foul ball. The ball enters thealmost-empty stands and two guys go running for it. Now, baseballs arecool and one that comes from a major league ballgame is even more of anovelty. But, is it worth an altercation with another fan just to provehow worthy you are of going home with a smudged souvenir? It must be,because every time I go to Tropicana Field to see my Devil Rays lose, Isee some beer-bellied fan lift his prize in the air and wait forapplause for how ridiculous he just acted to retrieve a foul ball. Ithink to myself, “Yeah, you’re the man, all right.”

It?s come to a point where we are willing to revert to that time in ourlives when we didn?t realize we were looking stupid (think: every fan onMTV’s TRL) just to get some keychain or pair of beads. On a normal daywalking through the dollar store, it would just be junk – but when theradio DJ throws it out or the drunk 40-year-old man waves it in ourfaces, we go crazy. But, hey – at least it’s worth it.

– William Albritton is a seniormajoring in masscommunications.