Slurpee seekers

There’s a date on the calendar you may have overlooked: July 11 – the birthday of 7-Eleven. While this date seems insignificant to many, for two students it marks the fourth year in their pursuit for as many free 7.11-ounce Slurpees as possible. Braving the onslaught of brain freezes and strange looks from fellow customers, junior Nathan Davison and sophomore Sean Argo scoured the Tampa Bay area on Tuesday to beat last year’s record of imbibing 140 ounces apiece.

“As a college student, I’m a huge fan of things that are free, and I see 7-Eleven Day as an amazing opportunity to seek after that freedom we are all entitled to,” Davison said.

Over the years, Davison and Argo have been gradually building up their 7-Eleven Day celebrations, from their impromptu hunt for other 7-Elevens after finding the cups in a store in 2002 to the day-long excursion that it is today. Their ultimate goal is to increase awareness of the event so that one day their antics will be commonplace. The past three years’ celebrations took place in the pair’s native Brevard County, but since Davison is taking summer classes, they decided to move their excursion to Hillsborough.

With the additional challenge of less familiar territory, Argo and Davison began creating a map of all local 7-Elevens, but ended up deserting it in favor of asking employees at each store for directions to the next one. It became a sort of scavenger hunt in which the journey itself was more important than obtaining as many free Slurpees as possible.

“It started out as just a way to get free Slurpees, but it’s grown into a tradition,” Argo said. “We’ve made it into more of a special event than it really ought to be. It’s more just a time to meet new people and interact with friends than anything else.”

Like some sort of hidden treasure, 7-Eleven doesn’t advertise the free Slurpees it provides in honor of the day – instead, customers must rely on word of mouth or stumble upon the cups themselves. In fact, some employees aren’t aware that it’s 7-Eleven Day until Argo and Davison enter the store.

“It was a shock to me that some employees didn’t even realize how significant this day is,” Davison said. “We’re just trying to get more people to start talking about this and create more of a buzz. The bigger the buzz, the more likely people are to respond to it and become part of the madness.”

At each store, Argo and Davison shout “Happy 7-Eleven Day!” to everyone they pass before making their way to the Slurpees. The duo has sampled every Slurpee flavor currently offered, but they tend to gravitate toward the Mountain Dew and passionfruit flavors. Free Slurpees in hand, they thank the employees for their hard work over the past year.

“We wish the employees a Happy 7-Eleven Day and ask them whether their day is going as well as ours,” said Argo. “We just try to show our appreciation for what they do.”

To celebrate in style, both men wear multicolored rubber 7-Eleven bracelets – the proceeds of which benefit public education in America – and homemade 7-Eleven T-shirts, which are signed by fellow Slurpee fans and 7-Eleven employees at each store they visit. The shirts, as well as the cups that they collect, serve as tangible reminders of the holiday.

“I think what they’re doing is great,” said Linebaugh and Armenia 7-Eleven store employee Claudia Knight. “Life is good, and they’re celebrating that.”

Most people are supportive of their endeavors, though some find their excitement a bit unnerving.

“They came in here all dressed up and shouting ‘Happy 7-Eleven Day’ – I thought they were here to rob the store or something,” said night-shift employee Chris Duckson. “I’ve never seen anyone support this like that before. I thought they were crazy.”

While both Duckson and his co-workers at the Grady and Waters store found humor in Argo and Davison’s exploits, Duckson was the only one to sign their shirts, and only signed one before half-jokingly announcing, “I’m going to have to ask you both to leave. You’re scaring my customers – shoot, you’re scaring me, too!”

While not all attention they receive is positive, the pair’s endeavors also piqued the interest of 95.7 The Beat. Radio Personalities Big Mike Johnson, Mandy and Dudu II were at the Fletcher and 56th street store to promote the day, sign Davison’s and Argo’s shirts and give them vouchers for free food at 7-Eleven.

Despite efforts to break their previous record for Slurpee consumption, Davison and Argo only managed 107 ounces each this year, largely due to time lost when Davison’s car broke down.

The breakdown occurred around 3 p.m., but that didn’t put an end to their excursion. Close friend Jeremy Garrett, a junior, took them back to another friend’s apartment, and Annette Scott, a sophomore, agreed to continue the journey with them at 9 p.m. With three hours left in 7-Eleven Day, the trio managed to stop by six more stores along Waters and Linebaugh, bringing the stores visited to a total of 15.

“I think that sometimes in life we’re tested to see if we have what it takes to persevere, and I think that the breakdown was simply that,” said Davison. “Despite the unfortunate circumstances, we continued to come out ahead.”

Though their yearly mission revolves around chugging Slurpees while increasing 7-Eleven awareness, setting the goal gives them something to look forward to during the long summer months. It’s more than a quest for something free: It’s an escape from the mundane.

With more than 30,000 stores worldwide, there are plenty of 7-Elevens left unvisited. With that in mind, Davison and Argo are already planning for next year.

“We want to hit up more venues – more hype, more excitement – just get more people involved,” said Argo. “I don’t know if we could make it into a U.S. tour since we’re still poor college kids, but it’ll definitely be bigger.”