Contributions to Society

Here’s the problem with free wi-fi: it’s tempting to abuse the privilege.

I was in Panera Bread a couple weeks ago for a meeting. Not like, an official businessy one. More like a couple people meeting to plan something on their own time. Regardless, whatever it was, I was early for it.

I partially blame camp. If you ain’t early, you ain’t on time. I also blame my abstractly-geared memory. But waiting around, I had time to kill, so out came the handheld digital device and up came the internet. I dawdled for about 15 minutes before a friend texted me to expose my overeagerness, so I left, locking eyes with one of the front counter attendants.

When I got back, my friends still hadn’t arrived, so I got back on the web. The front counter lady was still there. I thought she was giving me a look. Then my friends finally showed up, and hey, it was about time for dinner! So I got up to order.

Now, my pocketbook is slimmer than it used to be, and as a result I am slimmer than I used to be. I choose to go cheap at resturants these days. When it was my turn in line, I decided to get one of the least costly things on the menu- a cherry bagel that was denoted as a special promotion that week. I brought out my debit card to pay no more than 2 dollars.  I gave it to the front counter attendant, who then handed back my receipt and drolly said, “thanks for your contribution.”

I was taken aback a little. What the heck?!? Now, I know it might be viewed as a little impolite to freeload off wi-fi for a bit, but I had just established myself as a paying customer! Was it just because I didn’t get some more expensive sandwich? I know the economy’s saggy, but seriously? Sarcasm? Give me a break.

We sat down and I got my bagel delivered to me. I got more disappointed: it didn’t even look right. It wasn’t a letter “O.” It looked more like a Jesus fish. One of those ones you’d find on the back of a Southern fundamentalist’s car, eating a “Darwin” fish with legs and boasting the word “Truth” inscribed inside its loopy form.

I told my friends how unhappy I’d made Panera and what I thought my bagel now looked like. One of them looked real close and observed, “hunh. It looks like one of those breast cancer ribbons. Isn’t Panera selling some bagel that helps with research?”


“Thanks for your contribution,” she had said.

So yeah. That’s right. Even with little dollars in my pocket, I helped with cancer research. I’m a saint.

I’m also seeing that jumping to conclusions and helping society are two totally different things, even if they happen at the same time. Which I guess they did for me.

I felt less bad for freeloading then. And more bad for being a jerk.

1 Comment

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One response to “Contributions to Society

  1. Scott Willingham

    Great story. I was at BU today. Got a Lariat. You were not in it. Bah!

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