No Free Lunch

assorted gift boxes on red surface
Beware the stranger that comes bearing gifts

I was at a car show with my Dad and his buddies the other day. It was great to get out of the house and get away from everything that has been going on in my life, even if it was just for a few hours. It was great to be able to sit down, soak in the sun, drink a few beers, crack a shit ton of jokes, and listen and tell stories.

My Dad and his buddies are “baby boomers.” Almost all of them are in their mid to late 60’s or even early 70’s now. The majority of them are retired, including my Dad. The majority of them are blue collar, working/middle class guys. They’ve destroyed their bodies doing physical labor in order to make a living and support/provide for their families. Many of them were in the military at one point or another. These guys are “stand up” guys. Most of them, I’ve known them for over 20 years. They would give you the shirt off of their back to help you out, and expect nothing in return.

None of these guys have a social media profile. None of them are on Facebook. Most of them have no idea about Twitter, or what a tweet even is. The bullshit and drama that I see online doesn’t even exist for these guys. Maybe they are on to something here.

Their concerns are about their health, their families, making sure they have enough money now that they are retired to do the things they want to do, and to insure that they have enough to keep them in the lifestyles that they have created for themselves and have become accustomed to. Oh and their cars. Can’t forget about those. Don’t get me wrong, these guys would sell every last car they have in order to pay the bills and keep food on the table. A lot of the guys, my Dad included, consider their cars to be investments of a sort. Buying, restoring, and in many cases, selling cars is a “side hustle” for my Dad. It’s been pretty profitable for him too.

Hanging out with these guys, watching them interact with each other and with “outsiders,” it’s pretty amazing. The joking around, the ball busting, the stories. The lack of caring for things that don’t affect them, I learn from them each time I’m around them. Sometimes it’s something that somebody said. Most of the time, it’s from watching what they do. How they act. How they carry themselves. You’re not going to get an idea of how a man carries himself by reading a tweet. You usually won’t get it in a picture either. Most of the time you have to be there and see it for yourself. You have to see it with your own eyes.

Now I’ve painted the picture for you. I’ve hopefully laid the backdrop down.

So there we are, sitting, drinking, bullshitting, and in walks “Steve.”

Steve is a nice guy. He’s not one of the “inner circle,” but he hangs around the periphery. Most of the guys know who he is, and they all tolerate him to a degree. Thing is though, Steve used to be an “inner circle” guy. He messed that up though.

Steve came in, shook hands, cracked jokes, and told stories with the best of them. And the guys would smile and nod and be polite. Then they would go back to their original conversations almost like Steve wasn’t there. Almost like he had never spoke. Almost like he didn’t exist.

When I met Steve years ago, he was an articulate, well spoken, exuberant guy. Still is. He would do all sorts of favors for you, hell, you didn’t even have to ask. He knew all sorts of people, had all sorts of connections, and would be what some would consider a “man of influence.” Problem is, Steve would do all sorts of things for you and introduce you to all sorts of other people, and then he would expect something in return. Usually it was something that wasn’t worth the “favor” that he did for you. Usually his “payment” was more expensive that whatever it was that he did for you.

Steve did this type of thing to pretty much all of the guys in my Dad’s group. That’s how he ended up on the perimeter. That’s how he got himself “outcast.” They guys didn’t kick him out per se, but they distanced themselves from Steve when they realized that his “gifts” had strings attached. They limited their interactions with him. They started refusing his “gifts,” because let’s be honest here, they weren’t “gifts” if they had strings attached.

Beware the stranger, or even the so-called friend who comes bearing gifts. Especially when you either don’t know them at all, or you don’t know them well. My Brother Ryan, he lives in Illinois at this time. I’ve known him for over 20 years. We’ve seen each other through some serious shit. I’ve had his back, and he’s had mine. He shows up on my doorstep with a gift in hand, I’m not going to think twice about it. He’s giving me something because he wants to. There’s no strings attached.

But if I don’t know you, or I barely know you, and you show up bearing gifts, it’s a caution flag from me. “There’s no free lunch,” is something my Dad told me a long time ago. That little nugget has stood the test of time. There is no free lunch indeed. I hate to sound cynical, but when someone that I don’t know or I barely know shows up bearing gifts, my first thought is, “What’s in it for them? What’s their angle? What do they want from me in return?” This also applies when the gift or the favor is large. Especially when I don’t know the person or I barely know them.

Beware the stranger or even the casual acquaintance that comes bearing gifts. The price may be more than you would want to pay. Look for the hook. It’s in there somewhere. Somewhere there are strings attached, and the cost may be more than what its worth.

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3 thoughts on “No Free Lunch

  1. […] And one day, you got on the internet and started searching, looking for answers. You found some dudes on a social media platform like Twitter who seemed to know what the fuck was going on, so you started following them and doing what they told you. Same with the women, you started following them as well and doing what they told you to do too. The glossy photos, the well written pieces, you swallowed it all. Just like the kool-aid that the mainstream media sold you. And then the discrepancies started showing up. You found out people weren’t who they said they were. What they said and what they did didn’t match up. Do as I say, not as I do. Maybe they are just in it for a quick buck. Maybe they want something else from you, another agenda of theirs. […]

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