When my nephew was visiting a couple years ago, he said something about eating for free at our friends' restaurants and getting stuff for free at our friends' stores. I tried to tell him that we went to these places to support our friends, not to freeload off them. That we do indeed pay for things. He didn't seem to understand and kept at it until I, in a hormonal fit, declared "Favorite Nephew, NOTHING IS FREE ON CAPE COD."
So of course ever since then, everything's been free.
And now I understand, to people who do not live in a bartering community, it may look a little weird.
Most of it is thanks to Chris. If our friends have a problem with anything that plugs in, Chris puts on his super hero cape and rescues them. He goes beyond the call of duty in many cases. For instance, once he set up a VPN (virtual private network) for a client via conference call. In a delivery room. While I was in labor. He wasn't being insensitive, they really needed him. And I was okay with it because I knew I'd get some mileage out of the story.
So he goes and gets people up and running - in snow, rain, heat and gloom of night. And the next time we're out and about, those people remember how nice Chris was and pick up the tab. It's kind of awesome because I just sit back and tell delivery room stories while he does all the work.
The great thing about barter is not all the "free stuff." After all, it pretty much all comes out the same in the end. The great thing about barter is that it creates a community.
You remember things you are given more than things you buy.
A Harvard psychology class, Positive Psychology, was the most popular class they had in 2006. May still be. One of the things they did (I have no idea where I heard this, so you'll just have to trust me) is take $5 and spend it on themselves. The next week, they took $5 and did something for someone else. Later, they couldn't remember what they had spent on themselves, but they did remember what they had done for others.
You do enough of this kind of thing and the next thing you know, everywhere you go there are people who feel warm and fuzzy when they see you (or your husband, as the case may be). And that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and less inclined to be agoraphobic.
It also impresses the out-of-towners.
So yes, Favorite Nephew, everything is free. It's as free as you make it. You contribute what you have, do your best, tell the truth and work hard. And then say thank you when it all comes back to you.
But the next time you say "everything's free on Cape Cod," I'm charging you $5.