Columns, Opinion

RODRIGUE: Finders Keepers

There is a particularly remote sense of glamour associated with living in an expensive city like Boston. For college kids like us, who can barely afford coffee anywhere that doesn’t accept Convenience Points, it sometimes feels like every moment spent off campus is just one long episode of window-shopping. We walk along Newbury Street, and the fences surrounding the patios of pricey al fresco restaurants defiantly separate us from the gorgeous Italians who dine there. We go out on weekends, and the suited men that stand guard over bars and clubs look at us with those foreboding grins and glinting gold teeth, as if to say, ‘This is not for you.’
So how do we, with our paltry checking accounts and ravenous cosmopolitan appetites, get what we need in a city so untouchable?
Well, we take it.
I mean, that’s what I do’hellip;
In a city where so much is encased in such tiny, little rooms ‘-‘- after all, exclusiveness does entail limited space ‘-‘- there’s bound to be some run-off, some overflow, a few displaced artifacts here and there that the Fabulous let slip through their leather gloves. Little necessities drifting in alleys, tucked away in apartment lobbies, forgotten in subway stairwells. That’s where I come in, with a sizeable handbag, and swipe.
An example of what I’ve come to refer to as not thievery, but rather clandestine resourcefulness, occurred just this past Friday during a night of party crawling in Allston. My roommate and I were building a coffee table for our palatial Myles Annex room, but we’d run out of wood and were planning on going to pick up more on Saturday.
This was decidedly unnecessary when, upon exiting a rather swanky apartment on Ashford Street (here, ‘swanky’ is used relatively), I found an unassuming stack of two-by-fours leaning against the corner of the wall near the door to the porch. I carefully inspected the boards ‘-‘- as a seasoned swiper, I have developed quite a gimlet eye for quality and usefulness of the item in question ‘-‘- and realized with delight that they were exactly what I needed. The perfect length and width, and they even appeared to already be sanded, which made them all the more comfortable to haul home.
Before you start with your snarky accusations, I ask that you look back into your past as a Boston University student. Who hasn’t found something on the ground they really, really needed? A CharlieCard, a couple of bucks, an unopened can of Natural Ice? A wallet here, a gently worn baseball cap there, a free book abandoned on a bench in the park: All perfectly pocketable and perfectly usable. Don’t pretend you didn’t devote an entire afternoon to walking past all the MIT frats on Bay State Road last spring to scope out for free furniture ‘-‘- I saw you there, you grabbed the Ikea dining room chairs I wanted.
Don’t be ashamed, my fellow clandestinely resourceful street swipers. We’re a generation of finders, keepers, sharers and hoarders. And nothing taken is ever wasted ‘-‘- hell, all I know of Nietzsche is what I learned from the book I copped outside of SigEp on Beacon Street. The city is a veritable closet of losses and finds ‘-‘- one rich kid’s trash may most certainly become another BU student’s desktop tchotchke. Where’s the harm in that?
Perhaps the best thing about the city is that there are enough people in close enough proximity that everyone should be able to get exactly what they need as soon as someone next to them is done with it. I walked by the homeless man installed outside the Kenmore T stop last week to find him picking away at a Panda Bowl, chopsticks and all. Isn’t that like a BU kid, to give orange chicken to someone in need?
Upon seeing this, the clandestinely resourceful street swiper inside me sighed with relief ‘-‘- surely the voids my miniature heists leave behind are eventually filled by something newer and better, whether it be dropped or left behind. Of course there are takers, but it’s the nature of our bizarre society and the dynamics of our chaotic lifestyles to also yield some givers, too ‘-‘- and plenty of misplacers. Perhaps it’s our generation’s modified interpretation of the concept of paying it forward ‘-‘- in which case, well done, colleagues.
So can we decriminalize petty street corner swiping? Can we remove the stigma attached to bending over and picking up a quarter on the street? After all, we share music, we burn movies, we TiVo, we buy each other dinner, we lend Chapstick to our friends, we love used textbooks ‘-‘- if ever there was a time when good fences made good neighbors, this surely couldn’t be it. A great friend writes ‘FREE’ on a box of old junk and holds her judgment when her neighbors rummage through it. Swipe on, you clandestinely resourceful readers, swipe on.

Lauren Rodrigue, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, is a weekly columnist for The Daily Free Press. She can be reached at

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One Comment

  1. While there is nothing wrong with taking things that are labeled FREE, there is something drastically wrong with “swiping,” as you put it, things that are just laying around other’s property. Your wood incident, for example, is a classic example of stealing. Well, it wasn’t inside, hmm, or chained to the apartment, but, hmmmm, it must be free! <br/>No. This is not only morally wrong, it leaves me speechless that you can regard this as a commendable resourcefulness.<br/>Oh, and by the way, Melvin saved for thirteen days to buy his Panda Bowl. <br/>I asked.