The “Free” in Freedom

A - California
Entered on March 30, 2008
Age Group: Under 18

I believe in free refills. I believe daring restaurants that sell a half-filled glass of soda for two dollars owe it to their costumer to continue to refill that glass until there is a mad dash for the house bathroom. Everything that is so difficult to find in life is found in the bottomless supply of carbonation that holds the power to connect multiple generations in a single glass of bubbles. My coupon-cutting, bargain-hunting, penny-pinching grandfather will tell anyone who is willing to listen that it is the constitutional right of Americans to consume as many Cokes or Sprites as they possibly can without throwing up. This core belief stems from everything that my grandfather represents: good deals, frugality, and, yes, glut.

Being her father’s daughter, my mother has taught both my sister and me to say, “Oh, just water for me, please,” when asked what we would like to drink at a restaurant. There are rare occasions in which the desire to get the most out of her money overrides even my mother’s parsimony, but these instances are few and far between. Fresh Choice is my grandfather’s favorite restaurant as well as one such uncommon exception to my mother’s no-soda regime.

It is at this buffet of all-you-can-eat heaven that I have learned the most important of life skills; a drop of soda on a straw wrapper will evolve it to a wriggling worm, gulping obscene amounts of Dr. Pepper gives you hiccups, and gently alighting your fingers on the surface of Root Beer makes for sticky fingertips that allow napkins to fly. My nine-year-old eyes beheld these wonders with an amazement that can only be conjured up in sugary, caffeinated, carbonated drinks. By the end of the night, a long line of emptied soda glasses patiently trailed down our table awaiting the server to whisk them back to the kitchen for a refill.

My mother also insists in milking every possible cent out of the soda machine; hours spent sitting at debris-littered tables, speaking on every whim in between teeth-rotting sips. My grandfather may not be the warmest of men, but even he opens up after a third or fourth soda. Nobody would believe the topics that float to the surface of our conservations and burst like their carbonated counterparts into stories and memories, lasting far longer than even the biggest of Big Gulps.

I believe in free refills. I believe in the freedoms they give us. Free refills bestow upon us a second chance to correct a mistake, and a tiny glimpse, a snippet of perfection when we find the flavor that fits our exact mood that day. I believe in the straw-wrapper worms, the Dr. Pepper hiccups, the magic of a hovering napkin, and all the other tricks that can be taught without the worry of wasting a drop of precious soda. Some may say it’s too careless and imprudent, but what’s freedom without these qualities of childhood? And in that sense, I believe that free refills can even make a drink worth two dollars.