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COLUMN

The Shirt Snaggers

Akshay Patil

I admit it, I have a fetish. If you should ever want to win your way into my heart, just give me a t-shirt and I’ll love you forever. Sure, free food is all tasty and good, but hey, a t-shirt is forever.

Nothing makes me happier than a career fair. Some see it as gateway to their future careers; I see it as field fertile with apparel goodness. Armed with a solid supply of resumes, the t-shirt opportunities are almost endless! Feign interest here, sign a form there, and you’re good to go. True, your fruits of labor may yield you with only a pen or a foam toy, but once in a while you can add another short sleeve to your closet stash.

And if you’re a master, and you have to really be in the zone to pull this off, you can grab a long-sleeve. This of course takes an extra effort to pull off. First you must track the company; take your time and prowl the career fair. If you see someone else with a long sleeve t-shirt over their shoulder, you must resist the urge to mug them. Free shirt mooching is an art; the pleasure comes just as much from the obtaining as the wearing. Search for a familiar face who has already procured his/her spoils. Approach them and casually interrogate them for the information you seek: the company name.

Armed with this information, the hunt can begin in earnest. Begin scanning the grounds for the company logo. The weak can refer to their company layout diagram, but purists take the longer, more difficult route of weaving their way through the booths, keeping their eyes open not only for the prey, but for other shirt opportunities that may come across your path. Do not pass up these possibilities, remember, patience is a virtue and your long-sleeve success is not assured.

When you finally sight the company’s stand, take the time to prepare. If you are carrying a bag, do your best to stuff whatever freebies you may have into it; you need to convince these recruiters you’re serious. Take out a crisp copy of your resume and have it readily accessible. Fix your appearance, take a deep breath, and step up to the plate.

The key to the game is to act like you aren’t playing; the moment they question your resolve the prize is lost. Maintain eye contact, ask good questions and stay focused; there is no room for a slip-up in this sport.

If you perform flawlessly, you will be rewarded by those angelic words “Hey, would you like a t-shirt? What size are you?” Control your joy and accept your prize with poise. The gloating can come later when you and your friends get together and compare your spoils.

Of course, this is not the only way to obtain these objects of fixation. Helping out with events is a good way to increment your holdings as well. Often the effort put into acquiring the shirt is far greater than on the career fair circuit, but there is a greater sense of reward felt when donning the fruits of legitimate labor.

But one must remember to take good care of these trophies, for while a t-shirt may yield you years and years of quality usage, it must be taken care of. I still get misty-eyed when I think back to a tragic accident that befell me late last year, leaving my wardrobe scarred.

It was a few days before winter break and I had decided to take care of the laundry before heading off. I had enough clothes to merit a triple load: whites, blacks, and misc/delicate. I tossed my favorite white shirts into the delicates to save them from the normal wear and tear of the hot-hot cycle and started the washing machines spinning. When I returned 30 minutes later, disaster met my eyes. The colors in my “delicate” load had bled; my favorite white shirts were permanently marred pink. I lifted their limp forms out of the washing machine and carried them over to the trash where they fell to the bottom like rocks, disturbing an angry lint cloud that arose from the bottom of the bin. They were gone forever.

There are many things to be learned in the free t-shirt business, but with determination and perseverance, you can master the system. Be careful and stay focused. Shirt mooching is an unforgiving field where a small mistake can jeopardize the prize. Stay alert; don’t endanger the integrity of your shirts when washing them (but please, for the sake of all those who live near you, wash them) by carelessly exposing them to danger. I truly hope that you may never have to suffer the heartbreak of a bloody shirt massacre. And with that, I wish you good luck in your adventures; just remember the moocher’s credo, “If it’s L or XL, I’ll take it!”