Nothing in life is absolutely free. Familiar huh? Well, it wasn’t to me. Not at the time. The year was 2004 and my age was 6. It was that time when pet bottles were not common. Soft drinks were more common in glass bottles with covers that we usually gathered and used as counters then. The bottles would have to be returned to where you bought them from.
When soft drink companies ran promotions back then, they would print it inside the cover and cover it with some white rubber thingy. I remember because my friends and I would go around picking these counters, especially after a big party and competing to see who could pick the most. Afterwards, we would start peeling off the rubber thingy to see if we had won from any of our counters. It was usually a waste of time anyways because it would almost always say “TRY AGAIN”.
The chances of winning anything were like one in a million and we sure as hell didn’t have up to a million counters. So, you can imagine my excitement when I peeled open that Sprite bottle counter and it said “YOU HAVE WON ONE FREE DRINK!” I blinked to be sure I was not hallucinating and I looked again. It was real. I won something!
I was so excited and my friends were for me too. I asked them how I would get the drink and they told me to just go to any shop that sells that drink. In hindsight, I probably should have asked an adult instead of asking my friends who probably did not know any more than I did.
It was during the holiday and we had to go for summer lessons and so the next day, before leaving home for lesson, I armed myself with a plastic bottle. After lesson was over, I headed straight to the shop I knew that sold Sprite.
The shop was owned by an old lady. I greeted her and told her I want to buy Sprite. Yes! That is what I said. “I wAnT tO bUy SpRiTe!!!!!!” I wonder what came over me. Why did I say I want to buy sprite? I could have just said I wanted to redeem my prize but no! I had to just be young and stupid. Anyways, she went in and came back with a bottle of sprite. I asked her to open it and she did. I then emptied it into my plastic bottle.
Now this is where the drama begins. She then asks for her money and 6-year-old me presents her with a counter. A COUNTER guyssss! A counter that read “YOU HAVE WON ONE FREE DRINK!” I can never forget the look in her eyes. It was like disbelief + rage + confusion and so many other things but not laughter. No iota of laughter. Nothing about it was funny to her.
Honestly, when I think about it, I feel like if it were me, I would have at least laughed over the stupidity of a child and maybe even paid for it. I meannnn…I was a childddddd. But of course, people are different. Just saying what I would have done. This lady began to yell at me talmabout “Do I look like a redemption centre? You better get me my money!” Bear in mind guys, that a bottle of Sprite cost like 35 naira back then. I didn’t have that kind of money. I only got 5 naira each day to take to lesson and those were even lucky days. I couldn’t return the drink of course because I already emptied it into my bottle. I just calmly told her that I would be back with her money and I turned my back to leave. Note that, I DID NOT HAVE HER MONEY!
As I was leaving, she called me back. My little mind prayed she was about to say “Don’t worry about it, but next time don’t do that.” But instead she said “You better come back with my money soon. I know your house and if you don’t bring it, I will come and collect it.” My little heart sunk and as I walked home, I started to cry. I began to calculate which of my clothes I could sell for 35 naira. (I wonder where I was going to sell it). Just then, I opened my hand and saw that I was holding the cover from the drink she opened. For some reason, I peeled it open and guess what? “YOU HAVE WON A FREE DRINK!” I could curse them at that moment. I just threw it away and continued crying.
Then, I remembered my Sprite, which I hadn’t paid for. I brought it out, started drinking it, and still crying. I can only imagine how funny a sight that must have been. I wonder what was going on in my head. When I got to my gate, I wiped my tears because I knew my family must not know what I had done. I finished my drink, threw away the bottle and went in.
Everybody knew something was wrong. I was a very outspoken and playful kid so they were concerned that I was being so quiet. I knew I had to be my normal self if I wanted to them to stop suspecting. I tried to play but I couldn’t. I was owing a whole 35 naira. So, I went to my room and pretended to sleep. At least they won’t expect me to play if I’m sleeping.
And that was when I heard the knock on the gate. THE KNOCK OF DOOM! My heart started to pound even louder than before. I was afraid they would hear it pounding from the sitting room. My chest tightened as if it wanted to explode and my throat felt like I was being choked. I waited to hear my name being called. A minute passed, Nothing. Turns out it was just one of my sister’s friends.
But that was the beginning of the cycle. Every single knock had me feeling like I was going to die. Sometimes, I went out (or more like tiptoed) to see who it was. Sometimes, I couldn’t bring myself to get up.
Finally, it was night. Dinner time. And she hadn’t come. I started to think, “Maybe she won’t come after all.” We were all eating when I heard the knock. I think my face went pale immediately. My sister went to get the door and I was just there, ready to die.
Nope, that wasn’t her either. It was our electrician. But I guess I couldn’t take it anymore. Somebody asked what was wrong with me again and I just burst into tears. I started to cry so seriously they were all worried. Finally, I was calm enough to tell the story. I narrated everything that happened. I was ready to be scolded. Instead, everybody just started laughing. They laughed so much that I started laughing too. They promised to give me the money the next day and my joy was full. For the first time since the incident, I felt my heart lighten. I went to bed the normal, happy kid that I used to be.
I went to give the old lady her money the next day and she gave me that killer look again. I never bought anything at her shop after that day and my whole family kept calling me “Free Drink” for a while. But at least, I was grateful I didn’t have to sell my clothes. And by the way, I learnt my lesson. Nothing in life is absolutely free. Well, except salvation, oxygen, and all those things that come from God. So yeah, cherish those things that are free. Open your heart to the love of God and accept the new free life that He has given you. Peace out!
P.S. If you know me personally and you ever call me “free drink” because of this story, I will kill you. Lol jk!
Thank you for reading guys. Comment below…What should I have done differently? What do you think the shop owner have done differently? I WANT TO SEE ALL YOUR THOUGHTS!
Tomi of Lagos.