I should warn and caution that what I'm going to semi-complain about here is likely to get an eyeroll from many of you, and not an undeserved one at that.
So I'm in Mystic, Connecticut for the weekend staying at Megan's parents' lovely home. As an added bonus, Mystic is only a stone's throw away from New London, where I went to college. I actually took the train here last night and thus got a nice whiff of nostalgia as I stepped out of the station and briefly glimpsed some of my old haunts. Specifically, I spotted my college comic book store, Sarge's Comics, and made a mental note that I had not been there in a couple years now.
Lo and behold, Megan and her mom took a trip to the site of our upcoming wedding today, leaving me alone at their house (her dad mysteriously disappeared) and looking for stuff to do. I figured why not borrow Megan's car and take the 10 minute trip down I-95 to Sarge's.
I once again rode the nostalgia wave into New London and nearly OD'ed on it once I stepped foot within Sarge's, which despite having shuffled some sections around and hired some new people out front still had that old familiarity of the place I redsicovered my love for comics in (and remains for my money the biggest, best, most extensive comic shop I've ever seen).
20 minutes of browsing later, I walked out empty-handed. And I gott be honest, folks: that bummed me out a little.
During those 20 minutes, I saw a lot of comics, trades and toys I thought about buying, but I didn't. To be fair, part of that was due to what I like to think is my growing maturity in a rough economy where I'm doing my best to limit my purchases, but a bigger part was there was not a single item I saw where I couldn't justify not getting it with "I can get this for free" or "I can borrow this from one of my comics-inclined friends."
Don't get me wrong, I still spend a lot of money on new comics each week (particularly for somebody who has that aforementioned access to free goods), but I've been noticing more and more as I hit up conventions and shops I don't get that frenzy for back issues or holy grails anymore.
Certainly this isn't really a bad situation to be in by any stretch of the imagination; even more than the fact that I can get comics by the busload for free by virtue of my career choice and good fortune, I dig that the amount of people I hang out with who actually have robust collections I can pilfer has increased to this point as it means I not only have access to that material, but friends with whom to discuss it.
(As an aside, I just remembered I should also mention that a vast chunk of stuff I didn't buy today consisted of trades I got to read while I was at Wizard, which is a fairly significant x-factor I didn't really figure into this rant)
Still, for the busload of stuff on the plus side, I definitely do miss that feeling of "Holy shit, there is sooooo much stuff here" accompanied by the knowledge I'd be unearthing some hidden gem and bringing it back to my dorm room (wow, that sounded both a little dirty and a little sad) I used to get when I walked into Sarge's. I gotta say I do admire Rickey in that if you read any of his con reports, you know that he still manages to find about eight billion cool little things to buy every time he goes to a show.
The moral of the story is this: of the countless awesome reasons you could have for getting into comics professionally, getting free stuff shouldn't be one of them.*
*I'm kidding; of course it should be.