Seriously, I was just about to write a column just like this. It’s uncanny. -ed.
By Jenny Bundock
At a first glance, you may not be with me on this, but trust me you know one, and chances are they irk you. The reality about this type of person is that they annoy everyone, but no one has thought them to be so annoying that we had to say anything. The key characteristics of a Credit Free-loader is that they wait for someone else to do or say something really good, and then they swing in after it’s been well received and adhere themselves to the positive deed.
Example #1: The “I was just about to say that” remark.
Were you really just about to say that? Or are you just saying so now, so that everyone assumes that you had the same point as the person who did just say that? See, we never can know if they were truly just about to say what was just said, but the very exercise of taking credit for someone else’s statement by claiming that they beat the person to it is really really annoying. Another version of this is “I was just thinking that” or “we’re on the same wavelength.” It makes me crazy that we can’t call this person out. Even if you’ve never known them to have a novel, insightful, or original thought in all the time you’ve known them, they still get to veil themselves through the reality that none of us are telepathic; and thus, it is their word against ours. We look like lunatics if we say anything, so they win by default. Newsflash: we are all on to you, jerks.
Example #2: The person who is sitting in on a discussion and comments after every good comment, regardless of whether they are adding anything.
I am in a masters program right now, and time after time in discussion someone will make a point that is well received, and so the Credit Free-Loader in the group will chime in with their two cents that usually starts with “I agree with _______.” Then they either go on to summarize what that person just said, or they say something like “that was a really good point.” The next person responding now references both of them and says, “I think what both of you are saying is really great, and my opinion is…” And just like that, we have another person who has swooped in without any positive contribution and positioned themselves in like-kind with the person who actually is doing the work, and thus deserves the credit.
Example #3: Thanks for doing all the work already. Can I put my name on that too?
This has happened a lot in music. People thought it was bad when someone sampled a song, only marginally changed it, and then called it their own. People also were annoyed when cover songs came out and then became huge though the cover was almost identical to the original. (Think, when a country music star decides to cover an R&B song, and the only difference is twangy guitar and a white guy…) Basically if you didn’t make it better by being involved or putting your stamp on it, you don’t deserve credit for it just because it is different now.
Now, I realize I haven’t yet sold you on this one, but I have a real world example that is plaguing me daily right now: the new version of “Paper Planes” by M.I.A. that now includes a little rap interlude. Think about it now if you have heard both… Paper Planes is an incredible song, all by itself. (Before it was used in that stoner movie commercial it was even better because I didn’t have to hear it blaring from all the student homes on my block everyday. But that is a different complaint.) Anyways, about two weeks ago, everyone switched to playing the rap version, and even the radio started playing just the rap version. Quite frankly, I think it makes the song worse. But even if it didn’t, even if it makes it different, it most certainly doesn’t make it better. These rappers came in after the album was released and after the commercial, and they said, “Hey M.I.A., I’ll rap over your already really good song. Then I’ll get to take credit for the song too, because I’ll get a ‘featuring’ by-line on it, sound good?” And for some reason I don’t understand, she said okay.
So what do we do about these people, these individuals that have no shame and are willing and able to sap our creativity, individual thoughts, and poignant comments with a subtly disguised “me too”? Is our only recourse to keep all our best ideas squirreled away for when no one else is around? That’s no way to live. To the Credit Free-Loader I say: Back off! Get your own sandwich! And to everyone else, let’s just keep resenting them in private, and let them think that they’ve got us all fooled into thinking they are awesome. We’ll bide our time, and one sweet day everything will balance out when no one comes to their birthday and they get kicked out of school for plagiarism.