A Freakonomics Contest, Nostalgia Edition

Photo: iStockphoto

I was in California the other day and saw someone doing something that I haven’t seen done in a good while. I used to do it myself quite a bit, when I was in college, largely out of necessity.

 

What was it?

A piece of Freakonomics swag to the first correct guess.

 

Addendum: The answer to the nostalgia contest question is provided here.

Leave A Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

 

COMMENTS: 216


  1. Alex Andrews says:

    Use a telephone box?

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  2. Rajat says:

    I’m going to guess use a phone booth. Thanks to cell phones, hardly anyone uses them anymore.

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  3. Adam says:

    Urinating in public

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  4. Denise says:

    Hitch-hiking

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  5. Doctor Gonzo says:

    Rolling your own cigarette.

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  6. Jon says:

    Typing on a typewriter?

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  7. J says:

    Smoke weed and/or drink beer out of a funnel

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  8. Marc says:

    Eating Ramen noodles

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  9. SammyDarlin says:

    Selling Cans

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  10. Michael C says:

    Hitch a ride

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  11. Shane says:

    Talk on a public phone?

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  12. Matt says:

    Using a payphone?

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  13. Lab says:

    Using a slide rule?
    Donating plasma for cash?
    Cooking on a hot plate?
    Stealing toilet paper out of the public bathroom for your dorm room?

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  14. Nate W. says:

    Hitchhiking?

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  15. Jeff says:

    Walking in LA?

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  16. Robin says:

    Collecting cans and/or bottles for cash?

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  17. Sarang P says:

    Donating plasma? If I remember correctly, it paid $50 a pop when I was in college. Now that I think about it, I guess it’s not really a donation…

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  18. Brandon says:

    Drying laundry on a clothesline?

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  19. Chris says:

    Typing on a typewriter.

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  20. Steve Chen says:

    Reusing a tin pan to cook mac and cheese in.

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  21. Ryan says:

    Use a typewriter

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  22. Kurt says:

    RollerBlading

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  23. Quin says:

    Miming?

    Unicycling?

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  24. klc says:

    going into the bank

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  25. Nate C. says:

    dumpster dive

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  26. Kyle says:

    Roll the pants leg on your jeans

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  27. DS says:

    Washing clothes by hand?

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  28. james says:

    rollerblading

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  29. Ben says:

    Roller blading

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  30. Ana María says:

    Steal toilet paper from the dorm bathrooms.

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  31. Leah says:

    Boarding a bus to go home for break?
    Using a typewriter?

    I also think hitchhiking is a good guess, but someone else already said that. :)

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  32. Professor says:

    Lean over to roll down passenger side window with that handle!

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  33. Andrew N says:

    Rollerblading.

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  34. Ron Miller says:

    Roller Skating?

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  35. Eddie says:

    Use a floppy disk???

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  36. Dan says:

    Donating plasma.

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  37. Jimbo says:

    Three guesses:

    1. Using a typewriter
    2. Using a payphone
    3. Photocopying pages from a book for research

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  38. Steven Gangstead says:

    Riding a bicycle.

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  39. Tank says:

    Steal?

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  40. KMurphy says:

    Hitchhiking

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  41. Robert Sandor says:

    Practicing street economics (setting out a hat to collect dollars as people pass by if exchange for economic lectures, much like street musicians)

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  42. jk says:

    Use a payphone

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  43. Mark says:

    Eat out of a dumpster

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  44. VB in NV says:

    hitchhiking ?

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  45. bill says:

    Two guesses: studying or laundry/laundromat

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  46. Sebastian says:

    Riding a bicycle?

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  47. Shira says:

    rollerblading?

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  48. L Nettles says:

    Typewriting

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  49. HH says:

    Making a collect call?

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  50. Lee says:

    Go to a library.

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  51. Jamie says:

    Writing a check to themselves to cash at a bank?

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  52. D. Johnson says:

    Lying to your parents about being alone and sober when they call you early on Sunday morning?

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  53. Valérie says:

    Rewinding a VHS videotape before bringing it back to the videoclub?

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  54. Aaron says:

    Going to the library? Otherwise I was also going to say buying ramen noodles.

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  55. Kristine says:

    Here are some ideas: each one could have a unique permutation of how it could be a “necessity”. :)

    -Use an old fashioned large coffee thermos
    - Have a brown bag lunch
    - Have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!
    -Enjoy the delicacy of Ramen noodles
    - Sell handmade cigarettes
    - Giving a jumping high five
    -

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  56. David says:

    Since everyone else took pay phone I’m going to go for using a pager?

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  57. tristan says:

    Using a phonebook?

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  58. Oscar says:

    photocopying books
    exchanging or selling used books
    collecting food coupons

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  59. DennisC says:

    Gotta be hitchhike.

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  60. Erik says:

    Buying food with pennies.

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  61. Nick says:

    Using a card catalog?

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  62. Paulinw says:

    Buying a newspaper?

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  63. Lisandro Gaertner says:

    Mailing a letter?

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  64. C says:

    Paying with change?

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  65. Kahomono says:

    What is worse than a quiz that requires specific knowledge of the quiz author to get correct?

    A quiz that requires a lucky guess.

    The range of behaviors that college students engage in to save their meager living funds is so broad as to render this one a specimen of the ‘guessing game.’

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  66. Eddie says:

    wear fingerless gloves?

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  67. Yun C. says:

    Find something on microfilm/microfishe

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  68. Craig says:

    Dumpster diving?

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  69. D. Johnson says:

    Drinking someone else’s half-finished margaritas at a restaurant?

    Washing their clothes in a public fountain?

    Using a hefty bag for a poncho?

    Selling bags of oregano to rich kids so they can afford to eat?

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  70. Phil says:

    Talking on a pay phone?

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  71. Eddie says:

    Play Atari?

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  72. Colin says:

    Checking the change return slots of vending machines hoping to find forgotten coins?

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  73. Uri says:

    Hitchhike.

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  74. Mare says:

    Use coupons

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  75. Tim says:

    - use microfiche?
    - cry?

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  76. Donal Og O'Donovan says:

    Use a payphone.

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  77. Art Frank says:

    Looking through a card catalog in the library?

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  78. zeke says:

    sleep in a library?

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  79. Catherine says:

    Hitchiking

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  80. Quinton says:

    Holding onto the back of a trolley for transportation

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  81. vin says:

    hackeysack

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  82. Bruce says:

    Masturbating (those Californians have no shame). :)

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  83. KC says:

    Homework?

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  84. Neil Christiansen says:

    Writing a letter?

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  85. Jay says:

    Washing clothes by hand.

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  86. Matt Marshall says:

    Using a laundromat

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  87. Rachel says:

    Using a typewriter!!

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  88. Lorne says:

    Use a laundrymat.

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  89. MikeM says:

    Washing their own car?

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  90. Catherine says:

    drink coffee?

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  91. Kramer says:

    Taking a nap. One of the great pleasures of life that the average working man/woman cannot enjoy on a regular basis.

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  92. SMN says:

    Since so many other people said pay phone, I’m going to go with my second guess which is buying music records.

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  93. Curtis says:

    On the off chance that it’s *not* a payphone, I’ll guess it was taking rolls of coins to the bank.

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  94. Brendn says:

    sleeping in a library

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  95. Ryan says:

    Street performing for money?

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  96. JR Holmes says:

    1. Walking as a mode of transportation
    2. Reading a paper book on the street

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  97. John B says:

    Using a pay phone.

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  98. Steve says:

    Reading a book

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  99. Travis T. says:

    hitchhiking

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  100. Eric M. Jones says:

    Hitch hiking.

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  101. ME says:

    Using their hands to signal a turn in a car

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  102. Dan says:

    Using a laundromat

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  103. YX says:

    hitchhiking

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  104. Brendon says:

    Take a nap?

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  105. alison says:

    rollerskating?

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  106. Scott says:

    Hitchhike? Boone would’ve been a good place for it!

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  107. Olli says:

    Playing Rubik’s Cube

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  108. Olli says:

    Typing Load”$”,8,1 on a Commodore 64

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  109. Mike says:

    Make a collect call from a payphone

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  110. Phil says:

    1. Putting those sticky reinforcements on loose-leaf paper.
    2. Using Liquid Paper.
    3. Watching the Ottawa Senators finish last in their conference.

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  111. John says:

    Use a calculator.

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  112. KevinH says:

    hitchhiking

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  113. Jon says:

    Using microfilm/fiche?

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  114. Pop says:

    Drink mini cup creamers.

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  115. Vince says:

    Dumpster diving?

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  116. Cal_runner says:

    Skateboarding.

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  117. Ben says:

    Using a slide projector?

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  118. homerj39 says:

    Sell plasma.

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  119. Rich says:

    Hackysack

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  120. b.green says:

    Hitchhiking was my first guess, so I’m going with “Riding in the back of a pickup.”

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  121. John says:

    Listen to a cassette

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  122. Sebastien P. says:

    Using a trash bag as a rain jacket.

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  123. emily says:

    Using a clothesline?

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  124. Jimbo says:

    Three more guesses:
    1. Using the card catalog at the library
    2. Stopping at a gas station to ask directions
    3. Using a bent coat hanger to open a car door (because one’s own keys are locked inside, hopefully)

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  125. Ricardo says:

    Playing hacky-sack.

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  126. John says:

    Used an encyclopedia.

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  127. Clark says:

    Dumpster diving?

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  128. Kathleen Lisson says:

    Bumming a cigarette off of someone else?
    Checking their watch or asking the time?

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  129. jillian reiss says:

    Roller skate

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  130. Mike says:

    Typing on a real typewriter
    Roller Blading

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  131. Mike says:

    Using a payphone.

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  132. Leanpal says:

    Nothing

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  133. Mark says:

    Using a card catalog at a library?
    Using a phone book?

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  134. james says:

    using a typewriter/word processor?

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  135. Matt Keller says:

    Rollerblade?

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  136. Jonathan Harford says:

    …make a collect call?

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  137. Brad says:

    You saw someone using a newspaper as an umbrella.

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  138. Rich says:

    Using a typewriter.

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  139. Rob Mata says:

    i’m going to guess drive a car.

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  140. ben says:

    Take a bus
    - or -
    ride a bike

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  141. Matt Keller says:

    Take an instant picture with a Polaroid camera.

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  142. Paboo says:

    Rollerblading in a robe while playing electric guitar with a amp strapped to your back?

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  143. thomas says:

    1. Volunteering
    2. Taking a nap
    3. Eat ramen noodles.
    4. Beer for breakfast (hangover remedy)

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  144. thomas says:

    Reading a map

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  145. Hank says:

    panhandle?

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  146. Paboo says:

    Or more likely playing the keyboards for “The Right Profile”

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  147. cy1time says:

    writing a check

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  148. Paboo says:

    Or perhaps playing the accordion?

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  149. Andrew says:

    rollerblading

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  150. Clancy says:

    It’s probably “use a phone booth”, but since that one seems taken, I’ll go with “walk around with a big ol’ boom box on his shoulder”

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  151. Jamie says:

    Pull a ring tab off the top of a can of beer

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  152. thomas says:

    Write a letter

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  153. Benji Smith says:

    Siphoning gas?

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  154. Derek says:

    Ask a stranger for a cigarette.

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  155. WJ LaMontagne says:

    Writing down a phone number?

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  156. DrGomek says:

    I know!

    You saw someone entertaining a large group of people by posing a puzzle, in the form of a question specific enough to be interesting but vague enough to be unsolvable.

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  157. Christoph says:

    take brain enhancing drugs?

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  158. Jim says:

    Taking a nap in a public space

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  159. Vern says:

    Posting a printed paper sign on a sign board or telephone pole (e.g. to promote an event or offer services for hire).
    Reading the classified ads in a newspaper and circling job opportunities.
    Using the yellow pages / telephone book.

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  160. Caleb B. says:

    Donating plasma.
    Reading a textbook and then putting it back on the shelf.
    Practicing music in a garage.
    Asking someone older to buy beer.
    Hanging clothes to dry.
    Washing clothes in a sink.

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  161. caleb b. says:

    I GOT IT! Buying less than a dollar of gas! Buying gas with change was way college.

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  162. Riley says:

    Cutting their own hair…

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  163. JN says:

    ….using an abacus?

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  164. Fred says:

    “Needing a miracle” as in Grateful Dead.

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  165. Kreyg says:

    Ask for directions and/or consult a physical map.

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  166. tcb says:

    A pager? Kinkos? Cash in change at a change machine?

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  167. SteveB says:

    Somebody was eating straight condiment packets.

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  168. Greg says:

    Reading a map.

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  169. kimr says:

    Getting/saving quarters for laundry.

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  170. Del Olds says:

    Writing a letter.

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  171. Roy says:

    Rollerblading.

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  172. Diane says:

    Washing your car yourself?

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  173. Dwight says:

    Borrowing a book from a library?

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  174. upperleftcorner says:

    Used a punch card in a computer.
    Typed in a DOS command.
    Or maybe you saw someone taking their laundry home to Mom?…

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  175. Jeff says:

    making a grilled cheese with an iron

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  176. jane says:

    washing dishes by hand

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  177. C.J. says:

    Give their stick shift vehicle a running push to jump start it?

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  178. Kevin says:

    Changing oil, tires, on their car?

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  179. Lukasz says:

    Washing your clothes in the public laundry room?

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  180. Marc says:

    Roller Skating.

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  181. Nick says:

    rollerblading?

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  182. Snidely says:

    Using a coin operated laundry?

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  183. Nick says:

    Pay for music?

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  184. Vijay says:

    Flirting with the Professor?
    Taking the Prof’s dog out for a walk?

    Now for the stunner:
    Studying Economics?

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  185. Or says:

    using a copier (or as people used to say back in the day: xeroxing).

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  186. James Clary says:

    I was going to say using a telephone booth, but I will guess something else because someone else already guessed that.

    I will say, paying cash for a transaction. Most transaction you see these days are credit transactions.

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  187. Jon says:

    Ride a bike to work/class?

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  188. Christine T says:

    Collecting bottles to return for cash?

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  189. Kreyg says:

    Write a check!

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  190. Matthew Bydalek says:

    Mowing their own lawn.

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  191. paul o. says:

    Trip on acid while drinking beer.

    Walk to the deli in the morning only wearing flip flops, boxer shorts and a t-shirt.

    At the movies, grab a bunch of partially eaten popcorn containers and make one full one.

    Stay at clinics for 7 to 17 days testing drugs for FDA approval.

    Watch friends have sex with prostitutes as bachelor party entertainment.

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  192. Trevor says:

    “borrowing” plastic knifes and forks etc from fast food restaurants to bring back to the dorm

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  193. Boop says:

    Checking a book out of the library?

    Hitchhiking is a good guess

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  194. dissidentme says:

    Something to do with snow, shovel, chip ice from windshield, etc…

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  195. Barbara says:

    Picking up change from the ground?

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  196. Barbara says:

    taking plastic cutlery, condiments/left over food from restaurants to take back to campus?

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  197. Petey says:

    Longboarding?

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  198. Philippe says:

    Push starting a car.

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  199. Andrew says:

    Eat Funyuns?

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  200. Jennifer says:

    Ride a bicycle

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  201. Dan says:

    using a payphone?

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  202. Alistair Logan says:

    Was it us a pay phone?

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  203. Alan Zarky says:

    Hitchhiking.

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  204. Frank Vaughan says:

    Go to the laundromat.
    Use a pay phone.

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  205. Chrissy says:

    I think it’s rollerblading! I know this is a late post, so what’s the answer???

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  206. Paige says:

    Siphoning gas

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  207. Chuck W says:

    Writing a letter….

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  208. vmgillies says:

    using a typewriter

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  209. Chris says:

    Roller skating with rainbow suspenders and a boom box?
    Adjusting a TV antenna?
    Using an afro-pick?
    Going to church?
    Returning an overdue Beta tape?

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  210. John Walp says:

    Posting a “ride wanted to… will pay for gas” sign with a set of those pull-off tabs at the bottom.

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