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If you have ever had less than $10 in the bank, if you have ever had a meal comprised entirely of glazed popems, if your idea of the five food groups is a pizza with four toppings, if your idea of a date involves taking Penn Escort, if you use ketchup as a vegetable, if you have ever stolen silverware out of Commons (sorry Ms. Anita), if you really don't have any change when the man in front of Wawa asks you and if you smell your shirts before you wear them, you have experienced selective brokenness. If you have ever found $5 in your pocket and called somebody to tell them, you have been selectively broke. If you are reading this now and know what I am talking about, you are probably selectively broke right now. Being selectively broke is not like being really broke. Being selectively broke means that you have a TV and a VCR, nice clothes, a new pair of shoes and $17 in your bank account. It means that you buy things you can't afford and don't pay for them until much later. It means that you cross your fingers and smile nervously when you pay the dinner bill with your credit card. It means that at any given time, your apartment lacks at least one of the necessities of modern life. I live far away from campus. In order to eat something, I can either cook it or order it. Ordering requires around $5 or $6, unless I use the "fake coupon method." Student: Hey Dominos? Yeah, I have a coupon for a $2.99 large pepperoni pizza. Pizza Man: What? Student: Umm, yeah, I found this coupon for a $2.99 large pepperoni pizza. Pizza Man: Is this Malik again? Student: (pause) Yes. Pizza Man: Please don't call here anymore. When ordering does not work, many students will try to "cook something." This is a prolonged, ritualistic process that commences with the student saying, "I think I am going to cook something." For the next hour and a half, the student will open the refrigerator every 15 minutes and stare at its contents. Each time, the student will hope there is something in the refrigerator that was not there 15 minutes ago. Then, realizing nothing can be made from mayonnaise, canned peaches and baking soda, the student will say "Maybe I'll make some spaghetti." Many college students are stricken by what is medically referred to as "spaghetti syndrome," a culinary condition where everything you cook turns into spaghetti. Spaghetti lasagna. Spaghetti with clear sauce. Spaghetti with noodles. The student will cook spaghetti and will take pride in the consistency of his or her noodles as if no one else could make them precisely that way. Life as a selectively broke college student means accepting that things run out. Living in your own apartment requires dealing with this reality in creative ways. The student soon learns that household items can be used in ways they were not originally intended. Napkins can be substituted for toilet paper and/or Kleenex. Cologne can be used as bathroom spray. Plastic Foot Locker and Penn Book Store bags are as good as any trash bag. Appropriating your roommate's or your boyfriend or girlfriend's things as your own can also be an important means of survival. One of my greatest college discoveries was learning that despite its system of pH balancing, Secret deodorant really is strong enough for a man. Another great lesson learned is that after the tobacco industry, credit card companies are the most vile, wicked and pompous businesses in America. And no, I am not bitter at all. Knowing they will soon be bilking you for thousands of dollars, these companies have such little respect for your intelligence that they lure you with nothing more than a 50/50 blend cotton T-shirt. Credit card man: Get your free T-shirts here! Sign up for a credit card and get a great prize! Student: Hmmm? free T-shirts. That means I won't have to do laundry until the weekend! Say mister! Can I get a couple of those T-shirts!? Credit card man: Sorry, you can only have one prize. Student: OK? Are you giving away underwear too? This signals the beginning of the end. You soon realize that you could buy even more underwear with a credit card. Which is, of course, the only reason guys want a credit card anyway. This is why the companies don't give away underwear at their stands. If you do make the mistake of getting a credit card, you should follow these rules. When the credit card arrives, do not follow the activation instructions. If you have to touch it, cut it up right away and throw it into your Foot Locker bag. If you do make the mistake of activating your credit card, immediately call your girlfriend and inform her you can never see her ever again. This will solve most of your immediate debt problems. People call me stupid for being thousands of dollars in debt to Visa. What is even stupider is Visa giving someone like me a credit card and expecting to get their money back. I'm only joking of course. I fully intend to pay Visa back. I just need to buy some more spaghetti first.

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