Yesterday I saw an ad for the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes. No purchase necessary! it proclaimed, Win $7,000 a week for life!. Wow, $7,000 for life? That would come in handy right about now. Michael and I could hire an au pair and hit up a ’round the world cruise. We could turn our house into a real hobbit hole. I could finally order something off the ‘entree’ section of the menu at our favorite restaurants! All this amazing one-in-1,430,000,000 chance required was signing up for an email box full of spam. What the hay, I had just cleared space in my inbox by finally telling the wedding spammers that I was actually married now and unfortunately wasn’t planning on getting divorced any time in the next millennia. Bring on Publisher’s Clearing House! I punched in my information and went back to scrolling through the telenovelas, infomercials, and strange Korean reality TV shows that occupy free cable.
This morning I woke up bleary eyed and groggy and checked my inbox. Thank you for entering Publisher’s Clearing House! the friendly email chirped at me, you are now in the running to win $7,000 a week for life! . Egads, I thought to myself, $7,000 a week for life, what had I done?!
I might mention that I hardly ever buy lottery tickets. Scratch that, I’ve only bought one. About a year ago I was getting my favorite breakfast supplies: soy milk, cranberry juice, and poptarts (breakfast of lactose intolerant junk food addicts). The cashier looked at my receipt as she handed it to me, ‘oh my,’ she said ‘$6.66. Must be your lucky day. You should go buy a lottery ticket!’ Little did she know that 1) 666 is considered the opposite of a lucky number in the California Bible Belt and 2) I purposely bought the same three items every week because it added up to $6.66. So I’m selectively OCD and weirdly superstitious, so sue me. Still, if someone tells you to buy a lottery ticket, isn’t it spitting on fate not to do so, just in case? I tossed around the idea all day and finally stopped by a gas station on the way home. The attendant looked at me like I was crazy when I asked him how to buy a mega million ticket.
“Lady,” he said, “you give me me five dollars and I give you five tickets.”
“But then what?” I asked.
“You listen for your numbers. If your numbers are called, you very lucky.”
“Where do I listen to the numbers?”
He shook his head as he handed me my tickets and change, “If you win, lady, you really are lucky.”
I wasn’t and I didn’t win. But that night as I was laying in my lumpy bed in my tiny apartment next to my underpaid husband and I thought, what if I had won? What if I suddenly had more money than anyone I knew? I could pay off my student loans, I could go for my master’s degree, I could visit Europe for a few months. But what else would I spend it on? I looked at Michael. I know he could find a million ways to spend a million dollars. He would want a new car with the works, a big house, and a new cell phone every month. We would probably get into arguments over how to spend all that money. I would start traveling every week, he would start buying the latest gadgets. Maybe we would grow apart, maybe get a divorce! I couldn’t let that happen! And what about our friends? There’s really no easy way to say ‘yeah, I know I have a million more dollars than you, but can you still pick up your half of the check at dinner?’ Awkward! And family? Suddenly Christmas gifts would have to take on epic proportions. Socks just wouldn’t cut it anymore. And what if I decided to just save all that money or start a business. Would people start judging me for not upgrading my lifestyle? Would they get mad at me for notbuying a Maserati just because I could? Who would I lose connection with for one reason or another? Was all that money worth being lonely? And if I gave all the money away wouldn’t I spend my life wishing I had kept some or all of it? Maybe winning the lottery would be more curse than blessing. Maybe I was lucky I didn’t win. I’ve counted my blessings every time I’ve decided not to buy a lottery ticket since.
But somehow last night my better judgement crumbled. For a moment I was half tempted to contact Publisher’s Clearing House and see if there was any way to withdraw my entry, but I decided they would probably just recommend me to a psychiatric help center. Then I whipped out my calculator to see what $7,000 a week would mean per year. $364,000. Only $364,000 per year. I wouldn’t even be in the dreaded 1% of the super rich! I would still have to take out a mortgage if I decided to buy a house in California. A private island would still be way out of my budget. I wouldn’t be able to buy a sports team. On second thought, maybe I should just leave my vote as is. 1 in 1,430,000,000 are ginormous odds. And on the other hand a few more dollars in the cookie jar wouldn’t hurt? Right? I hope not. I guess the question is, do I feel lucky?