I am not a winner! No, neither am I a loser, nor a nebbish nor an insignificant nobody. When they talk about people winning the lottery, that ain’t me. I’d like to be the one who wins the lottery, but no matter how much I don’t play, I still don’t win. I have a friend who is 84; he’s also a multi-millionaire. He worked hard for his money. He is an inveterate gambler. He can’t go into a store that sells lottery tickets and not buy…and win. If he buys a scratch ticket for a buck, he comes back with a minimum of ten dollars. Has he won the lottery? No, but he just might do so. Actually, another acquaintance of mine has won the lottery not once, but twice. He was a sculptor. When he won his first million, he bought a farm in the country where he could sculpt to his heart’s content. I have no idea what Arthur did with the second winnings, but I’m certain he invested wisely.
This year, just for the hell of it, I decided to participate in the Publisher’s Clearing House…what the hell do they call that, a giveaway? Whatever, it’s a gambler’s delight. I even purchased a coupled of the products they were offering. It seemed easier to buy from them than to go hunting for what they had that I wanted, okay? After the first purchase, I began to get at least five e-mails a day from PCH. “No purchase necessary,” these kept saying, “No purchase necessary.” So I took them at their word and didn’t buy anything else. I never did read Cosmo, or Redbook, or Ladies Home Journal, and I’m a little old to be buying Playboy. I suppose it’s always nice to dream or have memories of dreams or whatever, but I don’t need another reminder of just how old I’m getting.
Once PCH learned that I had purchase something else, this must have triggered one of those spinning red lights in some office. “He’s hooked,” someone said. “Let’s go get ‘em!” Thus began the barrage of mail. These aren’t small, window envelopes with a couple of pieces of paper. These are your super-sized thingies with, “You’re a winner” plastered all over the front and back…not only “You’re a winner,” but “Mr. Bishop, you’re a winner!” Now, I know a little bit about direct mail. It’s no big deal to personalize an invitation or a letter, but these things carry personalization to a new level. Inside this package are scratch cards on which you always win something…with a caveat that you must keep playing to collect your eventual winnings and “No purchase necessary,” but with a ton of paper offering everything but the sun and the moon. You have two choices: first, you don’t even bother to open the envelope but consign it immediately to the recycle bin or, second, you play the game and take half an hour to go through each piece very, very carefully. Remember, I told you that I had decided to participate. Old people do stuff like that; they have no expectation of winning, but they delight in seeing just how far one of these ’sharpies’ will go to milk money from the poor and unsuspecting…shades of Nebraska. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I gather that’s the premise. I just can’t imagine the battery of lawyers these people must have on call!
I want you to know that I have been given to understand that on February 28th, the ‘Prize Patrol’ will come knocking on my door – they’d ring the bell but it doesn’t work – and tell me that I have one a million dollars a year for life. Not only that, but I can pick someone to receive a million dollars for life after I die. I’d tell my children to get busy, but it’s only 25 days away…and nobody’s that good! These folks are going to bring me flowers, balloons, and a great big check. Hell, they’ve already told me I’m a winner. They tell me every time they send me an e-mail or one of those hernia-lopes. Between those and the catalogs, we bring the mail in in a small cart. That’s another thing that retirees enjoy doing, going through all the second, third, and 84th class mail they receive each day. I wonder how much mailing lists are going for these days.
Oh, goody, I’ve just received another envelope. Things must be coming down to the wire. Here’s an ad that offers to sell me a silver dollar for only four payments of $3.99. Why doesn’t that sound like such a great deal? I can also get a pair of Coca-Cola salt and pepper shakers for only sixteen dollars…again, not what I would call a bargain. Ah, here it is…sweepstake facts. According to this, my chances of winning are one in one million, three hundred thousand. Well, so much for becoming a winner.