It was a normal morning, as far as February mornings went this year, traveling down the highway to meet with a tutoring student. Despite the normal presence of a mental screen saver that occupies my thoughts on such drives, something switched my brain on as a sudden fear swept over me, a fear that I, myself, might win the lottery.
It is, as with most fears, completely unfounded, for certain effects must have a specific cause, and to win the lottery, one must have a ticket. The fact that I do not own, nor now plan to own, such a ticket – excepting, of course, the three I bought the day I turned 18, just because I could – should have swallowed up this sudden fear with contempt. But what if, I persisted, as we all do with things we should leave well enough alone, what if someone gives me a ticket? What if I find one on the ground? What if someday I break down and buy one, just for fun?
The possibility – however remote – of winning the lottery cannot be completely ruled out, so the dark rabbit trails of tragic reasoning must follow.
It would begin, of course, with a great deal of celebration. I have several times completed the exercise of deciding what exactly I’d do with a million dollars. Most of it I’d give away with great glee. Some I’d put into savings accounts, and some, let’s be honest, I’d spend on me.
I’d give a lot away to worthy causes, yes, but I’d give a lot to friends and family. I’d throw parties – great, fabulous, wonderful parties – that I would invite all my friends to. But that would create some unintended consequences. Would I still be invited to their parties? Would they be ashamed – or embittered – about the differences in what we could financially offer? Will they constantly jokingly apologize for their “lack of awesomeness” in the attractions department?
So instead of throwing parties, I would travel – how I would travel! But who truly wants to travel alone? So I would pay for friends to travel with me! But really, how would that turn out? Would they feel indebted, even decline going? Would they be able to travel for the chunks of time I would want to spend because they have jobs they cannot abandon? How could I gush and share about my journeys and fabulous photos without others feeling jealous? The probabilities aren’t good.
Well, if I can’t travel, then I would pay off friends’ debts and contribute to college funds for children in my family. What fun! Using my financial windfall to help those dearest to me! But what if friends refuse? What if it’s overstepping my bounds – how awkward is that? What if there’s really not all that much to go around for the college funds (there are a lot of kids in the family, you know, and I’ve already been giving out money like crazy). Would my family be hurt that I didn’t set aside more money for them? Would they feel like charity cases? What would happen to the money if the kids don’t go to college? What if the family needs the money now?
Great. I’ve now isolated friends and family. I guess I should start a business. That should go pretty well, right? Except I’d want to offer jobs to my friends. And while working together with friends can be rewarding (if tricky to balance), employing your friends is a completely different ballgame (which I don’t know the rules to). And how can I offer jobs to strangers when I know the talents of those friends desperately seeking employment right now?
I know! I won’t tell anyone I’ve won the lottery! Except that wouldn’t be any fun. It wouldn’t last, either. Could I buy new clothes? A car? Move out? Not unless I had a really good alibi…like a job. And since I don’t have one of those, I’d have to make it up – and everyone knows how well I lie – or create one by starting a business (which I really want to do!) but…well, we’ve gone there already.
I could solve all of this ridiculous nonsense by just donating it all to charity, but can you imagine the disappointment? I mean, if you can’t win the lottery yourself, you can at least enjoy a friend who can treat you to movies or really, really, really great parties, right? Maybe they wouldn’t say anything, because hey, I’ve got really awesome friends. But we’re all human, and money is a sneaky bastard.
So, the only conclusion I can logically reach is that winning the lottery will make me lose all my friends and estrange my family, not to mention what it might actually do to, say, me.
By this time in my increasingly frantic interior monologue I had almost reached a destination, and I vowed to never, ever buy a lottery ticket. I love my friends too much!