Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Luck of the Draw

I have a system when it comes to picking lottery numbers. I feel like you need to have one number between zero and 10, one in the teens, two in the twenties, one in the thirties and one in the forties. This system has never actually worked, so I don't know why I stick with it, but the fact that I try to impose order on a completely random drawing pretty much tells you everything you need to know about me.

It's been years since I've purchased a ticket, but tonight's gazillion dollar Mega Millions jackpot has me sorely tempted to try my luck. I mean, who doesn't dream, on a nightly basis, about what they'd do with 300 million bucks.

First off, I'll throw in with my husband, Dave, but that's all the sharing I'm willing to do. You always see those groups of 30 or 40 co-workers who split some huge payout, and you know every last one of them is thinking, damn, I should have gone it alone. Twenty million sounds like a lot, until you know it could have been 10 times that amount.

A friend of mine did the math and determined that in order to quit your job, you need to win at least $3 million. So I imagine the first thing we'd do after our numbers come up would be to hand in our resignation letters. Since I work at home, pretty much for myself, this should be a relatively painless transaction.

Next I would vacate our condo faster than you can say "single family dwelling" and buy myself a house. I know, this seems kind of lame. You win $300 million, you should shoot for the moon. But I tell you, knowing that I would never again have to listen to footsteps stomping above me, or a stereo blasting below me, well, as they say in those Visa commercials, "priceless."

Then I would travel to Paris, where I would eat shitloads of pastries (because I could afford a personal trainer and chef to help me take off the pounds when I got home, to my new house, with its own fully-equipped gym), and New Zealand, which my husband insists is not really populated by hobbits.

After I got bored with living a life of leisure, I would go back to school. I love to learn and if I could have stayed in college forever, without having to write term papers or sit for exams but just listen to lectures, I would have. Or maybe I'll apply to pastry school and open up my own bakery. I've always wanted to test the theory that if you do something you completely love, it doesn't feel like work or a job.

Now here's where it gets tricky. After I've taken care of myself (this would include purchasing every conceivable form of outerwear known to North Face, as I am constantly lacking whatever essential garment Chicago's weather calls for on any given day), and Dave, I suppose, what am I expected to do for my family?

Do I have to pay off my parents' mortgages. That's right, mortgages as in plural. We're talking about people who have homes in Ohio and Florida, while I live in a shack. Do they really need my help? What about my siblings? I've talked this over with Dave, and we feel one-time payouts are appropriate, but at what amount? Twenty-five grand? Fifty? At what point does generosity come across as miserly? Same for my niece and nephews. Do I have to spring for their college educations, or can I just fund the equivalent of a semester?

How do I keep from turning into the family ATM?

And that's just my relatives. I couldn't pick Dave's nephew out of a police line-up. Does he deserve to be treated on par with my brother and sister's kids, with whom we have actual relationships? (I swear my 2-year-old nephew Logan suspects we might hit it big. At Christmas dinner he said, apropos of nothing, "I need Dave to give me a kiss." Shrewd move.) I think not, but I suspect my husband would think so. I foresee some tense, if not downright contentious discussions over equitable distribution.

Now suddenly Dave and I are fighting over money, something we never do, because we don't have anything to quarrel about. This business of being spectacularly, obscenely wealthy is more stress than I bargained for and I have to wonder if I wouldn't be better off staying poor.



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