During periods of so-called economic depression, societies suffer for want of all manner of essential goods, yet investigation almost invariably discloses that there are plenty of goods available. Plenty of coal in the ground, corn in the fields, wool on the sheep. What is missing is not materials but an abstract unit of measurement called ‘money.’ It is akin to a starving woman with a sweet tooth lamenting that she can’t bake a cake because she doesn’t have any ounces. She has butter, flour, eggs, milk, and sugar, she just doesn’t have any ounces, any pinches, any pints. — Tom Robbins, Skinny Legs and All
Skinny Legs and All is, to my mind, a must read. It’s a polemic disguised as a hysterically funny novel populated with a bizarre cast of characters not the least of which are a can of beans, a purple sock, and a vibrator.
This quote has been running around my head recently as I try to make sense of the various health reform debates.
A friend of mine introduced me to this novel and I was amazed at her copy. Nearly every sentence was highlighted, underlined and/or annotated. The book is one quotable quote after another and tackles such things as Middle East peace, male/female relationships and whether or not inanimate objects are really inanimate. It boasts a plot that is impossible to summarize in less than 500 words.
For years I kept the book by my beside and dipped into each morning using it as a source of daily affirmations – an idea stolen from another friend.
It’s been years since I’ve read the novel from page one all the way through. I finally finished the novel of Chinese erotica and was trying to select a new book to read when I ran across Skinny Legs and All. I got side tracked from the new novel pursuit when I elected to look up the above quote. In looking for it, I ran across some real gems and chuckled again. I’ve read this novel all the way through at least 20 times (and I almost never re-read anything) and it never fails to provoke out and out guffaws.
I’ve decided to re-read it beginning at page 1. Lord knows, I need a good laugh as well as some big ideas to meditate on.
My life is about to change. Since change is inevitable that statement is always true, but in this case the change will be swift and awing.
I have decided to win the lottery tonight.
Sunday’s projections were that tonight’s Powerball drawing would be worth $245 million with the cash option coming out at $122.6 million.
I’m not sure how these things work, but I would certainly take the $122.6 million cash option. A bird in the hand and all that. Even if that number is reduced by half to satisfy Uncle Sam, I should clear $61.3 million.
I can live on that.
Now there have been a host of social scientists studying lottery winners and the conclusions are grim – Jack Whittaker is a case in point. Most (yes, most) big lottery winners end up in worse shape financially than they begun. Interpersonal relationships suffer. Many wish they’d never won.
Us poor folk wonder how that can be, but I think I have a clue.
The biggest problem is that in order to collect the money you have to agree to be publicly named and paraded around in the lottery horse and pony show. This leads to developing a host of relatives you’ve never known. Couple that with endless solicitations from charities, friends, co-workers, etc. etc. to wit and tut tut and you have a private life that is not private and the significant stress of trying to enjoy the windfall while sifting through the requests.
Most winners go into this state of events with intentions of altruism. Many think their life is not going to fundamentally change outside of quitting their job and ceasing to worry about money.
I have a plan.
Said plan recognizes that my life will fundamentally change in most respects.
I think that gives me a leg up on the odds of crashing and burning.
Given the low population density of West Virginia and the slow news days of August, it’s a given that I’d be swarmed with media within moments of announcing my win on Thursday. Hence, I have no intention of announcing my win on Thursday.
Now I know that the Lottery Commission knows where a ticket was bought which means the media and local residents will convulse themselves into a frenzy trying to decide who bought the winning ticket at the Little General. I imagine there will be signs and banners all sorts of nonsense. This should be good for giggles.
If memory serves, I will have a year to claim the winnings. I think 3 to 6 months of preparation will be sufficient. If by mid-November I can announce the win, I’m thinking most of the frenzy will be over with by Christmas.
I’m shooting for a grand holiday season when I will finally have time to send out Christmas cards and bake cookies.
My first order of business (after dancing around the living room and drinking the bottle of champagne in the fridge) will be to hire an attorney with a specialty in estate planning as well as an accountant. I’m still dithering about the need for a PR person. Along about mid-October, I’ll get one of them internet phones with a new number. I have this notion that those are the ultimate unlisted number.
It goes without saying that I’m not telling a soul (other than the attorney and the accountant) that I’ve won.
By the time I’m ready to claim my winnings, I will have an “undisclosed” location well in place. And no, I’m not going to disclose said location here. Shortly after doing Good Morning America, I’m going to disappear from everything except my contractual obligations with the Power Ball people.
The next few months are going to be really tough. Going to work every day and suppressing this news is going to take extreme discipline. I’m not good at policing myself, but I’ve made great strides since running across a quote that paraphrases as “Discipline is remembering what it is that you really want.”
I’m hoping my enjoyment of joining in conversations at the gas station and grocery store about who won will act as a pressure relief valve. I expect to chortle a lot.
So, yes, my life will change. I will quit my job. I will buy the biggest remote tract of land in West Virginia that I can find, hire a surveyor to pinpoint the exact middle and build a fortress of privacy. I will donate to charities and I will ease (not eliminate) the financial insecurities of family members and good friends.
I’m pretty sure I won’t hand out money to strippers, develop a drinking problem, or squander it all on Elvis memorabilia. I won’t lose sight of the fact that all of my newfound friends are only in it for the money and their willingness to be grateful is not true friendship.
My shoe collection is likely to grow.
I won’t use the money to punish people I think have mistreated me (okay there’s one I might set out to ruin and, no, it’s not who you think).
I have a pile of change on the dresser and I’m going to use it to buy the ticket on my way to the office. During the 1.1 mile commute between my house and the gas station, I’ll decide whether I’m letting the machine pick the numbers or if I’m using ages and dates.
If my blog postings of the next few months are a little giddy and disjointed (more so than normal), you’ll know why.
And, dammit, I’m buying a camera even before I announce.