The price of winning

FI-Joe-PisaniThe day before the recent mega jackpot Powerball drawing, I started saying good-bye to my coworkers.

After being together for so many years and sharing our hopes and dreams, joys and sorrows, pound cake and prom photos, it was painful to say good-bye, but as they say in those French movies, “C’est la vie.” Or more appropriately, “C’est la guerre.”

You see, I knew I was going to hit the $448 million jackpot (actual chances of winning, one in 175 million), so obviously I wouldn’t need to work anymore. Actually, I’ve announced I was leaving a few times in the past — before the $656 million drawing and before the $590 million drawing — and my colleagues always reacted the same way. Selfishly.

It turns out that every time I’m about to strike it rich, everybody, save for the fellow who cleans the men’s room, wants me to finance them. Do I look like the United Way?

“Take me with you!” one woman pleaded.

“I’m already married,” I said. “Let your husband support you.”

“Can’t you help me out with a million or so? OK, half a million? A few hundred thousand?” another asked.

“God helps those who help themselves,” I responded. “Besides, when the office ran out of coffee two years ago, you took the last pod and didn’t even think about me.” (I have a long memory.)

So, as they say in those Italian movies, “Arrivederci!”

Are we living in a welfare state where a guy can’t win $448 million without everyone lining up with their hands out?

And believe me, I heard a lot of hard-luck stories. “I have to have my wisdom teeth out.” Boohoo. “My son wants a new Xbox.” Boohoohoo. “I need a new set of tires for my BMW 760Li.” Bah humbug.

I was the one with the real hard-luck story. Where was the sympathy for me? The government was going to beat me out of my fortune after I won the jackpot. When all would be said and done, I’d only get $61.9 million of the $448 million and the rest would go to Uncle Sam to pay for McDonald’s renovations on I-95 (a high-priority pork barrel project) and to prevent Social Security from collapsing (I still expect to collect someday) and to provide farm subsidies for Bon Jovi’s bee colonies (hey, honey bees are in big trouble).

Last month, some of my coworkers scoffed at me for giving a panhandler a few measly bucks, and now they were looking to pick my pocket. I, however, decided to be generous only to those who were generous to others. If you were on my preferred list, you would get amply rewarded … with a Starbucks gift card.

But even after my unparalleled generosity they grumbled. They wanted more. They wanted me to buy them a Starbucks franchise.

They were only concerned with cold, hard cash. But for me, the real pleasure was knowing my coworkers would still be chained to their desks, paying into Social Security so they could collect $15,000 a year someday, fighting rush-hour traffic, and stinking up the office with their macaroni and cheese in the microwave every afternoon. So long, suckers!

Meanwhile, I would be lying on a Caribbean beach, watching women parade by in bikinis. Even though I hate the beach, I’d learn to love it. After all, you have to do something productive in retirement.

“I always knew you were a cheap so and so!” someone grumbled when my plans were revealed.

“Sorry,” I insisted. “It has to be this way. That’s my money, fair and square, and your negative attitude is very insulting to me…”

OK, by now you know the bad news. I didn’t win Powerball. Something went wrong with my calculations. The good news is I got two numbers out of 10 tickets and, at that rate, by 2027 I may win $6.

It turns out I lost to some guy in Minnesota and 16 garage workers in New Jersey, who split the jackpot.

Oh, I also lost a few friends. Maybe I’ll still buy Starbucks gift cards for them to make up for it… or maybe I won’t.

Bah humbug.


Joe Pisani may be reached at [email protected]

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