Overheard…..

“If you won a lottery, would you still love me?”

“Of course, I would. I’d miss you, but I would still love you.”

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I wonder what sort of a life individuals, who suddenly find themselves being winners of large lotteries, lead. History is replete with stories of easy-come-easy-go lives, followed by untold misery.

First of all, if you think you can win big and remain anonymous, forget it. Lottery companies make money because of the presumption of credibility. They would like to announce and advertise a winner. It is their message to lottery buying suckers that everybody has a chance. Therefore, when you win, you will be paraded with an oversize replica cheque in front of the flashlights, just as the couple above is seen doing.

The first urge is one that burns bright within us all – the urge to make a difference in other peoples’ lives. And so, the very first instinct after your win will be to give it away – to charity, to the local church, the local Salvation Army, the veterans’ hospice, cancer foundations, MS foundations, Alzheimers foundations and on and on and on. Suddenly you are in a rush to donate, donate and donate. It is a guilt ridden stampede to get rid of your cash.

History shows that whether it is $5 or $500 million, most winners run through their winnings in five years or less, living suddenly overturned lives badgered and exploited (even enviously reviled) by friends and relatives. They impulse buy stuff they don’t really need, which in the end, they end up selling off to make ends meet. They begin with a $8 million, 10000-sq.ft property in an upscale neighborhood where they find themselves looked down upon and derided by theirs neighbors, the truly wealthy old-money, earned-money elite.

Specially when they are old, (like the couple in the photo above) the lives of winners can turn pathetic. Legions of brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles and myriads of grandchildren crawl out of the woodwork, each expecting something, each feeling entitled to a share, every last one of them believing that since the couple hadn’t really earned it, the money was collectively theirs.

Then there must be the sharks – the banks and their ‘investment cousellors’, gold diggers all. They won’t rest till they have stripped you clean.

Winning a large sum can also make you mighty lonesome. You want to jump into a plane and fly first class to Honolulu for a month on the pristine beach and you’d love to take your best friend and his wife along since you always ‘done things’ together. And of course their kids. And since they can’t afford it, you’ll of course pay for their vacation. Likewise, everything will have a dollar tag on it, now on. Every relationship will happen at a dollar price.

The worst part of suddenly winning the jackpot is you’ll lose empathy. Whenever anything bad happens to you (and bad things always do, even when you’re rich), everyone will be grunting behind your back,” What the fuck is his problem, he certainly can afford an army of nurses to take care of him…”

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Mavis Wanczyk, 53, was working in a Springfield(Massachusetts) hospital. After her $758 million win this week, she has called and told them she isn’t coming back. Watching her on TV – a guileless shell-shocked simpleton desperately trying to come to terms with her suddenly changed circumstances – I don’t feel happy for her. Instead I feel sorry for her.

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Sandra Hayes, a black American social worker who used to get by on $26000 a year, has written a fascinating first-hand account of how a lottery win changed the life of an ordinary person. In 2006, she split a $224 million Powerball with her 12 coworkers and self-published a book, ‘How Winning the Lottery Changed My Life’. I picked up the slim paperback the other day at Nova, the second hand bookstore down by the riverside.

Hayes is a rare exception – other than settling the loans and mortgages of members of her immediate family, she conserved her cash and spent it wisely. She did that one thing that most of the other lottery winners couldn’t manage – live a happy, fun-filled, stress-free, low-key retired life that was free of ostentation, in a quiet suburban neighborhood.

Me, on occasion, on a whim, if I am in a depanneur (convenience store), I buy a ticket and it stays in my wallet months before I realize it exists and then I run my Iphone scanner on it and it says ‘non-gagnant’. And that’s it, I rip it up and chuck it into the waste basket.

If I ever won the Quebec649 or the LotoMax, I doubt whether I would follow strictly in Sandra Hayes’ direction. I’m not so level-headed. I would probably let my hair own a bit, do some crazy stuff. I would buy myself an ocean-going yacht, sail the world maybe. But I wouldn’t go ‘overboard’.