This is a true story that happened to me, that I wrote about many years ago that some of you may remember. I reread this this time of year to remind myself that sometimes the good is disguised as bad...
A few weeks ago, the owners of the company took everyone out for our annual holiday dinner. We work in a small office and so these dinners are a chance to chill out, eat tons of food on the bosses’ tab, and imbibe ridiculous amounts of alcohol. This year we went to a trayf restaurant on the Upper East Side, and they ordered dinner in for me from Abigaels.
On the way to the restaurant, my boss said out loud, “I want to stop and buy everyone scratch lottery tickets,” and made a point of stopping to pick them up on the way to the train. We got to the restaurant, and everyone started to drink. Now, let me just note here that we actually started drinking at 3p.m. when everyone was required to have a drink, each hour on the hour. So by the time we left at 6 p.m. everyone had imbibed at least 3 if not more alcoholic drinks. Personally, I had screwdrivers. At this point in my life, I would probably consider myself a non-drinker. I will have the occasional mixed drink at a friend’s birthday party, but I don’t really otherwise drink alcohol. For goodness sakes, I don’t even like wine for Kiddush. This party is the once a year exception where I allow myself to get smashed.
We were there for a number of hours. After the main part of the meal was over, and folks were eating dessert, the three employees who live in Westchester all announced that they were leaving to go home together on the train, because they had the longest commute. We bid them farewell and continued drinking. I don’t remember how many drinks I had by the time we got to dessert, but I know for a fact that when they served dessert, that’s when we started drinking shots. Now personally, I favor a Lemon Drop Shot. For those of you not in the know, a Lemon Drop Shot is like a Tequila shot – you lick the back of your hand and pour sugar on it. There is a shot of Absolute Citron and a wedge of lemon next to you. The proper consumption of these items is: <ol><div>Lick Sugar</div><div>Slam Shot of Vodka </div><div>Suck the ever-living life out of that wedge of lemon</div></ol>
They started ordering rounds of lemon drop shots. It was only the next morning that I realized that the shot glasses that were used were tall skinny glasses – they were in fact double-shot shot glasses. I had four Lemon Drops in a row and when they brought the next round, it took a little longer than it should of, and when they put it down in front of me I started to get queasy. I stated, “I don’t think I can drink this – I might have to throw up.”
Thank G-d, they gave my shot to someone else – I believe they wound up having six or seven rounds of these double shot lemon drops. While I was recovering from all the alcohol I had swimming through my system (I’m guessing 3 in the office + 3 with dinner + those four double shots = too much booze), I turned to my boss and said, “Harry, what about those scratch off Lottery tickets? You gonna give them out?”
“Oh, my gosh, I totally forgot,” he said as he jumped up out of his seat. He reached into his pocket, pulled out his wallet, and took out a stack of lottery tickets – a whole bunch of different scratch games – I don’t think any two people got the same type. He started to my right and gave a ticket to my co-worker Brad, gave one to me, and went around the table. Everyone got a ticket and as they began scratching them off, Harry announced, “Okay here’s the deal. If anyone has a winner, they get to keep half and the other half has to be split amongst the people here.” There was some grumbling, some folks who weren’t sure they would be willing to split it if they won, but then again, nobody expected to actually win.
I scratched off my ticket to discover I wasn’t a winner. Oh well, Gam Tzu La Tova right? Dick, the other owner was too drunk and kept saying, I can’t figure out how this stupid ticket works. Eventually he gave me the ticket and I scratched it off for him – he had won a whole dollar!
Brad said, to no one in particular, “Harry, this ticket you gave me doesn’t work, I can’t seem to scratch it off.” Brad was pretty sloshed at that point, and I told him, ‘Do you want me to help you Brad? Give me a quarter and I’ll help you scratch it off.”
“I trust you Aidel, you’re a good, honest, G-d fearing religious woman. You scratch it off for me,” he said.
He handed me the ticket and a quarter and I looked at it, and there was something weird about how it scratched off, but I just figured he was really too drunk to do it. I earnestly got to work scratching it off, and I saw that there was some repetition of numbers on the ticket. I looked at the directions on the front of the ticket. “Match Three Amounts, Win that Amount.” Now the light was low, but I could make out that the ticket had written on it $10,000.00 THREE TIMES.
“Holy ****,” I said to no one in particular.
“What? What?” Brad asked.
“He has a winning ticket,” I announced.
“BULLS***,” Harry replied.
“What? What? I won? How much did I win?” Brad said as he started getting excited.
“How much did he win?” asked Dick.
“He just won A LOT of frickin money is what he won,” I replied.
“How much did I win? $250? I make more than that in Las Vegas,” Brad said smugly.
“Brad you just won a whole helluva lot more money than $250,” I calmly replied.
“Give me that ticket, b****,” Brad said as he yanked the ticket out of my hand.
Now let’s just state for the record that Brad is an older gentleman who is in his mid 50s and someone who is not too many years away from retiring. His eyesight has deteriorated over the last few years and the restaurant was quite dim. “I can’t read it, it’s too dark in here – how much did I win Aidel? How much?” he demanded to know.
“You just won ten thousand dollars Brad,” I said, starting to feel sick in my stomach.
“What? What? I just won $10,000.00?!?!?!? Oh my G-d. You’re lying to me,” he said. “I have to call my wife Susan right now.”
Suddenly the table erupted with screams, “What he won ten thousand dollars?” “I can’t believe it.” “Why couldn’t Harry have given me that ticket?” “Lucky SOB.” “Aidel, tell me you’re lying – he didn’t just win $10,000 did he?”
Harry interrupted, “Remember Brad, you have to share half with us.”
Immediately Brad replied, “I never agreed to that! I never agreed to that. Susan! Guess what? Harry just gave out lottery tickets to everyone and I won! I won! I won ten thousand dollars! What? You don’t believe me? Here talk to Aidel – you’ll believe her – she’s an honest religious woman.”
“Hi Susan, how are you doing? Yes, I know he’s drunk. Oh, you couldn’t understand what he said? Harry gave out lottery tickets to everyone, scratch tickets, and Brad had a winning ticket. I saw the ticket myself. He just won ten thousand dollars. Yes, you want to speak to him? One moment. Brad? Your wife wants you – right now!” I handed Brad back the phone and turned to Harry. “Can you believe it? I can’t believe he won.” Harry just smiled at me with that drunk half-smile of his.
Brad was standing up at that point, and he turned to everyone and said, “Susan says I don’t have to share the money if I don’t want to. I’m keeping it all for myself.” You can imagine what kind of good feelings that engendered in the people at the table.
Harry said, “What about sharing the money Brad? We all took the same risk.”
Brad said, “You can go screw yourself,” as he made an obscene gesture with his pelvis. “I’m taking a limo home tonight. Waiter, a round of drinks on me for everyone at the table.”
I sat there with my stomach churning. Why did I open my mouth? I could have just kept my mouth shut and told him that the ticket was a loser and kept the ticket in my pocket. He was so drunk, and the restaurant was so dim, he would have never realized. I could have used that money! Why did Hashem decide to give that money to him and not me? Here I am swimming past my eyeballs in debt, I’m short every week for everything, I am a tzedaka case, and Hashem gives him the lottery ticket? I’m sitting just one seat over! Well, I guess that’s how the wheel turns. He was destined to get that money and I wasn’t. There has to be some brocha in there for me, I just don’t know what it is. Maybe the brocha is that I’m being spared the embarrassing behavior of being selfish and greedy. If I had kept that ticket quiet and put it in my pocket, I would have never been able to keep that information private from everyone in the office and they would have found out eventually – I don’t think I could keep the secret from them And besides, the money would feel dirty because I got it by theft and deception. Still. Why couldn’t G-d have given me a little sunshine? Why is Brad getting it and not me?
My reverie was interrupted by the sounds of everyone throwing advice at Brad at once. “You better sign the back of that ticket Brad.” “You should take that ticket to your local lottery guy. He’ll verify it and give you a slip to take to lottery headquarters.” “Don’t sign the back of the ticket Brad, that’s a mistake.” “Yes, you do sign the back of the ticket and then you have to bring it to Beaver Street downtown to redeem it.”
Brad is on the phone to both his children, his best friends, etc, telling them, “Guess what? Harry gave out lottery tickets and I just won $10,000.00!” Harry just kept throwing out there, “Brad, why don’t you read the back of the ticket and see what it says to do to claim the prize?”
Finally, Brad started to read the back of the ticket. Now Brad was pretty drunk at that point, having consumed at least 7 or 8 Ketel One Martinis during the course of the meal. “Prizes must be claimed no later than 30 seconds before scratching the game card,” he said.
Huh? I thought to myself. What did he just say? He must be drunk and misreading the card.
“I’m too drunk to read this card. I’ll read it at home,” he said. Meanwhile they are still all throwing out suggestions to him as to what to do to claim the money. They all want to see the ticket and he refuses because he is afraid they will keep it for themselves. He slides the ticket into his underwear. His wife called again, “My wife is out with her friends and she just paid for everyone’s dinner!”
Harry says I think for the umpteenth time, “Brad, why don’t you just read the ticket and it will tell you how to claim the money?”
There are women all over the restaurant who are flirting with Brad. Our table is the loudest, drunkest, and probably the most obnoxious in the place. I am starting to get embarrassed by Brad’s behavior.
Finally tries to read the back of the card again. “It’s too dark in here, I can’t read it,” he announces yet again. “Here Aidel, I trust you. You’re an honest, G-d fearing religious woman. You read it to me. I know you’ll tell me the truth.”
He hands me the ticket and I start to read it to myself before I read it out loud. As I read my eyes start to bulge out and I turn to Harry and look at him. He gives me a knowing smile. I hand the ticket back to Brad and say, “Brad, it’s your ticket, I really think you should be the one to read the back of the card.”
“But I can’t, it’s too dark,” he objects.
“Here, I have a flashlight on my keychain Brad, you can use it,” I offer to him as I hand him the ticket. I lean into Harry and say, “How could you? You know you’re evil right?”
Meanwhile Brad takes the ticket and flashlight, and tries without success to get his very drunk eyes to focus on the tiny print. “No, no, no. It’s too dark and the print is too small. You read it Aidel, I trust you.”
“Are you sure Brad?” I ask him.
“Yes I’m sure! Stop being ridiculous Aidel. Just read the card. I trust you. You’re a G-d fearing religious woman. I know you wouldn’t lie to me,” he says.
I clear my voice, and in the calmest, most professional voice I can muster, I read the back of the ticket. “MEGA MOOLA. Winning cash prizes of less than $100 may be redeemed, subject to validation, by any participating retailer at a claim center. The $10,000 prize may be claimed at the Easter Bunny’s house (claim center) or by mail directly to the planet Mars. All prizes must be claimed no later than 30 seconds before scratching the game card. Valid only in Fantasy Land. ODDS: 238:238”
“WHAT? WHAT?!?!? WHAT?!?!?!?!?” was all Brad could stammer. You had to see the shades of red his face turned as he realized what had just happened. As he collapsed in his seat, G-d bless him, he started to laugh. And he laughed and laughed and laughed as tears streamed down his face.
I sat there and thought to myself, THANK G-D I didn’t get that ticket. Because I wouldn’t have been able to react the way Brad did. I would have felt totally devastated that I hadn’t really won. It would have been as if someone handed me the money and then yanked it away from me. I would have told Harry to F-off and that I quit.
Everyone had a good laugh. Harry and Brad have worked together at another company prior to joining the place where we all work now. They have a long history of practical jokes being played upon one another. As you can imagine, the rest of the night was spent with Brad having to call his wife and explain to her what happened (can you imagine how pissed she must have been? I mean, I know Susan, and she is a tough cookie. You can bet that Brad got into deep trouble when he got home that night.), as well as his children and his best friend. Harry explained that he had bought this package of fake lottery tickets a few years ago and had been planning to give it to Brad for over a year and a half. He was just waiting for the right moment. http://www.spencersonline.com/.....0f3c70bb6/
You can imagine how much everyone laughed at this both that night and the next day as we retold the whole story to the Westchester people who had long gone home at that point. One of my coworkers was literally on the floor laughing so hard he was crying. Brad to his credit, was a really good sport about it.
So you can see there were a number of lessons I learned from this episode. Namely, that I can be just as greedy as the next person, but that my fear of man was greater than my fear of G-d – and that’s something to work on. I also learned a valuable lesson that sometimes when it looks like Hashem is giving someone else something amazing, something so wonderful that we covet it, that it’s sometimes not really a gift. Sometimes it’s the complete opposite of a gift, but our jealousy colors the way we see things and keeps us from seeing the truth.