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Southern Seen — Our hopes are in the mail, not in the polls

Southern Seen — Our hopes are in the mail, not in the polls

Posted: Monday, October 27, 2008 9:13 pm
By: Larry McGehee

  Fame is a fickle mistress.

The publishers’ sweepstakes director has confronted me again, for the 20th consecutive year, wanting to know once more if I prefer a chauffeured limousine or a rental car for my winner’s trip in New York.

He also always asks me to select the menu for my victory dinner.

Decisions, Decisions.

In the same letter, even as he praises me for faithfulness in returning my entry forms for 39 years and for ordering TV Guide in 1983, he regrets that I am very likely to be “purged” from the contest mailings unless I order something.

I’ve never had to take these frequent purge threats seriously before. But then came the Economic Tsunami.

There are so many unemployed folks doing part-time work gluing labels on sweepstakes forms that the clearinghouse can probably afford to purge me now.

This most recent threat to purge me needs to be taken seriously. (At my age, any kind of purge has to be taken seriously. Sweepstake threats are preferable to prune juice.)

I’ve invested a great deal in being faithful to the publishers’ wishes. I stood in line for four hours in January to get 3 cent stamps to go with the 39 cent stamps I had stockpiled earlier to see me through the 2007 contests.

The whole thing may be purely academic. If I do win the sweepstakes, I have to agree to receive the money over 30 years.

That would get me to age 102, which is 28 years longer than males in my family normally live. I’ve written several times to ask if I could have the money all in one big freight car lump, or if not, if the annual payments will continue to my widow and fatherless children, but R.H. Treller or whoever else has been sending me personal letters for nearly four decades don’t seem to have time to reply.

The publishers tell me my persistence is going to pay off soon. But I’ve begun to hedge my bets a bit. Persistence may not be enough. Merit surely has a role to play in who wins these things.

The publishers’ definition of merit, of course, may merely be that I am a frequent buyer of their magazines. My own definition of merit, however, is having good intentions. When they ask how I plan to spend the money, I have been quick to promise that the first check will be divided equally between Habitat for Humanity and Save the Whales. If there’s enough left over, I’d be willing to donate a statue of Bambi’s mother to NRA headquarters.

Some winners may have more selfish uses for the first check. The merit of my plan is that it puts others first. Only the last 29 checks will go for my personal gratifications.

The officials tell me that the probability of winning has increased immeasurably because my competitors have wearied of the chase or have died, leaving me virtually assured of winning by default. I am skeptical, nonetheless.

Reducing my chances of winning to one in 150,000,000 makes me wonder sometimes if I wouldn’t be better off trying a state lottery. I understand the odds of winning are better there. If I did that, of course, I would have to forfeit an occasional year’s subscription to the Quilting News and see my money go to support government, a cause which isn’t very popular these days.

I stay with the sweepstakes because it is an American thing to do. Lightning has struck others for example, Horatio Alger (or was it Alger Hiss? I get them confused). Fairness dictates that it strike me some day, too. Wanting and dreaming are inalienable rights in a free nation. We have as much right as anyone to stand in line for free samples.

It would be nice to see the number of contestants increase rather than wane. 

One of the best arguments we could make for raising the minimum wage is not that the gap is too wide between low-pay fast food workers and baseball players making a minimum of $110,000 or NFL players making a minimum of $56,000. Our argument ought to be that an hourly increase would pay for the postage needed to return sweepstakes entry forms.

The hourly wage folks will need it. If enough welfare programs are eliminated, the sweepstakes may be the only one left. Be grateful for slim chances.

Editor’s note: Larry McGehee died Oct. 24. His obituary appears in today’s edition on Page 6.
Published in The Messenger 10.27.08

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