Tallying Your Winnings

Writing Assignment: talk about the things you have won in your life. Spend five minutes. Go.


I can only think of two major things that I've ever won: a gingerbread house, and a lifetime supply of video rentals.

The gingerbread house was won in grade 2. It was a class project of Mrs. Boyd's. She had us all cooperate on baking the gingerbread. She probably put up the house, but we lined its seams with frosting, pressed in Smarties. It all glowed on a metal sheet, probably a foot tall and a foot long. To us eight-year-olds, it looked gigantic.

The problem was, there was only one. And unlike the class project to bake pumpkin pie, it was not easily cut. So Mrs. Boyd wrote each of our names on pieces of paper and put them in a coffee can. She shook the can and, out of around twenty names, mine was picked. I can remember it was quite a thrill. I didn't shout or anything, I just stared. We all did. I stared because I'd never won anything of that magnitude before, by pure luck. I think the other classmates were jealous.

So I got to take the gingerbread house home and show it off to my parents. Don't ask me how we got it home. We took pictures and then my mother made me break that gingerbread house apart and give the separate pieces away to my classmates. I was probably disappointed, but even then I knew that this was the sensible thing to do. There was no way I could eat a whole gingerbread house, and I couldn't have hoarded the thing to myself and kept the respect of my classmates for long. I'd been teased before, but I knew that worse stuff was possible.

I have to wonder, though, if Mrs. Boyd suggested to my mother that the gingerbread house be broken up and divvied up amongst my classmates, even before my mother made the suggestion to save my teeth. To have the class cooperate to make such a thing and then give it away to one student wouldn't seem to be a wise thing for a grade two teacher to do. Still, by putting all of the names in the can, shaking it out and drawing one, she gave one student a considerable thrill, and taught him a little bit about blind luck.

The lifetime supply of videos happened to me in 1998 during a visit to Generation X Videos, a rental place that specialized in cult films. Previously, we'd relied on Dan to supply the entertainment from this place, but that night Dan strongly encouraged me to bite the bullet and take out a membership.

The man behind the counter, young, bearded and long-haired took my information and asked me in a deadpan voice if I knew what number customer I was. Turns out I was customer number 20000, or the 10000th new member taken since the store opened. "Oh," I said. "And do you know what the 10000th customer of our store gets?" he asked. "I don't know," I said.

Turns out, it was something like $1000 worth of free video rentals from the place. Well, that was quite a deal. A typical video rental at that place was four dollars. Four dollars goes into a thousand two-hundred-and-fifty times. I rent videos about once every two or three weeks or so, so that makes for...

That was 1998. According to the company's records, I still have over 200 video rentals still to go, although I suspect the video store has stopped counting and allowed me to take the stuff out free. I've certainly used more than fifty.

Dan has shown a bit of jealousy over the fact that I won the free videos and not him, despite the fact that he was the one who encouraged me to join up. I myself know that although there's little chance of me winning the lottery, I can at least count on some free entertainment for the next few years -- which will probably be as long as it takes for me to win something out of the blue.

Tally up your special winnings in the comments section!

Hands On Government

A moment of comedy in the electin process:

So I met with my poll clerk partner this evening to scope out the site of our poll and then go back and run a check on the items included in the ballot box. Everything checked out. I put everything back into the box and sealed it until election day.

Or, rather, tried to. Elections Canada included a set of seals to close up the ballot box securely. One of those seals has a serial number, and you're supposed to keep a log noting when the box was unsealed and resealed (with a different serial number). Ideally, you should only reseal your box twice. You seal it up once you're sure everything is included and you're ready for election day, you unseal it as you set up the polling booth. You reseal it fifteen minutes before the polls open (after showing to the candidates' representatives that the box is empty), unseal it after the polls are closed and reseal it once the votes are counted, everything is tallied up, the results are called in and everybody's ready to go home.

The seals provided are simply stout sticky-backed paper on a wax sheet. That's fine, I thought: just peel. Just peel. Just peel the stupid... how can I get my fingernails under the corners?

My poll clerk joined in and had similar success. For almost five minutes we struggled with this stupid seals until they finally came off... in portions. It was then that I realized that we were taking off the garbage border to the seal and not the seal itself. Once we could see the invisible seam in the paper, the job got MUCH easier.

That's democracy for you: it all comes down to the sticky paper, don't it?

Meat Company Aims to Buy Laura Secord

The above is a headline from the CBC.

It describes a pretty mundane business proposal by a Kitchener, ON company to buy the famous Canadian (now owned by an American) chocolatier company.

But something's just not right about that headline. It makes me wonder: how much did they have to pay per pound?

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