Writer’s Block: Filthy Rich For Fifteen Minutes

By Corinne Wnek

This was my first week off from school since the year ended in June! Ah, yes. No alarm to set and no planning dinner at 5:00 in the morning for the next seven weeks. This is my birthday week, too, and I just know that my husband’s gift to me will surely make Kate Middleton think she married the wrong man. Then again, as I write this, I’m enjoying a glass of pinot noir, so maybe not. I’ll tell you one thing, though. This year, I’m not in the mood to hear ‘it’s the thought that counts”.

Then the call came and suddenly I was about to become very rich, as in cold, hard, cash rich. Wow! Talk about timing! Happy birthday to me! But alas, here’s what happened fifteen minutes later and why Oprah was right when she told us to listen to our ‘inner voice’.

On Tuesday morning, I received a call from a very well-spoken gentleman who said he was a lawyer from the Federal Trade Commission’s department of Consumer Affairs. He was calling to tell me that I was a second place winner in a contest sponsored by the Ameristakes Corporation. He wanted to know why I did not respond to a notice they sent me about a month ago declaring me a big money winner. I entered a contest? He gave me the confidential claim number and said his office only got involved when prize money amounts exceeded federal regulation limits of two hundred thousand dollars.

He further informed me that I had just under a week left to claim my prize money of four hundred and fifty thousand dollars. That’s right! Almost half a million dollars just for me! This nice gentleman explained that he was only a liaison for the consumer affairs department. It was not his job to try to tell me what to do. He was merely informing me that I was a winner and that this was completely on the up and up. It was up to me as to whether or not I wanted to claim this money. If I chose not to claim it, the money would go back to the U.S. Treasury.

Further, my friend explained that the reason for the call is to get my permission to reactivate the insurance on this prize money which was waiting for me at the Hamilton, New Jersey branch of the Prudential Insurance Company. All I needed to do was call the branch manager, Mr. Russell Bennett, who would arrange for the money to be delivered, fully insured, to my home via a Brinks truck. A Brinks truck delivering money to my house? Life is good!

What the hay. I called the number I was given and sure enough some lovely voice answered “Good Morning Prudential Insurance. How may I direct your call?” I asked to be connected to Mr. Bennett and so I was. He pulled up my ‘confidential claim number’ and affirmed that yes, I was a winner! Wow! In a second, I imagined how I would spend this windfall. First, I would help my church, then donate to food banks and animal shelters and then set up scholarships for kids who wanted to attend college or trade schools and then I would help my family and maybe pay off a few bills.

Then I heard the caveat to all of this good news: I first had to put up one per cent of my winnings, $4500, for a seventy-two hour insurance policy on the money, fully refundable to me upon delivery of my money. In other words, I had to pay for the transporting of my half million dollars cashier check to my house. The last thing I remember hearing when I stopped crying and came to my senses was ‘click’, as I slammed the phone down.

There’s a sucker born every minute, but not today.

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