Yesterday afternoon, we had a million-dollar scare.
The wife and I were chilling in the backyard with Watson and a neighbor and her dog when the conversation naturally turned to Monopoly at McDonald’s. Our neighbor rattled off the list of properties she needed before she could win big, and, surprise of surprises, we require the same game pieces. Neither party (my wife and myself nor our neighbor) had the rare piece the other was looking for.
Finally, my wife mentioned, “We have Park Place.” Our neighbor nearly jumped six feet in the air. “I have Boardwalk!” she shouted.
I was dubious. This would mean that, jointly, we possessed the million-dollar combination. “Are you sure?”
“Positive. I’m going home right now to get it.”
“Let’s make an agreement,” I preempted. “If together we have both properties, we share the million dollar prize.” I nearly recommended dividing the purse into three equal shares: one for our neighbor, one for my wife, and one for me. “We split it, fifty-fifty. Deal?”
“I’ll be right back.”
“OK, but fifty-fifty,” I repeated, “right?”
She left. While she was away, I dashed to the computer to access the information superhighway to see which was the rare game piece: Park Place (which we have) or Boardwalk (which our neighbor claimed to have). It was Boardwalk, and my wife and I immediately agreed not to advertise to our neighbor that she had the putative needle in the haystack.
I contemplated the chances that our neighbor actually had the winning game piece. They were not high. I estimated the likelihood to be somewhere in the range of one tenth of one percent… one out of a thousand or so: terrible odds, to be sure, but way better than the chances of driving to McDonald’s and procuring the winning piece myself, which the official site tells me are roughly 1 in 184,698,474. In the course of a neighborly visit, then, my odds of winning big money (no whammy, no whammy!) improved nearly 200,000-fold. Those are pretty good terrible odds, if you ask me.
I also learned that McDonald’s pays its million-dollar prizes out as annuities over the course of 20 years… that would be $50,000 a year divided by two…. $25,000 per interested party… before taxes… not a terrible income supplement.
Our hearts were palpitating as we counted our chickens, against better wisdom, imagining what nice things we could do with a few extra G’s. We had let the fantasy sweep over us when she returned, head down. “I was wrong. I thought I had Boardwalk, but actually I needed Boardwalk.”
“Honest mistake. That’s ok,” I lied. As far as I was concerned, she had just diminished my chances of a major payday the same 200,000-fold by which she had improved them not 10 minutes earlier.
“We’ll win it yet,” I added unconvincingly.
“Buh duh duh duh duuuuh,” I remind myself with the McDonald’s jingle, “I’m loving it.”
I’ll love it even more when this time next year mine will the boy-next-door's friendly face appearing on the McDonald’s bags and other paraphernalia with a bubble above his head voicing the following: “I was a student, and I won a million dollars from McDonald's. You can, too!”