It's Saturday morning and we're at the playground. I'm jiggling a baby and complaining about the pain in my right big toe while my husband pushes our toddler on the swing. Someone is trying to Skype me. It's my parents in London and my dad is very excited about something called Powerball. This, he informs his clueless British Brooklynite daughter, is a U.S. lottery game famous for its giant payouts. We're talking Trumpian riches. I know nothing of this nation's sweepstakes but now I'm curious.
The jackpot is set at a record-breaking, bank-bloating $890 million. It's agreed that we'll be my parents' ticket buying proxies and get 50 percent of any winnings. It's a swift, calm negotiation and I convince myself that in mere hours we'll be making room in our under-nourished joint account for an unfathomable fortune. Already my toe hurts less.
My husband missed this entire conversation so I fill him in over brunch. "We're probably about to become multimillionaires," I say. "Proper ones. Not just those poor saps with seven or eight mil. So we need to decide who's getting what."
Cue an important life lesson: Discussing what you'd do with a vast hypothetical vat of cash can cause a steaming great marital row.
It's well known that becoming insanely rich over night seldom ends well. Lottery winners in particular tend to do foolish things, like drowning in their champagne-filled infinity pool, or spending all their cash on small, rare dogs and their upkeep. But for the many millions of folks who play but never win the lottery, merely thrashing out how you and a significant other would divvy up the proceeds can be nearly as life ruinous.
My husband, it emerged, would keep the beneficiary pool small and tell virtually no one of our win. I, on the other hand, am a much more giving and inclusive imaginary billionaire. I'd like to think I'd spend my first mega-wealthy day writing hefty checks to everyone I know. I'd also buy an island, a Brooklyn brownstone, and pay for curry to be flown in daily from my favorite east London Pakistani restaurant.
My lofty spending plan he could almost handle. It was the length of the people-I'd-make-rich list that took our dispute from hearty bicker to vicious face-off.
"You don't even like most of these people! You're actually insane," snarled the person I made children with. "And I've never met (name redacted), but you specifically told me he's a total douche."
"You can't just leave people out." I said. "That's not nice."
"We don't have to be nice if we're rich. And if anyone doesn't like it, we can just buy new friends."
"You know what? You're not having any of my money. Douche guy gets the lot."
And so it went on.
In the middle of this, my dad emailed to demand photographic proof that his ticket existed. He specified that one line of numbers should be this pitiful combination he's been losing with back in the U.K. for decades. The logic being that if his regular numbers came up here and we hadn't got it covered, he would have to kill himself. We sent the photo, only for him to become convinced that we'd entered the wrong lottery and demand we go back to the shop and try again. It took another eight or nine heated emails to straighten this out. At some point we realized we'd forgotten to put the kids to bed.
The argument rolled into the night when, as it happens, we did not win the lottery.
Thankfully, it looks like we'll have another opportunity to rip each other's throats out about money that isn't and will never be ours on Wednesday. This time, players have the usual infinitesimally small chance of scooping an absurd $1.5 billion.
If we win (yes, of course I'm buying a ticket), my first check might have to be made out to a divorce lawyer.