I Won! I Won!

“Sure, I’ll buy a ticket,” I tell the local Keys organizer of a military charity drive. “But do I have to be present to win? I’ll be at work in Fort Lauderdale when you have the drawing.”

“No! Just leave us a phone number. We’ll call you if you win!” he says.

“You have a great chance,” pipes up his helper. “No one in the Keys wants to spend $25 on a raffle ticket, even if it is for a paid trip to Hawaii.”

Really. I can sell anything to anyone: Space heaters to South Floridians in July? No problem.

“How many tickets have you sold tonight?” I ask them both.

“Yours,” they laugh.

Love the odds, but feel a need to make it legit.

“If I can help you sell at least two more tickets, the karma alone should guarantee my win,” I laugh back.

Of course, I help sell three. And then two more.

“You’re really good!” says the organizer’s sidekick.

I know. Trust me, everyone at my tables wants dessert even when they don’t–and buys one–every shift.

“I await your call,” I tell them. We all laugh.

A week later, I report for my slowest shift of the week. The busser, per usual, announces upon arriving that he’ll be leaving within an hour. My coworker, a sweet girl who’s always in turmoil, says she’d love to be cut first, to which I agree. Both are gone by 8 p.m., which nets me $100, thanks to a late push.

It also nets me a ton of sidework to do by myself.

Roll the silver, scoop the sauces, bleach the cutting boards, and so on–for about a half hour longer than I should have been on the clock.

Because I am pretty much a dumb ass, I follow the rules at work. Everyone else keeps their cell phones in their pockets, their aprons, beside the computer, charging. I keep mine in my purse, locked away and hidden in my car, far away from any potential to distract me while I’m on the floor. Seriously, who needs to hear a Facebook update ding when pouring wine or slinging wings?

Yeah. Perhaps rules really are made to be broken.

An aside: My great guy has a premature bucket list, of sorts. Because he is a great guy with a great job, he has knocked off quite a lot on his list in the past year, and always with a twist. Take his golf outing at one of the nation’s best courses, for example, when his buddy somehow managed to hit the course’s designer, Pete Dye, in the foot on a green with a second shot. Photos all around and laughs and pats on the backs later, my great guy tries to buy Pete a beer in the club house. His answer: “Hell no! That guy hit me with a golf ball!” So what if it wasn’t my great guy who hit him? What a great bucket-list story!

More on the aside: My great guy wants to play golf in Hawaii, on any or all of the islands. What better way to thank him for all the financial and emotional support this past year than to “give” him an all-expenses-paid-winning trip for the two of us to number 7 on his list? I have been to Hawaii many times; I don’t care if I ever travel there again. But I’d love to give my great guy the trip of his lifetime. And I have a pretty decent shot at doing just that.

Except I don’t keep my phone handy while working. Because I am, clearly, a dumb ass.

When I get off work, my great guy and a recently relocated great D.C. girlfriend pal of mine are at the bar waiting for me. I love it when they come into work just to hang out until I get off. It feels as great as they are. Because they are the great people in my life here in SoFla.

I grab my purse from my car. I order a drink from the nice bartender with whom I work. I chat with my great guy and girlfriend for a few minutes.

“Gotta go chain smoke outside after my shift,” I laugh. “Oh, yeah, and check my phone. Except you’re both here, so God knows no one has called me.”

Uh huh.

One missed call from an unknown number. One message from said unknown number: “Hey RG, I’m calling from the Keys to say you’ve won the trip to Hawaii!”

OMG. I love a raffle. My great guy and I have won all kinds of stupid stuff in raffles–makeup for me, a spa robe, Florida Gator cups and jerseys. That’s right, we’re winners! And now, Hawaii. Life is SO GOOD.

Ha ha ha. Maybe I should listen to to the rest of the message.

“You have ten minutes to call us back or we give the trip away to the next winner!” Which was 20 minutes ago.

What? A time limit? What? WHAT?

I run inside to my restaurant’s bar and scream at my great guy to call the Keys bar we had enjoyed so much a week ago. “We won the trip!” I say, doing a modified up-and-down jump.

“Oh, okay. Yeah. Okay. Sure, yeah. No, I understand,” I hear my great guy say into his phone.

Okay we can upgrade our seats? Sure, it’s all good? You understand…what the hell do you understand?

“They gave the trip away,” my great guy says to me, nonplussed. “You didn’t call back in time.”

In time? You mean, the time I took to cover my coworkers’ early exits? The time I took to look at my cell phone at the end of my shift because I am the only dumb ass in the entire world of serving who doesn’t break the “No Cell Phones on the Floor” rule? No. And no. This is my time. Or, at least my great guy’s time to go to Hawaii.

Yeah, no.

“The organizer said that if it’s any consolation, the trip went to a combat medal winner who served in Afghanistan,” said my great guy, still calm.

“But, I won!” I say, almost crying.

“But you didn’t call back in time.”

“If I’d known there would be a time limit, I’d have given them my work number!”

“They called everyone they could think of to reach you or me,” says my great guy. “Why didn’t you give them my number?”

Because I am the dumb ass who thought if I won, I won; who thought a call to my number to tell me I won was good enough; because I am the dumb ass who never breaks the rules, but probably should start doing so. Except it’s too late. For Hawaii, anyway.

“Fight it!” say many commenters on my personal Facebook page when I regale the sad tale.

“Was it printed on the ticket that there was a time limit to respond?” say many more.

“Sue the bastards,” say a few more.

Yeah, no, again.

See, it’s the Keys. Kind of like “Chinatown.” I know the organizer. I know his sidekick. I know their past, their present and future baggage and sad stories and all the rest that makes them tick in Keys time. You don’t fight a damn thing in the Keys. It’s all that close to home, no matter where you call home.

“My parents have a timeshare they never use in Hawaii,” says my great girlfriend.

“You never know when good fare will come up online,” says the astounded bartender hearing all this unfold, who barely knows me although we’ve worked together for a month.

“Yes! And then you and your great guy can go!” says my great girlfriend.

We all consider this in silence as I sip my drink.

“This is why we don’t live in the Keys,” my great guy finally says.

“But…” I start to say.

“Let it go,” says my great guy. “It’s just a Keys thing. It’s just the Keys.”

I won. I lost. My mother. My sister. Only Chinatown. Just the Keys.

The frickin’ Keys.







7 responses to “I Won! I Won!”

  1. Kim Ayres Avatar

    Ah, RG – that sucks. ((hugs))

    I read of one guy who won £25,000 on one of these scratch cards where you had to match 3 numbers. He didn’t think it was real, so he scratched off the other bits to see if they all said 25K. They didn’t. And by scratching off more than 3 bits, he invalidated the card…

  2. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    Kim–Well it does kind of suck, but I only allowed myself a day to be frustrated. It wasn’t that hard to let it go. The charity needs my money probably more than I need the trip, you know? But wow, what a Keys story that one is. As for your story, I threw away a lottery ticket (back a million years ago when the Maryland lottery held their first drawing) that had five out of six numbers matching–never having played a lottery in my life, I thought the only winning ticket was one that matched all numbers. I likely tossed out $20,000 that night. Only realized it months later when I casually mentioned the “five out of six numbers I got last time” when friends and I were buying tickets as a group. Needless to say, I was not allowed to be the keeper of the tickets!

  3. Silver Avatar

    Think of how much money missing that phone call probably saved you. You wrote all-expenses paid, but it’s amazing how much you spend on a vacation like that. Food and drinks are extremely expensive on the islands. The green fees for your guy are probably outrageous. Factor in silly stuff like airport parking, etc, and your trip ends up costing more than you realize. Some of the time, the hotel room and airfare are the cheapest part of a trip like that.

  4. Restaurant Gal Avatar
    Restaurant Gal

    Silver–You make a good point. And, would I have had to pay taxes on the worth of the trip??? So I guess I won by losing. 🙂

  5. joeinvegas Avatar

    Not very nice, don’t have to be present to win but have to answer the phone.
    Congrats anyway- you won!

  6. Bulletholes Avatar

    That story, and the way you tell it, is almost as good as a trip to Hawaii. Almost.

  7. nycwhofan Avatar

    I once purchased a ticket for a co-worker’s church raffle and won a camera. Woo Hoo! Unfortunately, it a used, caked-with-makeup-and-food camera. When I mentioned the fact that the prize was obviously not new, my co-worker informed me that no where on the raffle ticket did it say prize was a new camera and that God didn’t like complainers. My congratulations and condolences on your Hawaii “win.” I’m glad you’re ok with the situation and turned it into another great post, but it just ain’t right.