Saturday Story

Lucky Me

I would have to say that over the years I have had my share of luck, good and bad. There was the Valentine’s Day trip to Maui that was good. Arresting that guy that later becomes the Mayor, well not so good.

Above all is the trip to Vegas, on our thirteenth anniversary. Yep, lucky number thirteen. I managed to get into one of those “be the 50th caller in America and win a trip to Las Vegas and a chance at one million dollars” contests.

It was a working Saturday and I was on my way to Makakilo to serve some divorce papers, when I made the call and got through as caller 50. And the woman was home to accept the service of the papers. It was a clean sweep for me that day.

The contest was part of nationwide promotion for Clear Channel Radio. It included a trip for two to Las Vegas, a room at the old Aladdin Hotel, and seats for the American Radio Music Awards Show, and two hundred dollars in “spending” money. Think “I heart radio” awards now.

The fact the whole thing was taking place on Julie and my 13th wedding anniversary seemed to say the stars were lined up. It was exciting to pick-up the tickets, at the same station that gave me a trip “to” Maui.  But I made sure this time that everything was there. We arrived in Las Vegas on Friday evening, sat through the usual orientation and briefing, and then given out envelope of spending money. Yeah baby, that’s how we roll.

We were staying at the old Aladdin Hotel, they were talking of tearing it down then, but it was still a magnificent hotel. The shopping mall area ceiling was painted and lighted in such a way you weren’t sure if you were outside or inside. It was awesome.

The history of the Aladdin is long, fabled, and really one of the more unique hotel casinos in Vegas. The Aladdin was either going broke or not reporting the true profit, owners getting into trouble with the gaming commission and lots of other shenanigans. Perfect place for the Pritchett’s.

We’d packed our “good” clothes for the award show and casual for the rest of the time cause, hey its Vegas baby.

Friday night we sort of partied, walked around the strip, met some people and did the usual Vegas things. But Saturday was my chance for a million bucks.

Here’s how it worked; each contest was given 15 sealed envelopes; each envelope contained a single sheet of paper; twelve of those sheets of paper had a big red X in the middle; the remaining three had a green $ sign. Each contestant had to select three envelopes out of their fifteen. Everyone had the same odds so it was as fair as you could want.  Each contestant would have a chance to open his 3 envelopes, on stage, and everyone would know the results. If you got 1 “$”, you won one hundred dollars; 2 $ and you got a thousand dollars, if you managed to open all three envelopes with the green $, you won one million dollars, (paid over 20 years, not to include taxes, and is non-transferable). Conceivably, everyone could win, or everyone could get nothing. The odds were the same for all.

The contest was being held in the High Roller rooms at the Aladdin. When you enter this area, all you can say is “Wow”.  First, it’s very quiet, the slots don’t ring,  they start at $25, and the players don’t talk loud or trashy. The blackjack table started at one thousand dollars a hand minimum.

As we walked by, a little old lady approached me, I guess because I was wearing a suit and tie she thought I worked there, and asked me where she could cash in her slot voucher, as she showed it to me I realized it was for just over nine thousand dollars. Before I could say anything, one of those nice young Aladdin employees, with a bulging armpit to cover the shoulder holstered gun, stepped up and assisted her to the cashier window. Like all Aladdin security, he had the little golden lamp pin on his jacket lapel.

They herded us into one of the big meeting rooms, had everyone sign another bunch of waivers and then started calling us in the order of our qualifying. I was about 2/3’s of the way down so I had a while to wait ‘til I got to “my” envelopes.

When they called me I went up, picked out a big envelope, opened it, took out the 15 smaller envelopes, and then separated 3 envelopes out of the group. These were my winners, I hoped. These envelopes stayed in my hot little hands until it was my time to come on stage and open them.

By the time I got on stage, there had been no million dollar winners, and only a few hundred dollar winners.

Once on stage there was a guy with a microphone who asked all the usual TV questions, tried to make you as nervous as possible, and then let you open your envelopes while keeping up with the quiz show host comments from the side.

I had brought on of my favorite pocket knives for opening the envelopes. It was a beautiful Ken Onion designed “Rainbow Leek”, given to me by Ken himself. I popped it open and slit the first envelope open, unfolded the paper inside to expose a green $ sign. I had won a hundred bucks. Cool.

I slit the second d envelope, unfolded the paper to show the second green $ sign. I had won a thousand dollars.  Very cool.

It wasn’t until “Mr. Microphone” started talking, in a loud stage whisper; “One more dollar sign and James will win one million dollars”.

Crap, then it hit me how close I was to having a dream become reality. I literally started to shake. In fact, I almost cut myself opening that damn envelope with that very sharp knife.

I don’t know if everyone held their breath, I know Julie and I did, as I slowly unfolded that piece of paper that could change my life.


The letdown would probably have been worse if I had been by myself, but with Julie and Mr. Microphone cheering and reminding me I had won a thousand dollars, I could really smile. And mean it.

That night was the big awards show, which could turn out to be a story all its own. Sitting behind a fortyish, balding, overweight, t-shirt wearing white guy that screamed like a little girl when Michael Jackson walked on stage; yelling “Michael We love you” and having Jackson stop, look up in his general direction and respond ; “I love you too”.

Now that’s another story.

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