by Janet Gilmore
Some people spend their time doing hard mental challenges, like the New York Times Crossword puzzle, Sudoku or Rubik’s Cube. Because I’m old and wise; I know those are all invented by sadistic fiends and are impossible to solve, so why waste my time?
I choose to focus instead on the Acme Market Monopoly Contest puzzle, which Acme promotional materials say is offering a staggering “$55 million in prizes and money-saving offers!”
Okay, Acme Monopoly isn’t really a puzzle. It’s a game. Well, it’s not even a game; it’s sheer luck. Here’s how it works: You buy food. They give you game stickers as a bonus. Then you paste the stickers on a game board. And since no intelligence is required, I could win a million dollars as easily as the next person, so that’s good; right?
I’m at Acme almost every day, and I have accumulated hundreds of game pieces. Unfortunately, I’ve shoved them into my purse, gym bag and pockets. Many got wet and stuck together during our endless winter. But I didn’t care. By the time the snow finally melted, I could feel my sap rising. I spit on my hands (yuck), rubbed both palms together and said, “I WANT THAT MONEY!”
I had at least 200 game pieces, each of which had to be opened and torn into four smaller game pieces that might match half of an image on the master game card. The images are grouped into categories according to the reward I might win: $5, $10, Grocery Gift Cards, a boat, car, an Xbox One (whatever that is), a dream home, vacation, etc. or a MILLION DOLLARS.
One night I decided to work on my game board backstage at Stagecrafters Theater, where I work as a costumer. If there aren’t many costume changes during a performance, there’s plenty of down time. I brought in all my postage-stamp-sized puzzle pieces and set ‘em all up on the ironing board. Coco, my brilliant co-costumer, taught me how to arrange the loose game pieces into categories according to the prize. Systems bring hope.
Here’s what I learned:
1. Do not put loose game pieces near a fan, no matter how stuffy the dressing room is.
2. Do not put pieces any place where a thoughtless actress might plop her wig during a break. I can only hope that a bunch of the pieces are stuck in the wig somewhere and visible to the audience.
3. Do not put the game pieces on your lap. You might have to jump up and actually help an actor.
A rumor came up the steps: “You know, someone won a million dollars at the Sedgwick Avenue Acme.”
Oh, no — very bad news! If it were true, the odds of someone nearby (me) winning another million were nil.
I was depressed but not discouraged. I’m unsinkable, indefatigable, a cockeyed optimist, an idiot. I kept on pasting. I was still pasting when the show ended its run. I took my confetti home and sprawled it over the dining room table. My husband, Hugh, tried to hold back, but he couldn’t help himself.
“What ARE you doing?” he asked.
“Trying to win a million dollars.”
He stopped watching the Phillies’ game long enough to come look at the mess on the table.
“How’s it going?”
“Not great. Do you think our $400,000 dream home could be a nursing home?”
He went back to the Phillies. They were losing, too.
I kept at my task until I thought I would go blind and crazy in the same night. I got tired of seeing the same half-pictures of Doritos, Twizzlers, Mucinex and kitty litter over and over. I’d never get the stickers I deserved.
We can’t invite friends for dinner because the dining room table is a mess, and I don’t want to start over.
If the rumor about Sedgwick Avenue Acme is true, I probably won’t even get a $5 gift card, but Acme’s got me. I can’t quit now.
Yesterday, a woman in front of me at the checkout line said she wasn’t playing Monopoly and I could have her Game Tickets. Fourteen of them! All turned out to be losers, but still.
Then everything changed.
We went to Acme and spent $224. If THAT didn’t get me my missing tickets, I don’t know what would. But the cashier said, “We’re out of tickets.”
“Our Acme has no more tickets. We gave out all we were allotted.”
“WHAT? But the game can’t be over! It’s not May 20 yet! I haven’t won ANYTHING! How can it be OVER? THAT’S NOT FAIR! Can you phone around to other Acmes to see if they have tickets? Ple-e-e-a-se?”
I was willing to stand in line for hours, no matter how many people were behind me waiting to buy one apple, but the answer was the same, no matter how many times I asked.
How was I going to spend the rest of my life without an extra million dollars?
I was sinkable after all. In fact, I didn’t speak for the next 28 hours.
I’ll never find out what an Xbox One is.
I looked outside at our tiny yard and realized sadly it would never have the $25,000 of landscaping it deserved. I looked up at the sky and wondered if this stuff happens on other planets.
I’m listing my Game Board right now on Ebay and Craigslist before it’s too late. If I can’t sell it, I’m going to eat it.