Susan Erasmus did not win R102m in the Lottery this week. Promise. But if she did, she probably wouldn't tell you. Or anyone, for that matter.
But someone did win it. R102,016,595 to be exact. Initially this person did not come forward, but newspaper billboards inform me that he/she now has.
In a way I am glad it wasn't me. I am not going to give you all that bull about how it's noble being poor, that it builds character, or that rich people are lonely and/or unhappy. Those are simply myths people have concocted over the centuries to make people feel better about being overworked and underpaid and downtrodden.(Guess who spent too many years of her life working for NGOs, but that's besides the point). You find happy and unhappy people among the rich and among the poor. Don't fall for the myth of the poor little rich girl.
Why on earth would I not want to win R102m? Of course I would, on the face of it. No more worrying about the rates, the old car, the bond repayments, no more queues at the bank – they will in fact come to me. I could go on a no-holds-barred shopping expedition in London and New York. Forget Canal Walk. I could travel wherever I wanted whenever I wanted for months on end. I could resign my job to free me up for an early fun-filled retirement. Maybe I should stop now, as I can feel my heartbeat speeding up at the sheer dizzy excitement of it all.
We all mistakenly suspect happiness is for sale at the nearest mall and we spend our lives in search of it.
So why on earth would I not want this money?
It's the size of the sum of R102m that makes me reach for the Rescue Remedy. Overnight I would become a kidnapping target. Every person south of the Sahara with a sob story – and believe me we're not short on these – would contact me. I would be wracked with guilt at how to determine the exact sums of money to give away to friends, relatives, charities. In short, such a win would become a burden very soon.
Is my accountant pocketing funds? Do my friends expect me to pay for everything when we go out? How do I manage my investments? Will it change everything in my life, in my relationships?
Then there's the very definite realisation that fun is only fun because it is in contrast to work, domestic chores, errands, home DIY, trips to the vet and so forth. If fun was to be had all day every day, would it not become a chore? The problem is where to go from there.
So in order for me to assimilate such a win seamlessly into my life, I would have to keep my mouth shut. Maybe this could be done with the help of anaesthetic (what is Michael Jackson's doctor doing now?) – I can't see any other way. Unless I disappear in a dust cloud on the horizon.
The interesting thing about a huge amount of money, is that it has the tendency to distil the essence of one's character in exactly the same way that a complete lack of funds would. It makes you decide what the things are that are really important to you, you find out soon enough who your real friends are (the ones who will lend you money, or the ones who won't borrow from you) and what the non-negotiables in your life are. You have to think what you really want to do with your life and make it happen.
Oodles of money also shows up your character in a way nothing else would. Conspicuous consumption is a very sad thing to watch. Almost as sad as looking at a casino zombie. Then, of course, it is a very sad place indeed where bundles of cash and really bad taste meet. Also, when everything is possible, it is easy to be paralysed by the available choices and become a recluse, as Britain's youngest Lotto winner ever did. He killed himself a few years later. Now let that be a lesson to you, as my grandmother would have said.
Anonymity is a luxury that is severely underrated. You can go places, do things, fly under the radar, have lots of privacy. If you're fabulously wealthy or well-known, you lose the luxury of being able to pop out to the corner café in your tracksuit and slip-slops, or to go to any public places without attracting notice. It's a high price to pay.
So. No millions for me. But I did wake up in my own house this morning, friends have asked to supper this weekend, I have a job and colleagues I mostly enjoy, I had a place to go to this morning.
OK here’s a compromise. If I did win the R102m, there's no way I could keep quiet about it. I promise to give much of it away (maybe even to people who read my columns) but I will tell everyone that I have won R2m. That will explain the new car and the smile on my face, but it won't be enough so people feel they can touch me for a loan.
Now let's make this problem real - I will be buying Lotto and Powerball tickets this weekend. Watch this space.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, June 2011)