Once again this spring I'm doing my part to help jump-start the economy by buying every raffle ticket thrust at me.
L I bought a raffle ticket for a 1992 Cadillac Sedan de Ville.
I bought a raffle ticket for a Mitsubishi big-screen TV.
I bought a raffle ticket for a 22-foot speedboat, a CD player and a Cal Ripken Jr. autographed baseball bat.
I even bought a raffle ticket for a camper that sleeps four -- and my idea of roughing it is a Holiday Inn without cable.
Understand, there is absolutely no chance of me winning any of these prizes.
But due to some sort of inherent weakness of character and a complete disregard for the odds of chance, I keep buying these stupid raffle tickets anyway.
See, something comes over me whenever someone approaches with a book of raffle tickets.
Suddenly it becomes very hard to think. And then a voice somewhere in the back of my head whispers: "Maybe this time. Maybe it's your turn to win that all-expenses-paid cruise to the Bahamas."
Even if you're willing to overlook the warning flares set off by someone who hears voices in the back of his head, this is clearly delusional behavior.
The fact is that I have never won anything in my life, and there's no reason to think my luck will change.
No, I take that back. A few years ago, I won two goldfish at the state fair. Of course, I didn't want to win two goldfish, but that's the way my luck seems to run.
What happened was, the kids and I were walking down the midway when suddenly this old guy with leathery skin and a bandanna around his head began screeching at me from behind one of the booths.
He was puffing on a Winston and hacking like he was going to die right there, so it took a few seconds to figure out what he wanted.
It turned out the guy was running one of those booths where you try throwing a pingpong ball into a tiny goldfish bowl. And if the ball goes in, you win the fish.
Naturally, the kids begged me for a couple of quarters to try their luck.
They went first and thank God both their throws sailed off in the general direction of the Ferris wheel.
Then it was my turn. I didn't even aim, really, but somehow my throw took about 27 bounces and actually landed in one of the bowls.
The next thing I knew, a kid with long stringy hair and a Bon Jovi T-shirt was handing me a clear plastic bag filled with water and two goldfish.
"Dude!" he said, clapping me on the back like I'd just won a new Mercedes.
I didn't know what to say. The kids were jumping up and down with joy. So I couldn't just snarl and give the damn fish back and demand a Sony Walkman.
The goldfish were doomed from the start, of course. A month later, we came downstairs one morning and found them floating belly-up in their bowl.
We held a brief, though loving, service for them. Then I chucked them in the trash.
Looking back on the whole thing, though, I found that belly-up business to be an apt metaphor for my luck with raffles and games of chance.
Here's a guy who's never won a basket of cheer. Never won a turkey at Thanksgiving. Never even won a consolation prize such as, oh, a three-speed hair dryer.
About a year ago, all the frustration of never winning caught up to me.
After attending (and not winning) the drawing for an Isuzu Trooper, I went home and lay on my bed and stared up at the ceiling for several hours.
"That does it!" I said finally. "No more raffle tickets. I don't care what kind of a sob story these people come up with."
Then a few months later I was leaving the supermarket when a woman sprinted up to me.
She clutched a book of raffle tickets in her hand and her feverish eyes shone with conviction.
"Sir," she said, "are you interested in helping crippled children?"
Well, what do you say to question like that?
Do you say: "No, lady, I think they should all be locked in dark rooms! That's the whole problem with this country -- too many crippled children running around and spoiling things for the rest of us?!"
So I bought a raffle ticket from her. The ticket was a chance to win, I don't know, a Jet-ski or something. And that started the whole vicious cycle again. Within weeks, my habit was worse than ever.
Now, when I empty my pockets at night, I pull out raffle tickets for golf clubs, European vacations, Jeep Cherokees.
With my luck, I'll win two more goldfish.
And this time they'll live.