What Would You Do?

In the queue for the counter in my little local shop, the nice girl at the till had it all sorted. She quickly and efficiently rang up the items belonging to the younger queue members and sent them on their way, back into their busy and fulfilling lives. For the older members of the queue, the nice girl reserved a kind word and/or a chatty retort. The old guy in front of me was deaf, so the nice girl had to repeat her sweetly customised platitude three times, each time at a considerably higher volume than the last, until the old geezer finally pretended to get it.

Then it was my turn.

I wondered where I would feature in the cohort. Would I be one of the young and restless, who only require a quick transaction so that their vivacious existence could continued unabated. Or would I be viewed as part of the geriatric crew, who patently required a little friendly banter to help them struggle on through until sundown.

I laid my milk and bananas on the counter.

“How are you? How are things with you today?”

I am old.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. I am, after all, a mere notch off being sixty. My beard, this morning, was un-mowed and tatty. My eyebrows windswept and pillow ridden. My eyes glazed over from an abundance of Friday night slumber. Of course I was going to be chatted-to. Of course I was going to be old.

I confirmed that I was indeed as well as could be expected for a person in my condition and asked for a lottery ticket. A Quick pick (with the plus). I have a curious relationship with the lottery. Years ago, I cultivated six favourite numbers that I played every week. They were good numbers. Once, a full five of them came up and I collected a low four figure sum in cash at the post office, thank you very much. But the recurring six figures became just another small burden to lug around with me on my slow journey to the tomb so I gave them up. Instead, I started avoiding all lottery results in case, by abandoning my numerical travelling companions, I inadvertently discovered that I had made one of the worst mistakes of my life.

So now I just play once a week, with randomly chosen numbers picked by the machine behind the counter, which I ask for when I get my Saturday morning breakfast groceries at the local shop. Just another old gentleman in the queue, seeking fortune and some easily digestible fruit.

“Can I get a Quick pick, please. Six Euro with the Plus.”

The girl went to work on her machine.

“If you win,” she announced, “I’m coming with you.”

This shook me a tiny bit. I could just about bear the ‘old man’ categorisation, but I had no idea I had suddenly grown so very non-threatening. I wasn’t sure what to reply.

“Thanks,” I said, which, in retrospect, sounded quite wrong.

She handed me my ticket, having ascertained that last week’s ticket was, as usual, a complete dud. She looked at me rather intently as I filed the new ticket away in my back pocket.

“What would you do?” she asked.


“If you won. What would you do?”

The queue behind me shuffled. Either they were young and needed to rapidly restart their glamourous lives or else they were old, like me, and just shuffled naturally.

I thought about the question. Somehow it seemed more than one of those random old person banter-bytes. What would I do?

“I’d quit work,” I volunteered, “yes, I’d quit work.

“Oh, they all say that,” she replied and I figured she meant all the old folk she interviewed, because she clearly didn’t poll the young go-getting folk, “they all say they’d give up work…”

She leaned over the counter a little more. Her blue eyes were rather piercing. Perhaps she did intend to run away with me after all, if I ever assembled sufficient money.

“What would you really do?”

I am very rarely at a loss for a couple of words but, this time, I was at a loss. I really was. What would I do? Would I even want to give up work. I'm often restless after as little as a week off. 

The girl quickly saw that she had pressed the old geezer too hard. She had confused him and caused him to drift away in his mind, probably to memories of the Great War or Cowboy Times. She threw in a couple of suggestions, to try to kickstart my poor old brain.

“Would you go on a holiday, maybe? Buy a new car?”

I snapped out of it. I had to. There was a rising mutinous aura coming from the queue.

“Yes, yes,” I doddered, "I’d go on holiday and buy a car.”

She smiled.

“Good plan,” she said.

Then I gathered up my things and left, feeling twenty years older than when I came in.

As I walked to the car, I could feel the effect wearing off. I became young again. My steps got stronger and a dog, who was clearly thinking of messing with me, instead turned tail and slunk away. I was restored.

But the question lingered. It lingers still. What would I do? Give up work, take a holiday, buy a car. Yes, yes, yes… But what would I really do?

The only conclusion I have come to, as I sit and type this, is that I really don’t know what I’d do… but I’d sure as hell like to find out.

So watch this space. This week’s numbers look strangely promising.

All may yet be revealed.


Fles said...

When there's a big jackpot, I often lie awake in bed and go over what I'd do with the winnings before I check my ticket. There isn't that much in my life that I'd want to change - I've found a niche that I'm quite content in. There's a few decoration/renovation jobs I'd get sorted, and there's a few friends I'd like to help out, but there's really not all that much that I'd want to change. I'd certainly work less, but I wouldn't want to jack it in altogether, because that's where most of my social interaction goes on. I'd just like to get up later, I think. And holiday more.

marty47 said...

when the young girl announced her intentions, my reply would have been 'sorry love, but I'll be upscaling everything then' master of tact. Seriously tho like so many ,I for years chased the dream, regularly playing lotto, with bookies ,in shops etc, I won 10k on a bookmakers lotto. When covid came, I stopped, never played again. I began to think yes I could do with the money, but what would happen to my life, routine, things that keep you going,simple a they may be. Then you think maybe €1mill would be good, & while tou think of how you'll spend it, you realise as you spend you're no longer a millionaire, then you think well €2mill& there's the rub, it'll never be enough.I live basicallyI have all I need, it took me near 40 years of the 60 I've been here to realise happiness can't be bought permanently. What would a big win bring to my life? baubles & toys I'd soon tire of?pressure of wealth & the guilt too?the biggest gamble for me would be risking my hard acquired life of simple pleasure, music & animals & always movies, against the promises the big win would bring. Take Care Ken

Holly Searle said...

I’d buy a area/estate big enough for all of my family to live on/in without them having to worry about the cost. Then l’d offer help to those that needed it. I’d also open an art gallery for unknown artist with potential. Nice piece 👍

Emily Suess said...

"I am old." I laughed out loud. Literally. Good luck with this week's numbers. I'm so used to being not rich, if I ever won, I think I'd buy a new car and give up the rest. After all the people I owe get theirs, of course.

Jim Murdoch said...

I don’t gamble. I have nothing against those who do as long as they’re sensible and their kids don’t go without to feed their habit but I don’t gamble. I’ve bought raffle tickets for good causes and for people at work because that’s what you do, support your colleagues, but if I could get out of it without seeming mean I would. I knew one guy who benefitted from the National Lottery—one of my trainees’ mums won and not-insubstantial-and-yet-not-exactly-life-changing amount and shared the winnings with her nearest and dearest—but that was it. If I ever did gamble I’d choose something like roulette where you can bet on a single colour coming up and the odds are reasonable and, as long as you’re patient, a few quid could be made. Putting everything on a single number is, as far as I’m concerned, just madness.

If I did come into a bit of money, what would I do? When I got my share of Mum’s house when she died I banked the lot and it’s pretty much still there. I’m not a spendthrift or anything approaching one. But let’s say I inherited millions or even a million, what then? I’d buy a new printer. I’d like an A3 printer. I’d get a printer. I probably wouldn’t move but I’d get the creaky floor in the living room fixed. No point in buying a car as I handed back my licence a few months ago and have no plans to drive again. I’d make sure my daughter was taken care off, maybe pay off her mortgage, but you can’t buy the things that would make me happy. Or maybe I could. Maybe I could slip a literary agent a few grand to look after my novels. Everyone has their price, right?

Ken Armstrong said...

Fles - I'm stealing your aspirations :)

Holly - I want a weekend on your estate :)

Emily - As I writing this one, I was hoping I could raise a smile somewhere. You made my day, with your laugh. :) x

Anders said...

You should have bought another ticket, and dedicated it to her - perhaps retorting with "I'll come check-up on our numbers next week. Let's dream of palm trees and warm waters until then", which glimpse in your eye.

Hope those numbers come out right for you!