I have only won a contest once in my life.
This is not a complaint . . . I like the fact that I have only one contest victory under my belt, as nothing is easier to remember than the things you've only done once. My "only done once" category includes, but is not limited to: riding in a hot air balloon (in the canyons of Cappadocia), eating the "thermo-nuclear" wings at Cluck-U chicken (they made me cry like a baby), and getting bubble gum stuck in my pubic hair (you don't want to know).
I've never won a door prize or a fifty-fifty or an NCAA pool. I've never won anything significant in the lottery, and my largest lottery win-- fifty dollars-- wasn't really a win at all. To explain: G:TB contributor Whitney received twenty lottery tickets for his nineteenth birthday (one for good luck) and-- with his usual munificence-- he decided to give me one. And, of course, the one he bequeathed me was the only winner, putting me in the awkward position of "earning" some cash that I didn't really deserve. We quickly decided to spend it on beer. Problem solved.
My other attempt at winning the lottery was more absurd, but also fruitless. My sophomore roommate (G:TB founder Rob) and I had a tradition: once a semester, we would clean our room (our room was monumentally dirty-- we lost a lizard and a microwave in the tides of filthy laundry and garbage) and we would take whatever loose change we found in the wreckage and play the lottery with it. We never won.
This would all be water under the bridge, and I would be deemed lucky in love, but unlucky in contests, aside from the fact that I live in New Jersey. And New Jersey is having a pretty serious problem. And the contest I won just may contain the solution to that problem. Let me provide some background:
William and Mary has a small radio station. A station small enough that occasionally Random Idiots made the playlist. A station small enough that we could use it as a jukebox. This was before digital media, and CD's cost money. Sometimes it was easier to call WCWM and simply request the new song you wanted to hear, rather than shell out the cash for it. The request line was never busy, and the DJs were always excited to receive a request. They took the Pink Floyd lyric "Is there anybody out there?" quite literally.
So we knew that fucking number.
So when the nice young lady on the radio said she was going to give away a couple of tickets to the Duke of Gloucester Street Movie Theater, and that she was going to conduct a creative contest in order to determine who would receive these tickets, we were ready to participate.
It was radio, so I imagined that the DJ looked like this:
But it was William and Mary, and so she probably looked like this:
So the DJ told us to imagine that the Surry Nuclear Power Plant-- which is located across the James River from Jamestown-- had just melted down, and that a terrible toxic nuclear cloud was floating east towards Williamsburg. How would we get away? The routes off the peninsula are limited and the traffic would be abominable. So what would we do? She said she would take answers for an hour and the best answer would win the tickets.
It is sad for me to report that my brain has never worked faster than this moment. This was it, the high point of my cognitive career, the fastest my mind ever processed a problem into a cogent solution. It's been all downhill since.
I dialed the number from memory, so quickly that the DJ seemed nonplussed when she picked up the phone and I breathlessly said, "I'd like to submit an answer to the contest."
"Hanging in my closet, there is a body suit made of living cockroaches. I have sewn these cockroaches together in case of such a disaster. If the reactor melts down, I will don my suit of living cockroaches and walk off the peninsula. If the radiation is too much for me and I pass out, the cockroaches will walk for me. Or swim. And, of course, cockroaches are 100 times impervious to radiation than humans, so the suit will protect me from the toxic cloud."
The DJ said, "Wow. I'm not taking any more calls. You win."
I wish I were recounting this anecdote for entertainment purposes, but sadly, this is not the case. There is a tritium leak at the Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant in Lacey Township, New Jersey. Authorities are worried that the radioactive waste could contaminate the Cohansey aquifer, a significant source of drinking water for residents of South Jersey.
I live in central New Jersey and the leak is far enough from my home that I don't feel the need to move, but, unfortunately, we vacation every summer for two weeks in Sea Isle City, which is dangerously close to the reactor. My family is going to need some sort of protection from radioactive waste. Since we will be at the beach, I would prefer to make us suits of a more appropriate animal . . . perhaps starfish (sexy) or crabs (funny) or jelly-fish (translucent and super-sexy) but none of these creatures have the resistance to radiation of the German cockroach. So roaches it is. I've already caught a number in the cracks of the seats of my Jeep, and I hope I can sew something fashionable enough for my wife to wear with pride and style.
Since it's Analogy Month here at G:TB, I'm trying to see my cockroach suit as something more than a comfortable, form-fitting suit of insects designed to protect me from radiation. I think donning the cockroach suit is an apt analogy for living in New Jersey. We don our metaphorical cockroach suit every day here in The Garden State, when we venture out into the densely populated, toxic world around us, and it helps us survive the sarcasm, the traffic, and the stench of the Edgeboro Landfill. But
it's worth it, because the food is great and the beaches are awesome (and if you are wearing your cockroach suit in one of New Jersey's fabulous ethnic restaurants, then it doesn't matter if you spill some of your dinner on your lap, as the roaches will clean it up for you, and if you are wearing your cockroach suit at one of New Jersey's fabulous beaches, you will have extra buoyancy in the water and as a bonus, the roaches will protect you from being stabbed by a stray syringe).