Still waiting for the balloon man

Publishers Clearing House is dead to me.

Recently I received an envelope in the mail, containing materials necessary for me to enter PCH’s latest sweepstakes. I’ve seen the TV commercials announcing that some lucky winner will receive $5,000 a week for life. Even better, the winner gets to designate a successor. When the winner dies, the successor gets $5,000 a week for life.

That sounds pretty good to me, so I was quite excited when I found the envelope in my mailbox. I was definitely going to enter until I saw, printed on the envelope, right beneath “Win $5,000.00 a week FOREVER,” the following:

“Frankly, we’re concerned DOUGLAS SHOWALTER. You’ve ignored prior bulletins, and we’d hate for you to do it again. Don’t throw away this life-changing opportunity.”

Excuse me? Ignored? I don’t think so Mr. Clearing House. What about last year?

The rules state that your chances of winning are the same whether or not you purchase magazines. So for the past 40 years I’ve taken it at its word and returned my entry form without buying anything.

And after 40 years I’m still waiting for a man holding balloons and a large, life-changing check to knock on my door.

I’ve heard insanity defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Judging by my 40-year PCH losing streak, my “no buy” strategy was clearly insane.

So last year I decided to switch things up. I not only entered, I also ordered four magazine subscriptions, a set of plastic containers designed to hold various sizes of batteries and a swiveling electrical outlet that makes it easier to plug cords in behind a bookcase.

Now they would HAVE to let me win.

I mailed my entry and waited for the doorbell to ring. I even practiced in front of the bathroom mirror to perfect my look of surprise, as I knew cameras would be rolling when the man with the balloons and the check arrived at my humble abode.

After about a month, I had the look down pat. One afternoon the doorbell rang. I could barely contain my excitement, knowing my life was about to change forever. I put on my surprised face and opened the door.

Standing on my porch was the UPS man. No balloons, no check, no cameras rolling. He handed me a small cardboard box.

I closed the door, totally dejected. But then I noticed the return address was Publishers Clearing House. Oh happy day. This was probably just notification that I had won, along with a stack of legal papers to sign saying it was OK for balloon man to show up at my door at such and such a time and that I agreed to act surprised.

I quickly opened the box. The only things inside were four plastic containers designed to hold AAA, AA, C and D batteries. Useful, but hardly life-changing.

So I was understandably a bit miffed when I read the note on this year’s envelope telling me I’d ignored prior bulletins. There has definitely been some ignoring going on here, but you, Mr. Clearing House, are the guilty party.

I slammed the envelope down on the dining room table, muttering, “You’ve been ignoring me for 40 years. No way am I falling for that again.”

But a week later the envelope is still on the table. Every time I walk by, “Win $5,000.00 a week FOREVER!” jumps out at me. FOREVER!

I haven’t broken yet, but if my wife, kids and grandchildren all get plastic battery holders for Christmas next year, they’ll know I caved.

Unless of course I win. Got to go. Time to practice my surprised face.