Monday, June 15, 2009

By popular demand

The story of how I won $1,000 and became the most popular girl in 8th grade for a day.

In the fall of 1986, the new phone books were distributed throughout the Kansas City metro area. Q104, the top 40 radio station, had put a ticket on the last page of each of those phone books. The tickets had 6 digit numbers on them. For the next year, Q104 used those tickets as the basis for their daily giveaways. They would call out a number at specific times throughout the day. If they called the number from your phone book, you had 10 minutes to call in and claim your prize.

Now, being a 13 year-old girl, I was smack in the middle of Q104's target audience. No demographic drives pop music as much as young teenage girls. So I listened to Q104 religiously. And in that way that only 13 year-old girls can manage, I knew everything about the ticket contest. I memorized our ticket number the very day the new phone book showed up on our doorstep. I knew exactly what times the djs would call out new numbers every day. I knew the noon giveaway was the lame lunch or two-liter of pop. I knew the 5:30 usually involved tickets to concerts or Worlds of Fun. And I knew the 7:00 a.m. was the money slot. I made sure to arrange my daily routines so I was listening to the radio at the right times as often as possible. Somehow, I didn't worry myself with the odds of winning. I just felt sure that if I listened as often as possible, I would one day hear my number.

And then one morning, it happened. I was up, showered, and dressed in my black cords with a black sweater (it seems like a Sarah thing to remember, what outfit I was wearing) when it was time for the morning giveaway. I didn't have any socks or shoes on yet, though. I sat back on my bed and waited. The woman dj read out the number that morning. "12 34 56" My first thought was, "Oh, well" because it wasn't my number. And then, I repeated it in my head. See, I had memorized the number as "123 456". It took that extra second or two for it to sink in that the sequence of numbers she had said really was right. I'm sure I shrieked as loudly as any 13 year-old girl ever did, but there was nobody in the house to come running.

I ran into my parents room and frantically started dialing the radio station's phone number (which, of course, I had long since memorized just in case). I only had 10 minutes to call in and I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to get through. It felt like forever, but in reality was probably only a minute or two of constant redialing before I finally did hear a voice. When someone finally did answer the phone, I was stunned to hear Mike in the Morning. It never occurred to me to think that I would actually get to talk to my beloved Mike in the Morning! All of a sudden, I wasn't just hysterical at the prospect of winning $1,000, but I was a star-struck teenager with a huge crush, too. It's a wonder I managed to get any words out, but somehow, I did squeak out a very shaky, "I think you called my number." Fortunately, Mike in the Morning was an old pro at handling phone calls from nervous prospective winners and crushing 13 year-old girls. He had me repeat the number of my ticket and confirmed that I was, in fact, right. I could finally breathe again.

Except, I had another panic moment when Mike in the Morning, understandably questioning whether I was old enough to be reliable, asked to speak to my mom. But she wasn't home. She had gone over to the Allan's house to take their garbage out and feed their cat. I was again gripped with terror that I would be denied my winnings. I feared that they would get impatient waiting or think I was just pranking them and hang up. (Somewhere in the back of my pre-lawyer brain, I was already laying out my case that they couldn't deny me because I had, in fact, called in within the allotted time.) I ran next door and got to the driveway just as Mom had hit the button on the garage door opener. She didn't know what to think when the first thing she saw was my little feet, still with no socks or shoes, dancing around on the driveway. I'm not sure if I was hopping around because it was winter and I was barefoot or just because I was about to win $1,000. She didn't really understand what was going on, but I was able to convey that it was critical that she come talk to the people on the phone. Thankfully, the radio station had not hung up. She spoke to them, checked the phone book and confirmed the number, and I got my grand.

The radio station used my mom saying, "Well, we sure can use the money!" as part of their promos for the giveaway for quite a while. I'm not gonna lie - that always irked me a little. I was the one who'd called! My parents briefly flirted with the idea that the whole family should split the money or that we should use it to pay for a trip or something like that. I didn't say anything, but after about 20 minutes of discussion, my mom, dad, and sister all finally came to their senses and realized that I should get all the money. Phew!

Some equally obsessive 13 year-old girls had also been listening to the radio that morning, so they heard my big win, which is how it got all over school.

The guys on the bus all wanted me to buy a Honda Spree. I was tempted, mostly by the idea that maybe Jeremy Holland would want to ride on it with me, but in the end, I opted to use my money differently.

I gave $200 to my sister as a graduation present. She was about to graduate high school and head off to college. I bought myself a bike. It was a beautiful, shiny, purple 10-speed, way nicer than my old bike. I also spent about $100 on a fabulous outfit from ESPRIT. (You knew I would have bought clothes or shoes, right?) It was a dark purple skirt and top with geometric shapes in bright colors all over it. I wore it with a chunky, black belt, black ankle boots, and the shirt collar standing up. I felt like the most fashionable bad-ass in that outfit. (Bear, it's the outfit I wore in my 9th grade yearbook photo.) The rest (about $450) went into a savings account that eventually became my first money market account, which I cashed out, to the tune of $2200, when I graduated from college.

So that's my big story. I think if we all only get to win something once in a lifetime, it's pretty good to get that win when you're 13. $1,000 seems like a LOT more money when you're 13. And anything good that happens is more exciting at 13. It's still one of the most exciting things that's ever happened to me.


Language Lover said...

Wow. I really don't think I've heard that story before, at least not in such delightful detail. Thanks for indulging our curious minds :)

Bob S. said...


Totally off topic,but I remember you asking about urinals before. Here is a training simulator that might help with your education :)

kristen said...

I love that story. It kind of reminds me of one of the ones in the Sweet Valley Twins series where Jessica almost wins $1000 but screws up the title of the is really called "a dozen bucks" but she is excited about the $1000 and calls it "a thousand bucks".
Why I remember this, I do not know...

S said...

Ah, Sweet Valley! How I loved those twins.

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