By the time you read this, there is an excellent chance I am sitting on my luxury yacht, sipping on an adult beverage and listening to Alicia Keys sing “If I Ain’t Got You” from a makeshift stage on deck while Bobby Flay grills me a steak a few feet away. Oh, yeah... the wife and kid will probably be on the boat somewhere, too.
At least that was the plan while I was waiting on the Powerball numbers to be called Wednesday night. Buy a yacht, enlist celebrities to be at my beck and call and leave the 2020 Presidential election and all its accompanying headaches in the rearview as I sail forth to establish my new nation on a private island forever-to-be-known as “Darinia.”
You’ll notice that nowhere in this plan do I mention calling an old friend and telling him or her that we split the jackpot.
Well, that’s what happened with Tom Cook recently, according to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. As the story goes, Cook was out at breakfast with his wife in June and was idly comparing the Powerball numbers for the $22 million jackpot to his own.
Not sure if he was seeing things right, he asked his wife to take a look. She gasped, handed it to somebody else and asked that person to validate the numbers.
“It looks like you guys won the Powerball,” this individual told them.
It’s at this point of the story where I would have pulled out my phone, called in sick to work for the next 37 years and updated my Zillow app to look for uninhabited islands for sale that have sewer, clean water, electricity, Internet and a facility large enough where I could fly in sports teams and entertainers to perform for me at my whim. Oh, and good schools. That feels like something that should be a priority, right?
But not Cook. No, he remembered a promise that he made with his longtime fishing buddy, Joseph Feeney, in 1992 — if either of them ever hit the Powerball, they would split the winnings 50/50. So, he called Cook.
“Are you jerkin’ my bobber,” Feeney asked. No, really. That’s what the article said.
After assuring him that it was indeed very real, Cook came through as promised and the two split the cash prize in half, just as they had discussed doing if either of their numbers hit. After taxes, the two friends each pocketed nearly $5.7 million.
“We both grew up with not a lot of money, so this is really something special,” said Feeney, who grew up in a two-bedroom house with his parents and 12 siblings, according to the article. Feeney was already retired as a firefighter and EMT, while Cook decided to join him in the golden era of retirement from his job as a maintenance worker.
“I can’t think of a better way to retire,” said Cook, via an article on people.com. “I got grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and I’m looking forward to spending time with them, not worrying about if I got time to go and [if we can] afford it.”
That does kind of sound like “the dream,” right?
We joke about buying gold-plated toilets or private planes or seven-day benders in Las Vegas that end in sirens and abject poverty, but when it comes down to it, if we’re really honest with ourselves, what we’d really appreciate from that kind of financial windfall is the flexibility to do whatever we want and an end to the sleepless nights over how to pay our bills or tuition for our children.
Well, and maybe one gold-plated toilet. Even if it’s just a rental. I mean, it’s called “the throne” for a reason, right? If a pile of money fell right into my lap and I could enjoy every Taco Tuesday for the rest of my life, a golden toil...
But I digress.
Judging by some terminally-grouchy people of wealth I’ve known over the years, the old saying, “Money can’t buy happiness,” is one based largely on facts. It doesn’t. We still have stressors in life, be they based on jobs, relationships, spiritual questions or the Orioles’ continuous inability to field a competent starting rotation, even though their penny-pinching owner basically prints money from his cable television...
Second digression. Sorry, that one got away from me.
Regardless, everybody has problems, be they big or be they small. Winning the lottery, inheriting billions or building a fortune from scratch does not grant you immunity from life’s woes and struggles. It gives you a big bank account. That’s it.
But it does provide a little security in the world, which is a pretty big deal unto itself. For these two gentlemen, it means a retirement of fishing, travel and knowing they can keep the lights on for years to come.
But it also means that a handshake still matters in this world. That giving somebody your word and keeping it still has value. That friendship and a sense of brotherhood are important.
I’m not jerkin’ your bobber. It really means all of that.