The joker and the jacket

Published 11:41 pm Friday, December 19, 2008

I used to work in a grocery store in Northern Virginia back in the ‘90s. During the Christmas season one year, I decided to be my own Santa and get myself a gift. It was a beautiful, black satin baseball jacket. There was nothing special about the jacket, except that it was the first time in my life that I had saved enough money to buy something nice for myself.

As I was walking to the bus stop one day in my fancy new jacket, I passed an elderly lady trying desperately to get her big old Plymouth out of the mud. Feeling good, possibly on the strength of my foxy new jacket, I decided to help her get her car unstuck.

I pushed and pushed until finally that tremendous mucus-green relic spun its way clear of the muck, kicking up rocks and mud all the way. Kicking up mud onto what, you may ask? That’s right, my new satin jacket.

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The sweet old lady peeled away without even offering me a ride, only a kind wave and a smile in her rear view mirror as she drove off.

Dejected and running a little late, I caught my bus and headed to my job at the grocery store. I had a few minutes before work started and a few dollars in my pocket, so I bought three scratch lottery tickets. Scratch one, nothing. Scratch two, nothing. Scratch three, nothing but a stupid picture of a joker on it. I tossed them into the trash and headed in to work in the dairy and frozen food department.

On my lunch break that day, I was sitting around in the breakroom stuffing my face with goodies from the store’s salad bar and inadvertently eavesdropping on my co-workers’ conversations. While listening in, I heard someone say, “I just won $10 on this scratcher. The co-worker showed me the ticket and I said to him, “How come? You don’t have any matches or anything on the ticket.” He replied, “No, but if you have a picture of a joker on your ticket, you win all the prizes on that ticket.”

Without saying a word to the co-worker, I darted back to that trash can where I’d thrown out my tickets and did an Olympic swan-dive right into the rubbish of well over a hundred people.

Luckily, the McDonald’s bag that had my lotto ticket in it was still there, though covered with all kinds of filth and some things I still don’t want identified. When I redeemed the lotto ticket at the counter, its value totaled about $75, just about the price of my ruined jacket.

Christmas miracle? I think so.

Happy holidays, everyone.