While commuting the other day, Sylvia and I heard a news story about Alberta's latest lotto winners. As many people do, I started to think about what I'd do were I presented with a huge windfall.
For the record, I'm not a big fan of lotteries. While they're a useful source of government revenue, I think the false dreams and dashed hopes they propagate are pretty damaging in the long run - not to mention the countless stories of winning players whose lives are made worse by their "lucky" day! Far better to balance a reasonable, progressive tax burden with prudent government spending, rather than levying what amounts to another tax on the poor and desperate. Why should essential services like public health care and community infrastructure have to depend upon lotteries? Madness.
Anyway, the larger political issues don't prevent a little harmless fantasizing. Let's pretend that Sylvia and I find a two-ton meteorite made of pure platinum and that we're sufficiently wise enough to stake a legal claim and sell the wealth bits at a time to prevent a platinum glut. (All pretty crazy assumptions with about as much likelihood of success as...winning the lottery.)
So we wind up with a billion dollars. What would I do with my half?
Naturally I'd take care of the essentials first - some money for mom and dad and my brother, some generous donations to UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, and so on.
But on to the fun stuff. In all honesty, if I had more money than I knew what to do with and I gave millions to every charity on my list...I'd spend the rest of the cash being as eccentric as possible - but, I hope, in a fun and progressive way.
So. First order of business: Earl Acres, i.e., our new home. I'd have an architect build a haunting Gothic mansion, something out of Frankenstein. There would be a pipe organ in the main hallway, so that when guests arrive I would be ready, hunched over the keys, wearing a black cloak, playing that scary "DAH NA NA...DA NA NA NA NA NAAAAAAAAA..." music.
There would be a USS Enterprise bridge simulator room, built to scale, with all the stations intact and functional - well, functional in a simulator sense - this room would be used to play a custom-designed Star Trek combat/exploration game of epic scope. Naturally, this would double as a home theatre, with the stations folding out comfy home theatre seats, for those reluctant to sit for hours on those tiny retro chairs the crew had to endure.
Of course we'd need a staff to handle our estate and business affairs. I would hire each staff member based not only on their qualifications, but how well they fit Hollywood stereotypes for their roles. To wit, I would require:
One British butler, tall and gaunt and perpetually 60-ish, with a rapier deadpan wit.
One irritable French chef, a master of his art, but completely intolerant of his employers' lack of culinary refinement.
One beefy, handsome, macho, silent German chauffeur for Sylvia. He'd also be a crack bodyguard.
One gorgeous Brazilian housekeeper with an affinity for fishnets.
One inscrutable Japanese gardener, replete with Asian wisdom.
One officious, perpetually worried Canadian financial advisor, preferably balding with glasses.
One Indian secret agent woman, or at least an actress pretending to be an Indian secret agent, reporting all kinds of international intruigue and (fake) threats against Woods Foundation interests.
One African American martial arts instructor of the sweet sweetback badassss school.
One Ukrainian "mad"/absent-minded scientist - preferably a theoretical physicist. Must wear a lab coat constantly and play the Frankenstein role with glee.
I would pay all these folks extremely well, and provide them with state-of-the-art facilities for their daily routines. I think we could have a lot of fun running my little lunatic asylum, and in the process we might collectively make a point about cultural and sexual stereotypes. And perhaps make some scientific breakthroughs!
I wonder what Sylvia would do with her $500 million?