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$26m Lotto Trevor isn't so clever

By Michael Laws

Last week, at precisely this time, I woke up to discover that I would still be required to work on Monday morning. Ordinarily, this is not a thought that particularly troubles me. But for a quite specific reason last Sunday, it did.

I had not won Lotto – that $26 million jackpot with which I had been planning my future life. Instead some single dude – an ex-truckie checkout operator from Te Kauwhata – had scooped my fantasy. Bloody Trevor.

I did not know his name until Tuesday morning, when his ecstatic face beamed at me from the front page of my newspaper. But by that time, I was over it. My second day back at work was in prospect. My fantasy had dissipated.

But it's odd. Like many Kiwis I had actually considered what might happen were I to win such mega-millions. And in those thoughts, I discovered the strangest of emotions. Wholly unexpected, but unable to resist. Fear.

This may be because I am – as readers know – a timid man. All this generation's trite exhortations "just do it", "get over it" and "take the leap" all seem to be extraordinarily risky propositions. I actually like order, stability, security.

And for some odd reason, I realised I wasn't ready to be a multimillionaire, entrusted with enough money to own a Super15 rugby franchise or to purchase the entire GDP of Tonga. One thing I knew: I would wrestle with myself for days over whom I would tell.

Trevor had no such inhibitions. He told the world. He posed for newspapers and magazines, gave radio interviews and appeared on TV. When asked why he was so bold with his disclosure, Trevor answered that he'd already told everybody in Te Kauwhata anyway. The rest of humanity was a cinch.

At this stage I realised that Trevor was the right person to win the Lotto jackpot and that I was not. He is going to enjoy his money, his fame and his ability to buy outright the Huntly supermarket where he works. I would still be fretting about ruining my kids.

But I still thought Trevor was a tad naive. He may have instantly become New Zealand's most eligible bachelor and perhaps wished to advertise that fact. But 95 per cent of us, according to this newspaper's internet poll, would have resisted the need to tell all.

Which probably means that we would all have been fretting too. Which relatives do we reward with our new largesse? Which do we ignore? And given that $26 million is actually too much money, what do we do with the rest?

Unsurprisingly, Trevor probably recognised his error come Tuesday morning when a gaggle of media and panhandlers turned up at 5.30am at his Huntly store.

Some wanted to see him keep his media promise to return to work immediately, but others had plaintive pleas for a donation. Instead Trevor went to ground. So too did his mum and dad. Suddenly the attention was too much. Very possibly they realised that they had collectively made every mistake in the book.

In the United States, 90 per cent of all big lottery winners actually spend their entire winnings inside five years. Such horror stories are well known, say the New Zealand's Lotteries Commission. Which is why they counsel winners to do the exact opposite of what Trevor did.

The Lotteries spokeswoman said they have a booklet. If its wisdom could be distilled into one word, that word would be "breathe". Don't open your mouth: breathe.

According to the spokeswoman, Trevor was adamant. He didn't want to live a lie. Tell the world. To me, the concepts aren't related but in Trevor's mind they are. O-kay.

And I guess if the pursuit of most people is to be financially settled and secure, then Trevor and his parents can afford such openness. They can employ security, relocate to a gated home away from prying eyes and the con artists that follow. But I have neither jealousy nor envy for their situation. Our nightmares generally begin when our dreams come true.

Sunday Star Times, 8th April 2012.

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