* When I was a little kid, my mom entered my name into some sort of contest at the local mall. I won the grand prize, which turned out to be a birthday party at the McDonalds near the mall – I got to invite 10 friends and we got McDonalds food, got to play on the playground, got special toys (they were far better than the happy meal toys IIRC, but I don’t remember what they were), and there was a great big ice cream birthday cake. This was a really big deal to me at the time, because a) we almost never went to McDonalds – it was a big treat that my family could rarely afford, and b)I got to invite so many kids and had bragging rights at school after that. I think it was my sixth birthday.
* When I was in seventh grade I entered my own name into a drawing for a Super Nintendo when they first came out, thinking that was the end of it. I ended up winning the game system which came with one game (Super Mario World). This was a fabulous prize (there’s no WAY my family could have afforded such an expensive toy), and I quickly became addicted to playing the one game (because I never got any other games). It got to the point where I would sit with a remote control in my hands, fiddling around with it, anytime I was sitting in front of the TV (ie, even if I wasn’t playing the game). Then I developed calluses on my thumbs. I took one look at myself and said, “Self. You have to stop playing this game. You are pathetic.” I never started playing video games again – even the ones my college boyfriend and his friends played, I was too afraid to play because I didn’t want to get addicted again.
* In 8th grade I came up with this really cool science fair project that involved collecting bugs from the two forks of the creek that ran behind our house and then further downstream to see how the stream might be affected by the construction project that was going on near one of the forks upstream. I got this kit from a local water conservation and health group that would help one identify the bugs in the water and determine which ones were more likely to live in polluted water versus clean water. My science teacher allowed me to use her microscope for the smaller bugs to make them easier for me to identify. I was able to show in the project that the construction project was affecting the health of the creek, and my dad helped me do the display for the project. I ended up winning first place!
I’ve entered a lot of contests in my time, but the above situations are the only times which I remember winning the grand/first/etc. prize. I don’t consider myself to be particularly lucky. I found out about a contest recently that would involve writing an insipid pile of dreck in exchange for some money for the wedding (“Write an essay in 500 words about the wedding of your dreams and how XYZ company’s wine will factor into your dream wedding” = vomit). Granted, it was a really big chunk of money, but I just couldn’t bring myself to write anything that remotely resembled last year’s winner, which was itself a pile of insipid dreck (and presumably what they wanted to see in an entry for the contest). And even if I did manage to make myself write what they wanted to see, there was no guarantees that I’d win, and then I would have gone and written something that made me feel all gross and whorish for nothing. So I didn’t.
Today Dan and I went to lunch because he didn’t have any classes and had to go by my work anyway to run some errands. The deli where we got our sammiches had a trivia contest – if you answered the question right, you got a free soda or cookie. I knew the answer to the question (“What is the unit of measurement used in determining the heat of peppers or hot sauce?”) so I scored us a free peanut butter chocolate chip cookie. If you know the answer without looking it up, you probably have a mind for useless trivia like I do. It wasn’t a big pile of money in exchange for my soul, but it was pretty tasty.