I remember the time I realised I have a gambling problem. You may be shocked to hear I have a gambling problem, but the truth is I do... or at least I did.
I was 11 years old. My school was running a fundraiser for something schools need fundraising for, like computers or basket balls. The way they had chosen to fundraise this time was not with a raffle or a sausage sizzle, but with little scratchy cards.
The deal with the scratchy cards went like this. All the kids in the school were given a pack of scratchy cards to take round to their friends, family, and neighbours. Every scratchy card instantly won a prize; you could win trips to the hot pools, chocolate, even money.
You also could win a world of other random stuff that had been sponsored by businesses around the Auckland area. I can't remember how much the cards cost but I think they were about $4.
When I got my little pack of cards I thought it would be a good idea to support my school and scratch one myself. I won a rose, no kidding, one red rose. What can an 11 year old boy do with one rose? Absolutely nothing!
I thought, 'surely the next card will be better', and as I scratched it, to my disgust, I won a photo frame. This was no better than a rose! Argh! Then my friend scratched one, and he won a trip to the hot pools. 'Stink', I muttered, I want to go to the hot pools! Then another friend scratched his and he won $50 worth of chocolate. $50 in chocolate, for an 11 year old boy was like dying and going to heaven.
Convinced my first two cards had been duds I proceeded to scratch another fundraising card, and my blood began to boil as I discovered that I had won yet another single rose! 'Useless!' I expressed, exasperated. Then the day ended, and we all went home, our fundraising cards tucked away in our backpacks.
A week later the funding cards scheme was due to be wrapped up. We either had to bring the cards that we had not managed to sell, or the money that we had collected from them. The deputy principal was collecting them. I marched into her office and handed her the cards I had not managed to sell, with $20 for the three I had scratched at school, and the two more I had scratched at home.
There was a problem, and it was that the deputy principal started going through the cards one by one. As she was doing this she was putting them in a very distinct pile. As she turned over the last scratchy card, she placed it slowly on the pile and turned her eyes toward me. I almost wet myself.
You see, when I took these cards home I knew I wanted what lay beneath the scratchy surface, I wanted all the things my friends had been winning. So I came up with a plan. I took the smallest needle I could find and very lightly ran the tip of the needle across the scratch-away surface. This made a very fine line that I could look at really closely, and make out some of the words that lay beneath.
At first I set out to do this to only one card, then another. I could sense this feeling swirling up within me. And then I did something. I let go. I felt the cool sense of release as I scratched every single card, just a tiny bit, until $400 worth of scratchy cards lay before me on the floor, all with a tiny line through them.
Then the depressing reality of what I had done slowly started to sink in. None
of the cards were any good, not one. So I bundled them up and thought nothing more of it, other than I hoped no one would notice.
As I sat there, with the deputy principal staring silently back at me, I wondered about my actions, whether it was a good idea to devise such a clever and well thought out plan as mine.
'Jared' said the deputy principal. 'Yes' I nervously replied. 'These cards are all scratched.' she snapped. I sat there for a moment, feeling a very interesting feeling, and then it happened. My bottom lip started to quiver uncontrollably, my eyes turned downward, and I sat there holding myself, weeping in front of her.
Now that day I learnt this lesson: if you cry hard enough and appear to be very sorry, you will get away with things... when you're 11 anyway.
I can't say whether or not the school made their fundraising targets that year, I don't know. But what I can tell you is this: at that school that year many, many children were found to have gambling problems.
Jared Diprose is a self-employed Artisan and co-director of the Mosaic Workshop. He has a degree in Theology, and believes that words shape worlds. He is married to Sierra. You can see some of his work at www.jareddiprose.co.nzand you can check out The Mosaic Workshop at www.mosiacworkshop.co
Jared Diprose's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jareddiprose.