Back in 1997, I was at home relaxing.
I didn’t have two pennies to rub together, but that was fine.
The movies and books I had at home were sufficient to feed my waking moments with whatever was cooking inside their jackets; VHS video cassette and hardcover book alike.
Plus, I stayed with my mother so I had food for the belly too.
Looking up at the bedroom ceiling, I fanned my fingers behind my head and realised that I didn’t have to do anything but get fat or die trying.
Then the phone rang, we owned a landline so I had to haul myself out of bed to answer the phone.
It was my friend Ronald and he told me he had a way to make both our pockets chubbier.
After listening to his opening arguments, I sprang out of bed and hit the open road…after getting some spending cash from my Mum, of course.
On my way to town, I thought of Kampala’s latest get-rich quick scheme: Premier Lottery. Back then, you would buy tickets for Shs1,000, then scratch off the foil to reveal what you had won.
Not being a gambler, I never ever bought myself a ticket.
However, I watched in awe as the whole town, from top to bottom, hunched over and scratched to win.
In the media, smiling winners showed off cars, cash and, in some cases, even land titles.
This was Ronald’s plan: get tickets, win and suddenly all the hot girls would realise that two broke guys (us) actually had pulses.
So we bought one ticket each and after scratching off the silver foil, we both had won Shs1,000!
Not considering that what we had put in is exactly what we had gotten out, our appetites had been whetted by the mouth-watering prospect of winning more mounds of cash than what we had piled into this get-rich quick scheme.
So we bought more tickets, two each.
And got the same result!
We were two Shs2,000 richer and poorer at the same time, but we choose to see the glass as half full and looked only at the being richer part of this story.
We got more tickets, four each this time.
Again, we got what we put in!
This time, we upped the stakes and both put in Shs10,000 for 10 tickets each. And, out of a total of 20 tickets, we won Shs50,000!
Apparently, there were tickets which were worth Shs10,000 in winnings and we had five of them!
We were truly on a roll.
“If we spend this Shs50,000 on 50 tickets, we stand a chance of winning the Shs400m jackpot!” Ronald screamed.
Back then (and even now), Shs400m could take you from no-status to king’s status.
So what did we do?
We first breathed in, then decided to be sensible: we called up some friends and borrowed an additional Shs50,000 and decided to buy 100 tickets!
With a fistful of cash, we started discussing taking trips to Jamaica.
When there, we dreamed that we would be surrounded by swimsuit models at the beach and served endless cocktails.
We could already feel the wind blowing granules of sand into our eyes as we were blinded by a shared love for the finer things in life.
Walking along Kampala Road like we had chiseled chests and 200 pounds of muscle on each arm, we headed for the Premier Lottery offices in slow motion
Our swagger gave us the air of millionaires and so prices suddenly went up in stores as soon as the attendants saw us pass by their shops.
Everybody could tell we were going to be rich, so why not milk us in advance?
Buying our tickets, we deepened our voices to the cigar-enriched baritones owned by the rich and infamous.
Then we doffed our imaginary hats at everyone who was about to witness our rags-to-riches transformation. Then we started scratching, feverishly.
To our complete horror, 95 of our tickets read: Please, Try Again.
We didn’t even win back what we had put in!
Furious, we gave the last five tickets to a guy called Kennedy who we both knew and who just happened to be there when we lost.
He thanked us and then scratched the cards and, to our doubled horror, we saw this same Kennedy being announced as a winner of a brand new car!
On top of that, he won Shs20m!
Still in total shock, we didn’t realise that he made us stand next to him when he had his picture taken before driving into the sunset.
As the exhaust fumes of Kennedy’s departing car filled our nostrils with the choking scent of defeat, all the friends we had borrowed money from wanted their cash. Because they had seen us standing as winners next to Kennedy in the newspapers!
So I told them Ronnie had my share of the winnings and Ronnie told them I had his share. Which gave us both an exchanged share of nothing!