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COLUMN: Taking chances

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By Lupita Gonzales

Check out the news, read the papers, talk to friends and acquaintances; we are going through hard times.

But is that anything new?  I wonder if scanning “The Book of Job” could give us some insight on the issue.

Humanity is hardy: I think those are my original words, but likely, they’ve been stated through the ages. Many a cavewoman probably had headaches after being dragged by the hair to the lair, but their men probably had been given a rough time by a saber-toothed tiger, as well, so I guess we can’t complain too much in our technological age. After all, we have Aleve to fall back on.

It’s probably not a very nice thing to say, but my minor hardships are somewhat allayed by what I see the “haves” are going through. Unfortunately, as a result, the “have-nots” are adversely affected by the bank and factory shut-downs and the downsizing of big companies that we might have thought were doing so well.

You and I have been inundated of late with e-mails and snail-mail announcements of millions of dollars available through every kind of sweepstakes award conceivable. All that money out there for you and me! Just remit a paltry amount in order to qualify. Then we read the fine print and find that instead of getting the millions, we’re paying for a report about additional sweepstakes to enter. Further scrutiny of the almost-occult message reveals the purpose of the original hyped-announcement — promotion of various premium offers featured by sponsors of the giveaways. And at the end, many of the mailings say, “Satisfaction absolutely guaranteed.” Yeah, right!

 Upon reading and hearing about all the scams out there, one might admit that they’re tempting. Often, I am on the verge of sending my remittance of $19.95 on the chance that this is the one. Fortunately, though, I subscribe to the saw, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” Thanks, Grandma, for raising me to be a cynic. I eventually toss the junk mail where it deserves to be filed.

I’ve even been a good citizen and reported some of these senders-of-glad-tidings to the bank. I am totally daring these companies to come ‘n get me, as they state in their almost-invisible disclaimers, “Any attempt by an entrant to deliberately undermine the legitimate operations of the Sweepstakes, print or electronic versions, is a violation of the criminal and civil laws. Should such an attempt be made, the Sponsor reserves the right to seek damages from any such entrant to the fullest extent permitted by law and to disqualify such entrant from the Sweepstakes.” Well, boo-hoo, and I’m so scared. Actually, I guess I’m defaulting, because I refuse to become an entrant. Yet, I always wonder ... what if?

Calculated risk, eh? By whose calculation, though? Just living is a calculated risk, I guess. For a few years I’ve put off going to Europe because of all the reports of terrorism, etc. Recently, though, the friendly invitation sent me by the family of my foreign-exchange student-in-residence, Pedro, to go to Portugal this summer, has caught me with my guard down.  

Let me elaborate.

Forty-one years ago this May, I completed my Liberal Arts degree with a double major in English and modern languages. I aspired at that time to be a foreign diplomat; I wanted someday to be the Condoleezza Rice of my generation. Oh, well, long story short, I put off my aspirations in order to pay back my student loans. Then I met the man of my dreams, married, and had to apply my diplomatic skills to that enterprise. I’m not complaining, mind you, it’s just that the splendors of Wagon Mound and Las Vegas fell a bit short of what I read many years ago about the Eiffel Tower, the heaths of Great Britain, the Rhine, the Rhone, and German ratskellers.

Aw, shucks, I‘ve nothing to complain about: my various employers have provided me opportunities to travel throughout the continental U.S. and in Mexico, so my dreams have not been totally frustrated.  Yet, I can’t help feeling excited that finally, in my near-dotage, I will be traveling to Europe — and not as a typical tourist. Besides, Pedro’s Great-Aunt Odette has promised that she’ll find me a rich Portuguese gentleman to show me a good time.  Shucks, if Vasco da Gama, the famed Portuguese explorer, was instrumental in starting this entire “New World” hubbub in the 15th century, perhaps one of his countrymen can show me a good time during my two weeks in Lisbon.  

So be nice and wish me bon voyage. I’ll send you a plethora of postcards and maybe a Dateline: Portugal column.

Lupita Gonzales is an educator and member of the Optic Editorial Board. She may be reached at lupitagonzales2002@yahoo.com.