Not me. I wanted to invest. I wanted to stimulate my economy. I'm not rich, but when you're paying more for everything, $600 just isn't going to cut it.
Of course, one could "invest" it in the stock market, but that seems like a crapshoot these days. On a whim, I put $500 in the market two years ago and now, after steady declines, I might be able to afford dinner and a movie with what's left.
In recent weeks, I consulted the business pages looking for a little guidance, but financial advisors all seem to say the same thing: Be practical. The headline of a New York Times story read, "Economy Can Wait; Stimulate Your Savings."
"What should you do with your stimulus check?" the reporter asked. "Spend it, as human nature and Congress intend? Or take a few minutes to reflect upon the rising cost of gas and energy, the likely pinch of expenses yet to come -- or bills begging to be paid -- and save it?"
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he answer came to me while killing time on a Blackjack computer game. I'll put my check on the table, grow it hand by hand, make my fortune. The odds aren't half bad. I practiced for days and then, last weekend, I went to Northern Quest Casino to change my life, fulfilling the best of all American dreams -- free money.
My wallet bulged with a wad of bills as I boarded a shuttle from the parking lot to the casino. There were two other people on board and I wondered if they had the same plan. I strode confidently inside and found a $5-minimum-bet table. I cashed in the first $100 and laid down a fiver.
Slowly, I started building my stack on several good hands. A tipsy player to my left showered me with praise. "Nice work," he said a little bitterly. Another player -- a 30-something man with unkempt hair -- plopped into an empty seat and cashed in his last $20 bill. He wasn't playing for fun; he was playing to win just like me. But after five or six hands, he was done, and my luck had changed, too. My pile shrank and I began to gently chastise the dealers. They seemed genuinely disappointed as they took my money, but take it they did.
I pulled out two more $20 bills (no sense in rushing it) and played a few more hands. When a new dealer came to the table, I got a bad feeling and picked up my chips. I moved to another table and sat next to a white-haired gentleman who was all business, playing two hands at once. I felt desperation start to grow inside me as I lost all my chips.
I took a walk through the casino. I reassured myself. You win some, you lose some, then you win some more. It's a cycle. If I quit now, I wouldn't reach the next winning stage. I knew what I had to do: I pulled out $60 and sat at a third table.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & his time, indeed, my luck was different. I got Blackjack several times in a dozen hands. My $60 grew to $100, then to $120, then to $180. Soon I had $230. I started placing bigger and bigger bets and they started paying off. After three hours, I was still going strong. Then, just as quickly, my luck turned. I started negotiating with myself -- not about how much I had to win, but how much I could bear to lose. More specifically, how much could I blow before my fianc & eacute;e would murder me? I decided losing $100 was my limit and, after the fourth hour, I reached it.
I cashed out and headed for the door. I consoled myself with several thoughts. It wasn't my money, I said. You can't win if you don't bet. Without risk, there's no reward. The clich & eacute;s came easily, and soon I was smiling. In the end, as I reached my car, I felt like a red-blooded American. I had stimulated the economy.