Tuesday, December 25, 2018


     Did you get what you wanted for Christmas? Did you run downstairs and grab the packages under the tree, rip off the wrappings and squeal with delight?
    Good. Must feel nice.
     I certainly didn't, and not just because I don't celebrate Christmas and don't exchange gifts with anyone.
     This year, I wanted something in particular, as readers of my Dec. 12 column on the Banksy sculpture contest might recall. A worthy charity raising money for refugees, Choose Love, was holding a lottery. For just a £2 donation (about $2.50) you could guess the weight of the boatload of refugees that Banksy made for Dismaland, his 2015 take-off on The Magic Kingdom.
     It seemed worth doing. How many people would enter? And I wanted the thing, thought it was beautiful, and hoped that thinking the problem over would give me a leg up.
     They gave you a bit of information: photographs, plus the length, 90 centimeters, or almost a yard long. They said it had a commercial fiberglas hull and the figurines were resin over foam.
     I'll bet it's light, I thought, focusing on the foam. I did some research. Remote control boats of a similar size sold on eBay weighed from 7 to 10 pounds. Of course they had battery packs and remote controls. The Banksy boat didn't. So maybe the missing battery would balance out the figurines. I scattershot my 20 or so guesses—one every day—between six and 11 pounds. 

     I considered myself clever.

   The contest ended at 10 p.m. Dec. 22, Greenwich mean time, and I must admit, I checked my email folder for the announcement that I had won. Checked the spam folder—sometimes things go to spam. Looked for news announcements. Nothing. Nothing Sunday.
     Not that I expected to win. Rather, I was alive to the possibility.  Okay: I mused on how good that would feel. Pictured the special exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The tasteful plaque, thanking its owner, aka me, for loan of the artwork.
     Okay, I told myself. Just because the contest ends Saturday doesn't mean they'll announce it Saturday, I reasoned, deciding to wait patiently. I imagined the email, informing me I had won...
     Sure enough, Monday, Christmas Eve, an email arrived, with the subject line, "The Banksy Boat raffle is over! Unfortunately you didn't win—but thank you so much for donating. Here's how much it weighed"
     Smart. Tear the bandage from the wound. Don't cause confusion.
     "The correct weight was 11692.2 grams, as weighed by KCL Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Science." 

     Or 25.7 pounds. My estimate was about a third of its actual weight. Some less than a third.
     That resin must have been heavier than I thought.
     This is not, I had to remind myself, an indictment of trying to think things through. Sometimes you do and the logic is off. I had certainly been right about it being a good shot, as far as lotteries go. Choose Love said it raised £90,000, or 45,000 entries. Good odds compared to the infinitesimal chances of the lottery.
     And as I pointed out in my column, had I won it, there was the complicated task of getting the dingus back home and figuring out what to do with it, insuring it and protecting it and the like. So in a sense, not winning can be considered a gift. Not exactly the gift I hoped for, true. But not getting what you want is also an essential part of Christmas, I am led to understand. Part of the magic of the holiday is squinting at what you received and convincing yourself it's really what you wanted all along.


  1. Merry Christmas to our esteemed host and his faithful readers!

  2. Once I read about one of those guess-how-many-beans-in-the-jar raffles where they gave a special prize to a high-school girl, even though someone else was closer to the correct total, simply because she'd been so clever in her methodology for estimating (she used advanced calculus).


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