One of my favorite old sayings is “the grass is always greener on the other side.” Basically, things appear rosier and finer from afar. This common delusion often results in negative human emotions including envy, resentment and regret. Personally, I rarely allow these cancers to penetrate my psyche. It's simply a waste of time and energy with absolutely no positive aspects derived from the mental strain. One unforgettable experience, which crystallized my feelings on the subject, began on January 27, 2000.
One evening, while on a three-day trip to Las Vegas, I sat in my hotel room watching the local nightly news. The lead story that evening reported that a young woman had hit the Megabucks jackpot at the Desert Inn Casino earlier in the day for almost $35 million dollars. It proved to be the biggest Megabucks jackpot in Vegas history. She cheerfully related the details to a reporter while they stood in front of the winning slot machine. She was a 38-year-old, attractive blonde with classic good looks and a perfect smile. The lucky lady had decided to drop a few dollars in the Megabucks machine after her shift as a cocktail waitress. Five minutes later she was a multi-millionaire. The woman was to be married soon to her boyfriend of one year. As I sat there shaking my head at her phenomenal good fortune, I honestly did experience a bit of envy/jealousy. I thought, here's a stunning, articulate woman about to be married, and she is now a multi-millionaire. I couldn't help but think some people have all the luck--why not me?
In April of 2001, while flipping through the pages of People Magazine at my dentist office, I noticed an article referencing Las Vegas. I did a double take at the title, which read, “Twist of Fate.” It didn't take long to realize the story pertained to the young women I had seen on TV in Las Vegas the previous year. A few weeks after her astonishing good fortune, horrific tragedy struck just as swiftly as her fortuitous pull of the slot handle. A drunk driver smashed into her car from the rear. Cynthia was paralyzed and her sister killed. Below are a couple paragraphs from an article describing this shocking saga.
“When Cynthia Jay-Brennan fed $27 into a slot machine at the Las Vegas Desert Inn casino on Jan. 27, 2000, the estimated odds of her winning that day's Megabucks jackpot—$34,959,458—were 7 million to one. But fate hadn't finished with the former cocktail waitress, who now believes she won history's biggest slot payout for a reason--so she could pay her soon-to-be-astronomical medical bills. "You can be on top of the world one minute, and then all of a sudden you're paralyzed," says Jay-Brennan, 38, who learned that lesson tragically just six weeks after her windfall.
Last March 11, Jay-Brennan was on a girls' night out with her older sister Lela, 45. Cindy, as her family calls her, was driving. She had just quit her job at the Monte Carlo resort and married her boyfriend of one year, bartender Terry Brennan, 45. The couple was planning to buy a new car, enjoy a belated honeymoon at the beach, have kids. "The last thing I remember was telling Lela how happy I was," says Jay-Brennan. But at 10:17 p.m. she stopped at a red light, and her luck changed before the light did.” (If you would like to read the entire fascinating article, Google “Twist of Fate-People Magazine, March 26, 2001.”)
Do you still believe the grass is greener up ahead? It might be! Then again, who knows what the future will bring? When reflecting on the past and questioning some of our life decisions, we usually put an optimistic outcome on our speculation. Odds are Cynthia Jay would not have been at that light on the fateful night if she had not won the Megabucks a few weeks earlier. That glorious event definitely changed her life in many ways. However, some other unsuspecting, innocent people would have been sitting there, unprepared for a drunken Clark Morse, 58, to violently smash into their car. Oh, for the record, Mr. Morse had been arrested 15 times previously for drunk driving.
In the years since this disaster, I've often related the details to friends as an example of the folly in feebly surrendering to regret, envy and resentment. It's pointless and puerile! Be genuinely pleased for those who experience good fortune, and be there as a loyal friend when their lives are not so brightly lit. Regret not past roads traveled and look forward to infinite possibilities.
Pete Whalon, author of “The Siagon Zoo” has called Southern California home since age five.