"Just think what you could do with all of that money," said a shrill voice from the TV. I glanced up. I'd been fiddling with a piece of tin foil, tightly cocooning the end of my finger, pretending that I could transform things into solid aluminium by pointing at them, then feigning disappointment at my own pathetic superpower. "Oh dear," I said as I zapped chairs, books, my legs. My aluminium legs. Yes, I was experiencing that listless despondency the French call ennui, and the British call ennui, too, because we're so listlessly despondent we can't be arsed to invent a word. The voice, however, was telling me that everything could change if I correctly answered a multiple-choice question and texted the answer to 88330.
As instructed, I thought about the sizeable £31,000 prize. The spending suggestions on screen included things such as cars and holidays, the subtext being that viewers could be easily hauled out of their listless despondency. But I wasn't so sure. After all, I'd just got back from holiday and yet here I was seeking existential meaning from ITV. "What is the tartan garment that Scottish men traditionally wear?" trilled the voice. I sighed as the potential answers were revealed. A: Tutu. "No," I thought. "That's something else entirely." B: Sarong. C: Kilt. "Yes," I said, loudly. "C: Kilt." The nation's intelligence had been tested most severely. I had passed.
If playing roulette at the Monte Carlo Casino lies at one end of the spectrum of gambling, picking up your phone, removing your aluminium finger and texting "C" to 88330 surely lies at the other. I don't know how many people texted "C" to 88330 last week, but I'm sure none of them did so while going "Squeeeee!" and hopping from foot to foot. My experience consisted of two silent, joyless prods, motivated by the knowledge that someone had to win the money but dampened by the knowledge that it'd be some bastard who'd be unwilling to share it with me. A text came back. "Text ur answer again and get 3rd entry FREE." I texted "C" again. Another text. "Enter twice more and get another FREE entry. I texted C twice more, locked into a hyper-addictive SMS vortex, but suddenly the acknowledgements stopped. Game over. "Screw you, ITV, spoiling my fun," I mumbled, while looking up the word "sarong" in case that's next week's answer.
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