Press Your Luck

Today at Jules’ I found a little battery-operated game called “Press Your Luck.” For those of you who may be as unfamiliar with this game as I am, the object is to answer trivia questions on a variety of subjects, pressing the (a), (b), or (c) buttons as appropriate. If you answer correctly in one second or less, you win a free “spin,” and if you answer two in a row in less than one second each, you get three free “spins.” Each answer, of course, is worth a certain amount of money, but the “spins” offer the chance to earn anything from $250 to an SUV. Although timely and correct answers provide chances to get ahead, there is also the risk losing all the money you’ve amassed should you land on a “Whammy.” Players try to avoid this little red ogre, but only luck determines whether he shows up or not; no skill, no answers can save you if he shows up.

The game show on which Jules’ electronic version is based ran, if Wikipedia is correct, from 1983 to 1986, and was also the source of considerable scandal at one point. (Someone, I suspect, never got “Whammied.” Everyone gets Whammied eventually, surely.) I confess I never saw the show, but I enjoyed playing on Jules’ tiny plastic device. Getting nearly all the answers right, and getting them speedily, I garnered quite a bit of cash, plus nine spins. I chose to “Press My Luck” a few times—after all, it wasn’t a real game show, and there was no real cash to lose—yet even knowing it wasn’t “real,” I stopped before a Whammy could take it all away. Apparently, I was the game’s highest scorer ever (I’ll bet they tell that to all the girls), and when I opted not to Press My Luck anymore, the game shut off automatically. The Game Show Host in the ether decided I couldn’t play any more.

Need I elaborate the metaphor? Probably not. Yet, the teacher in me must speak! In life, too, we may know the answers—lots of them—but they are to no avail when the Whammy gets you.

The Whammy is none other than the blind Fortuna turning the archetypal Wheel of Fortune. Rich or poor, healthy or ill, anyone on that Wheel will, if he stays on it long enough, rise to its thrilling heights, and experience its murky depths. The trick is to find the center of that Wheel. Once there, if you can manage it, I imagine the ups and downs of Fortune have little or no effect, and all you’ll feel is the breeze generated from its turns in Time.

The love from you, my friends and family, have moved me to the center of that Wheel. And the center looks an awful lot like Portland.

Wheel of Fortune discovered in the Rochester Cathedral

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