Berger's Burg: Columnist spends life in pursuit of a lofty $1,200

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Like most Americans, I have had my share of hard knocks, but that is about to change. Yes, my ship has finally come in. I just returned from my annual, two-week trip to Aruba, went to the post office to pick up my undelivered mail and carried it home, opened the first letter and — wham! — was notified I was going to receive a $1,200 check from the government.

I drive last year’s car, wear this year’s clothes and live on next year’s earnings.

No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. I do not know whether the money was a tax rebate, an overcharge payment on my 2008 income tax returns, my share of the stimulus package or what. All I know is I will be receiving a $1,200 check. My refund is not $500. It is — count’em — $1,200 and a dream come true. And if that is not enough to turn a guy’s life around for life, I don’t know what is.

I should probably put this windfall into perspective. As long as I can remember, I have had big hopes and big dreams, but one thing always stood in my way: the unreachable sum of $1,200.

Success is relative. The more success, the more relatives.

I can still remember one night when I was 16. I asked my high school sweetheart, Sally, to marry me. We had been inseparable for four amorous weeks running and I could not imagine a future that did not include the two of us together. But she, apparently, felt differently.

“You are awfully sweet,” she said, during a romantic movie, and her voice tinged with regret. “But the man I marry must have $1,200 in his savings account.” Oh, the agony of it all.

A lot of people who itch for success never want to scratch for it.

All I could do was shuffle self-consciously out of the movie theater, bidding the love of my life good-bye forever. At the very next moment, I vowed to the heavens that, one day, I will have $1,200 in my savings account to satisfy any girl.

When opportunity knocks on his front door, he is in the back looking for four-leaf clovers.

Heart-broken, I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force to unleash my wrath against the country’s enemies for not having $1,200 in the bank. Gritting my teeth, I entered a high-stakes crap game and, within minutes, was ahead $600. With visions of winning $600 more dancing in my head, I bet all my winnings on my next roll of the dice. And, as fate would have it, I shot snake-eyes. Oh, dice, didn’t you realize I needed $1,200 to set me up for life?

For years, he looked for the secret of his success, then finally found the answer: He was not a success.

Some years later, I had a beer with an old neighborhood friend, Stan Drescher, an insurance agent, who was looking for investors to invest in “a sure thing.”

“I’m in,” I said.

“All I’m asking of my investors is that they put in at least $1,200. That won’t be a problem for you, will it?” Stan asked.

I would rather not dwell on how my life might have changed if I only had had $1,200 at the time. I swore I would dedicate the rest of my life to amassing $1,200, even if I had to step on a few toes to get it.

Obsessed as I was, some years later, I did something I thought I would never do: I bought a lottery ticket. As I awaited the results on television, I could hardly believe my eyes: I had won $500. Undeniably a bonanza, but short of the number that would make me, in a conventional sense, set.

Given this history, it is understandable I danced with joy when I found out a whopping $1,200 check was coming my way. I have been more or less pinching myself nonstop.

Now, what will I do with it all? Buy a wardrobe of Italian suits, a fleet of fancy cars, partnership in the New York football Giants franchise or a house in the Hamptons for Gloria — who never asked if I had $1,200 in a savings bank? Perhaps, I can even treat her to a chop suey dinner in China.

Nah! I intend to give it all back to the government in the form of my rebate-rebate. Washington needs it more than I do.

Contact Alex Berger at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com.

Updated 6:29 pm, October 10, 2011
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