I’ve never been much for punting – for years I thought I was, seeing as when I was a lad, I could always pick which team would win the cricket world cup, or really any other match. But there was something about putting money behind it that made me lose my luck, and lose it badly.
There’s something about facing a debt that makes people do risky things. For me, I’d just had to take my budgie to the exotics veterinarian. I’d already had my hours cut at work, and when I saw the budgie’s vet bill (he hadn’t been eating, and the vet had to run some diagnostic tests on him, poor chap), I knew it was going to be a tight month or two.
Now some friends and I used to have a little punting circle that would get together for cricket matches. We’d make bets and watch the games on telly. Normally they were tame bets – the loser would buy the winner a beer, or we’d all go out to the pub and the loser would get a round or so.
But on this particular day – it was years ago and I can’t remember the match itself, just that it was England against Australia – I’d been thinking about the budgie and it had been a long week at work. I’d just discovered how much I loved a good Guinness or three (I was a younger lad), and I was on my third or fourth one when we all started to place our punts.
As I was soon to discover, there’s a reason that so many of us call alcohol “liquid courage.” I’d been to the ATM and had about 100 pounds on me. I’d meant to go grocery shopping with it the next day.
But I had faith in our boys, and it was right then and right there that I decided I was going to put all 100 pounds on them. When they won (and this was my thinking at the time – they would certainly win), I’d have more money to buy more groceries, and pay the budgie’s bills completely, and even have enough left over to get a case of Guinness. That would last me until my next paycheck!
I ignored the lads as they looked at me in disbelief. Someone said something about it being a good bit of money to put on a game of cricket. But I smiled what I thought was a wise and knowing smile, and the game began.
At first, our boys were ahead. I drank more Guinness and I started gloating. I may have hurled an epithet or two at the other lads – something about them being stupid for punting on the bloody Aussies. Chet was glaring at me over his pint glass. I started loudly cheering my team as I shoveled down most our shared bag of crisps.
But it seemed the louder I became, the worse the Brits started doing. And soon the Aussies were ahead. Chet and David were smirking at one another. I quieted down a bit.
To shorten up the story a bit, the Brits lost – badly. I was starting to sober up a bit and wouldn’t look Chet in the eye. I thought maybe if he saw how ashamed I was of being such a fool that he’d simply forget I’d blown a hundred pounds on a stupid game of cricket on the telly.
But I had no such luck. “You owe us, mate,” David said, grinning at me. I thought of the budgie and the groceries.
“What about,” I said, faltering a bit, “about paying you off a bit later?” Chet said he wanted some sort of collateral. I kept looking at the floor.
Then David had an idea. “You know your car’s shit,” he said to me. “Bonnet to boot.” I didn’t like where this was going. “The point is,” he continued, “It’s a Volvo – and Chet drives a Volvo – and he’s been wanting a new set of hubcaps. Your car’s got hubcaps, and they’re the only nice thing on it. Who’s going to miss a set of nice hubcaps on a shit car? Nobody, that’s who.”
“Yeah, alright,” Chet chimed in. “You won’t have to pay me anything if you give me the hubcaps.”
I thought for a moment that I might miss the hubcaps – they were chromey-looking and made my car look as sharp as it possibly could, given its unfortunate aesthetic circumstances. But they were right – nobody misses one nice thing off a shit car. So the next day, Chet and I pulled the hubcaps off.
And that’s how I paid a cricket punting debt in Volvo hubcaps.