I played the lottery last Saturday.

This is not the norm for me. I rarely play it. But I keep having these fantasies of being rich and the only way I know that could happen is if I have a distant unknown relative who dies and leaves me all his/her money or I win the lottery.

I'm pretty sure there are no rich distant relatives, so I guess it'll have to be the lottery.

And you know that old saying, "You have to play it to win it."

I went into the Turkey Hill near my house, and asked for five machine picks for the Power Ball.

"That will be $10," the clerk said.

"$10?" I screeched. "I only want five tickets. At $1 a piece, that's $5," I informed this math-challenged young whipper snapper.

"When's the last time you played the lottery?" Mr. Smart Party asked.

I tried to think. Hmm. Probably about the same time I had my last fantasy about living the life of Imelda Marcos when I was in Macy's shoe department and wanted to buy two pairs of shoes instead of one. And I think Clinton was president.

"They're $2 a piece now," he smirked.

"Well when did that happen?" asked Clueless in Effort.

"January 15."

"This year?"

He looked at me as if he wanted to ask me what cave I had been living in.

Now I had to think about how many picks I wanted. I had myself geared to spend $5. If I went $4 that would only give me two chances to win, cutting down on my odds of winning. If I shelled out $6, that would at least give me three chances, which would increase my odds but it was a $1 more than I wanted to spend. Oh well. They say you've got to spend money to make money.

"OK. I'll take three machine picks."

He thought I didn't see his eye-roll but I knew what he was thinking ..."Yeah, good luck, you cave-dwelling cheapo."

I walked out of the store believing in miracles. All day I envisioned my life as a millionaire. Do you ever play that game, "If I won a million dollars, what would I do?"

Here's my list: Pay all my bills; give Becky money to do whatever she wanted; tell Harry to fix up his '64 Chevy any way he wanted; take everyone in my family on a trip to an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean; and then put the rest in the bank, secure in the knowlege that I wouldn't have to spend my golden years pushing a woogly woogly grocery cart picking up abandoned aluminum cans and Coke bottles.

I recently reread a 1971 Erma Bombeck (my idol) column, "Are we rich?" where her son asks her that question. She tells him that it was a relative question. One of her samples of how she measured being rich was ..."You're rich when you own a boat – without oars."

It got me thinking about what were my qualifications for being rich in an Erma Bombeck way.

Let's see ...

You're rich when the gas price goes up and you don't start hyperventilating.

You're rich when the vet tells you the dog's teeth need to be cleaned the same week your dentist tells you need root canal and you tell them both to go ahead and do it.

You're rich when you can afford to buy toilet paper and a jar of peanut butter in the same trip to the grocery store.

You're rich when you play Monopoly and you can say you've actually been to the Boardwalk in Atlantic City.

You're rich when you paid for a bottle of water, took one swig and watered a plant with the rest.

You're rich when you have CDs and they aren't the ones that play music.

You're rich when your mechanic tells you need four new tires and you didn't even have to pawn Great-Aunt Minnie's false teeth with the two front gold teeth to pay for them.

You're rich when you can retire and go live along a sandy beach next to aquamarine colored water.

That one's my all-time favorite fantasy.

Much like the one about me winning the lottery.

Yes, I do know I am already rich beyond measure because I have the best husband, daughter, family, friends and I have my health.

But a little extra cash would be a nice bonus.

As I checked my numbers on my three picks, my heart began to beat a little faster when I saw my first matching number. Oh, the things I could do with 40 million dollars!

My pulse rose a little higher when I had another matching number.

BMW, here I come!

And then ... nothing. Nada. Zilch.

All my fantasies ... gone. Poof. We are not rich.

Yet.

There's always next time.

(With my luck, the next time I indulge in the lottery fantasy, the price will have probably gone up another dollar and who knows who'll be president!)