By Alan J. Steinberg
The Annual Great Neck AutoFest is an event that I attended every year with my family, long before I owned my very own classic Corvette. For the past 15 years, I proudly displayed my 1981 Corvette and have enjoyed standing next to the car, answering questions as people stopped by to admire it.
Why was this year different from all other years? In all other years, when I parked my car, I would remain by its side in order to share its beauty and history. However, this year, I received a last-minute call that my dear friend and my children’s school principal lost his mother, and the funeral was in Queens at 11 a.m.
So, I left my car on display on Middle Neck Road, attended the funeral and returned to AutoFest by 1 p.m. to join my car and all the visitors.
That would be a nice little story, but there’s more. When the classic cars owners register, in appreciation, we receive a few gifts: a hat, a booklet of discount coupons for local merchants and an entry into the cash raffle that’s held at the event. The grand prize is $500.
Of course, we appreciate the gifts, but we do not place too much hope in winning the raffle, especially since we didn’t buy the ticket. However, $500 is $500, and who wouldn’t mind winning that amount of money?
The only catch to the raffle is that you must be there to win, which has never been an issue for me. I have been there every year watching someone else win the money.
Being there means being there when the raffle is being drawn at 12:30 p.m. When I left at 10:30 a.m., prior to the festival being open to the public, I didn’t give too much thought to AutoFest, the guests, my car or to a raffle that I have never won. The funeral was where I needed to be at that time in support of my friend, so off I went, without any hesitation or reservation.
I was glad that I had the opportunity to leave my Corvette on display and also display my love for my friend by attending his mother’s funeral.
When I returned to Great Neck and took my time-honored position standing next to my classic Corvette on Middle Neck Road, a few friends ran over to me and shouted, “You won, you won, you won.” I immediately asked, “Won what?” They all screamed, “You won the grand prize of $500.”
Wow, I couldn’t believe my ears or my good fortune. I thought, perhaps, the good Lord was rewarding me for doing a mitzvah, a good deed, by stepping away from AutoFest and showing support for my friend.
When I asked one of my friends how I retrieve my winnings, he said, “You can’t, because you had to be here to win and you weren’t here, so no money for you.” He said that he tried to explain my brief absence to the raffle chair, who said, “The rules are the rules,” so they reached in the raffle box and pulled out another name. That was the end of my $500.
I do respect the rules and realize that the $500 was not really meant for me. I was not meant to be there the one year that my name was randomly pulled out as the grand-prize winner.
Did it sting for a few minutes? You bet it did. There are many good things that I could do with an extra $500. However, the opportunity to support my friend in his hour of sadness and loss was priceless. So, while I am $500 shorter than had I remained at AutoFest, in
the end, I still feel like a winner. And, as they say, “There’s always next year.”