Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2013, 5:20 pm

It was nice while it lasted: the fanciful musings of a former millionaire

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By Shane Brown, sbrown@qconline.com

I can't help but feel as if I'm slumming it these days, Quad-Cities.

Once upon a time, I was content with being a self-appointed spokesman for the middle class, a voice for the struggling everyman and a sounding board for Joe Q. Public. With this weekly column, I have striven to showcase the fun, fears and follies of an average life in the Midwest.

But that was before I got a taste of the good life and realized that I'm clearly better than all of you lowly plebian commoners. Or at least I was.

You see, for just over two minutes last week, I was a multimillionaire.

I'm a fan of technology, but there's a downside to the modernization of our lives: laziness. With every technological advancement comes a new and exciting way for me to shirk responsibility and spend more and more time on my couch watching Hulu. "Running errands" is a thing of the past -- anything I need these days generally can be accomplished over commercial breaks with a laptop and credit card. Pay bills? Check. Go shopping? Check. Order pizza? Check. In fact, most of the comings and goings in my bank account these days occur without my interference whatsoever, thanks to the magic of direct deposit and automatic withdrawals.

As a result, I've become lax at one important responsibility: check depositing. Every once in a while, I encounter people and businesses with the unmitigated gall to send me nonelectronic, nonauto-depositing paper checks that require (grimace) effort to deposit. I should be a responsible person and take them straight to the bank so I can irresponsibly spend them. Instead, I tend to forget about paper checks and let them pile up somewhere until I realize I'm overdrawn and desperate.

That's where I found myself last week: depositing a handful of long-overdue, already-spent checks into my empty bank account -- and that's when the magic happened.

The largest of these checks was for about $130. But when the cashier at the bank scanned the check, it recorded itself in my bank account as a deposit of $3,200,000. That's what I refer to as a healthy, well-deserved bonus, if I do say so myself. And just like any heroic "Scooby-Doo" villain, I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for that meddling cashier.

She caught her error right away, but refused to listen to reason. I explained to her that to save time, I'd be gracious enough to compromise and allow her to round the total down to the nearest whole million, but she wasn't having it. I begged her at the very least to allow me to take home and modestly frame the deposit receipt showing my $3.2 million checking balance, but she told me that banks generally frown on offering their customers proof of funds that don't exist. What a no-fun-nik.

Instead, I had to stand there while she rectified the error and returned my account back into the red. This process took just over two minutes -- two minutes in which I was incredibly, disgustingly, mind-bogglingly wealthy. As it turns out, my brain can think of a LOT of things in two minutes. For instance:

-- I spent roughly 26 seconds wondering what it would feel like to withdraw $3 million dollars from a bank. What format would I like that in? There are no million-dollar bills. If I had to carry around $3 million dollars, the only appropriate way to do so would be in the form of a comically large check that would require two or three people to transport it.

-- I spent about 31 seconds fantasizing about taking said check down to the casino, flopping it on the roulette table and letting it all ride on black. Or whatever you do when you play roulette. I honestly don't know, since my knowledge of gambling starts and stops at a slot machine lever, which I've pulled a total of maybe four times in my life. But it's MY fantasy, and in MY fantasy, I throw down the check, and in one hand (or one spin or whatever the heck you do in roulette), I bankrupt the casino and immediately take it over.

-- I spent about 18 seconds wondering what I'd name my new casino. Shane of Capri would suffice until I came up with something better.

-- I spent nine seconds realizing that I could easily parlay my newfound casino empire into a small portfolio of local real estate, which would officially make me the Donald Trump of the Quad-Cities, with better hair and a tad less crazy.

-- To fully Trump my life out, I spent 17 more seconds whittling down the list of who I'd want as contestants on "Quad-Cities Celebrity Apprentice." Imagine a talent pool of A-list local celebrities all vying for my affection on cable access. Who wouldn't watch a show in which Paula Sands, Greg Dutra, Red Hot Brian Scott, the Brenny brothers, Suzy Bogguss, Hugo Proulx, Mary from Good's Furniture and the "Drive 20 Save Plenty" kid all have to work together as a team to, I dunno, make me tacos and clean my house?

-- My house! How could I have forgotten? I spent the next 19 seconds cursing because I'd left my phone in my car. In one quick swipe, I could have opened up my Wells Fargo app and paid off my house while no one was looking. Maybe when you're trying to rectify a $3.2 million discrepancy, you don't care so much if a few thousand dollars go missing. If only ...

(Beep.) And that was it. Error rectified, and my seven-digit bank account went back to the crummy three digits it knows and loves. I went from owning a casino to being unable to afford a meal in a casino. After all, things don't come cheap at the Shane of Capri.

So I'm not a member of the 1 Percent Club, and I'll probably be making house payments for the rest of my life. It's not all bad, though. The way I see it, I've just made myself a LOT more interesting. Now I can switch my online dating profile to: "Columnist. Media Consultant. Part-time DJ. Pop-culture enthusiast. FORMER MILLIONAIRE." Ladies, the line forms to the left.
Shane Brown is a columnist for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus. Email him at sbrown@qconline.com or visit his blog at shanebrown.blogspot.com.