Sunday, March 4, 2012

Against All Odds

Do you believe?
I don’t know why I did it.  I don’t generally buy lottery tickets.  I think it was the combination of hearing “$135 million,” having to go outside into the rain again to do the laundry, and feeling a bit morose. 

Why the (insert expletive of choice) not?  What’s the worst that could happen?

I could be a buck poorer … or five.

My father used to buy five dollars’ worth of lotto tickets every week and my sister plays on occasion.  

“You can’t win, if you don’t play,” she tells me.

“Yeah, but it’s not enough,” I argue, when the total is under $10 million.

“Whaddya mean ‘not enough?’” my sister says and already there’s a fed up resignation in her tone.

“Well, if I won, I’d want the immediate pay-off, and that would cut the winnings in half.  Then there’s the taxes, so it’s cut in half again, and after that, there’s the taxes on the income drawn from the interest.  Really, I can’t do what I want with what’s left, so what’s the point?” I say.  “I’d be frustrated.”

My sister stares at me through narrowed, disbelieving eyes.  “So, if I offered you (1/4 of the winnings), you’d refuse,” my sister says, hands on hips.

“No,” I say.  “Because it wouldn’t cost me a dollar and I’d be sure to get it.”

This is usually followed by my sister giving an exasperated exclamation and some comment about my flawed intellect.


I hopped into the car and drove to the local convenience store specifically to buy a lotto ticket.

I’ve never been a gambler on games of chance.  Several years ago, my husband and I went to Las Vegas.  He’d never been and I hadn’t been since my parents took my sister and I back in the 70s, which is almost like not having been.

It was hot.  The place we stayed had several gigantic pools – and every one of them was full to choking.  I’m not a poolside lounger, especially not in 100 degree plus weather.  So, instead we roamed The Strip, checking out the various hotels and casinos.

Like my dogs, I’m sound sensitive, particularly to high pitched sounds.  The electronic whirring, whistling, and chiming from the slot machines were deterrents rather than enticements.  I couldn’t leave the casinos fast enough.  But, it was Vegas. 

I don’t know how to play craps, and I’m weak at blackjack and poker, so I wasn’t about to join those tables.  Having watched “Lost in America,” both my husband and I are weary of roulette.  So, for me, that only leaves the dreaded slots.

“Here,” my husband said handing me a cup of nickels.

“I can’t,” I said.

My husband sighed. “It’s only a dollar,” he assured me and then left to try his hand with Lady Luck.

I put in a nickel and pulled the arm.  Nothing.  I did it again.  Same results.  Third time a charm?  Nope.

I took the remaining nickels and put them towards a cup of coffee, spending a good quarter hour watching the clouds of cream billow and musing to myself as I sipped it.  Definitely, a better use of my money … or rather my husband’s money.  

It’s not the money itself, since I’ve willingly spent a dollar for a fortune telling fish, silly songs, and other odd items.  I don’t even necessarily expect a large return for a dollar.  It is only a dollar, after all.  But I do expect a dollar’s worth of effort on the seller’s behalf and a one armed bandit puts in no effort at all.  On the other hand, I’ve entered contests that were free without hesitation. It’s the combination of cost and chance that causes me angst.

Maybe the problem is that I lack faith in games of chance.  Maybe, like Tinkerbell, one needs to believe in order for luck or the possibility of luck to exist.  What makes everything odder is that I would pay to go to Loch Ness to look for the monster, and I’d gladly pay more than a dollar, which suggests that to me, the potential for the existence of Nessie is greater than me winning any game of chance.  Is it any wonder that my sister rolls her eyes at me?

So, when I arrived at the convenience store, I realized that there were multiple lotteries running and I had no idea which one I’d planned to play, further antagonizing me with the futility of the situation.  But, I prevailed, purchased five Quick Pick numbers.

“You bought a lottery ticket?” my husband asked in amazement.

“It’s $135 million,” I informed him.  “You can’t win if you don’t play.”

“Uh-huh,” he said with a shake of his head and retreated into his office.

I promptly forgot to check the numbers later that night.

I caught the news the next day and it mentioned that the winner was in another state.

Oh, well.  I guess it’s too late to start clapping and believe.

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