I never dreamed that taking the advice of local television morning anchors would ever come to any recognizable good, but the one time that it did, well, I just can’t believe it.
They blathered on and on during every hour of their shows for three days last week about the record Mega Millions lottery jackpot: “Got your ticket yet? Got your ticket yet? We’ve got ours! Look at our office pool picks! I know what I’m going to do when I win! Oh, Kathy here didn’t get in on our pool. She’s going to be the only one here on the set on Monday, folks! Ha ha ha ha! Isn’t that right, Kathy?”
Well, they are all going to be there on the set on Monday, because they didn’t win. But take heart, anchors, your endless droning wasn’t for nothing.
I caved in to their marathon of happy talking and bought a Mega Millions ticket bearing a single number, knowing for sure that the estimated $640 million prize was certainly going to be split among some very worthy factory workers in some Rust Belt town in the Midwest. Or maybe some people who work at a hospital or with special needs children. If there was true justice, anyway.
But instead of true justice, what came to pass was true irony.
You see, folks, in this, my last column, I’m absolutely overjoyed beyond all definition to announce that, against all odds, it was I who won a share of Friday night’s millions. And so my destiny is clear: I’m looking to buy an island, no, an estate in Costa Rica, I mean, Bermuda. Wait, though: Bermuda’s already an island, isn’t it? ....
Truthfully, now: Because my deadline for this column was before the drawing, there was no way I could tell you I won. But what I can tell you is that I didn’t win. That’s because I didn’t buy a ticket and wasn’t going to by the end of sales.
The reason is simple. You see, when you don’t buy a ticket, you fulfill the opposite of that lottery slogan: You can’t lose if you don’t play.
And so because I didn’t play, I didn’t lose.
Except for those serious people who buy far too many tickets and jeopardize making a rent or a mortgage payment, for most folks, a few dollars for a ticket is just a momentary lark for momentary pleasure. And I guess that’s OK, because that’s all that virtually everyone gets.
I know that for most folks, buying a lottery ticket isn’t like flushing $2 down a toilet, but that’s what it still is. We all know why: As we’ve all been told, the odds of one person winning are so great that you have a better chance of being elected president, getting struck by lightning, kicking the Kardashians off the air, etc., than winning. And the reason Friday’s jackpot was so big was because for so many weeks in a row, despite millions of people buying tickets, nobody won.
Still, as one guy told a TV reporter last week, somebody has to get struck by lightning.
Yes, but that’s not the way to bet.
For most of us, it’s a minor investment in temporary frivolity and temporary hope. If there wasn’t a lottery, many of us walking into a convenience store would spend that $2 on a king-size candy bar that we shouldn’t eat, but what the heck. It’s quick and delicious. And so are those lottery dreams.
Hey, who hasn’t tossed a dollar into a slot machine in Las Vegas just because it was simply there? I did.
While a friend took a restroom break, I waited next to what I’m sure was a carefully placed bank of slots. I had about $5 in dollar coins in my pocket.
I started putting them into the machine, not because I dreamed of jackpots and riches, but because I had a few minutes to kill. The third or fourth one hit, and about $50 came out.
We used it buy dinner at one of the casino restaurants. Yep, they got all that $50 back, and a little more for the tip.
Today almost all of us — and heck, there is a decent chance that nobody won Friday, which would mean all of us — have returned to our lives and our ongoing dreams that last longer than those we have between a Tuesday and a Friday.
I’ll never understand the culture of lotteries that leads those morning anchors to go on so. When someone from Illinois or somewhere wins, or if no one does, it’ll be a 30-second story for those Phoenix anchors, who just might wonder why they spent days talking about little else.
But they probably won’t.