Saturday, November 21, 2009

Why I Don't Buy Lottery Tickets


You know how it works. You walk into 7/11 for a drink. The guy in front of you asks for a lottery ticket, and suddenly that glowing green and gold beckons you. Already in your head you can smell the potential that only a fresh lottery ticket can have; you can feel the shards of whatever that material is sticking to your fingers. You never use a penny because it feels much more rewarding when that stuff is lodged under your fingernails and you see you’ve won an entire... five dollars.

I had won a few of the stingy tickets. Those quick cash whores, spreading their edges for your fingers. Their relative harmlessness keeps you coming back. What’s a dollar here and there?

The last lottery ticket I ever bought was at a Kangaroo. The worst date of my life was almost over. At dinner we had learned we had no chemistry. Not just that, our chemistry was bad. The kind of bad chemistry that could make a quick drink drag out like the bombing of Guernica.

I had resolved myself to escape. Forget the eighty dollars I spent at dinner; this was do or die. Just keep the radio loud enough to drown out any animosity that floated around the car for our final fifteen minutes together.

“I need cigarettes,” she said, pointing at the gas station ahead. I wasn’t about to argue. At dinner the topic of puppies had segued into a fifteen minute diatribe on abortion. I was determined to keep her satisfied until I had left her in her driveway, at which point I planned on screaming obscenities while doing donuts in the yard.

“I’ll get them,” I said. “I’m getting a drink anyway.”

She handed me ten dollars, saying I could buy my drink with the change. Thanks. That’ll cover the thirteen dollar martinis you slurped down at dinner.

I walked in, grabbed a drink and got in line. My wallet salivated as I watched the woman in front of me buy a ticket. “I won a thousand dollars a couple of weeks ago,” she said, scratching furiously as she walked off.

Like a drunk drawn in by that 40, I stepped up to the counter. “A pack of Parliaments,” I told the cashier. “And I suppose I’ll get one of those tickets too.”

I paid the man and scratched at mine. As I unveiled the final number I was amazed to find I had won fifty dollars. The cashier at the counter took the ticket and was starting to count out the money when my date walked in to see what was taking so long.

Once she realized what had happened, this girl made sure to lay out exactly why that was her money. She had after all, paid for it. I didn’t even argue. Were the situation reversed, I was positive I hated her enough to do the same. Sure, go ahead and tack that on as one more reason why suicide would have been a better option than taking you to dinner.

When I dropped her off, I didn’t do donuts in her yard or call her any names, but only because I didn’t want to stay around her any longer than necessary.

I believe that everyone is limited to one (relatively) big lottery ticket win, yet the probability that I will never win again is not the reason I avoid lotteries. I stay away because, to this day, the sight of those big rolls of tickets makes me want to vomit. I see that glowing green and gold and feel like I’m about to pick up Stalin for our very first date.

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