Ambivalent? Want to Bet?

By Jeffrey Page

I studiously avoid the state lottery. Except when I don’t. Once a year or so, I’ll buy a ticket that guarantees $50,000 a year for life. A modest sum in Lottery Land.

Nevertheless, on Tuesday afternoon I stopped in at a gas station for a roll of Tums and noticed the handwritten sign taped to the door. Top prize in the Mega Millions game was up to $332 million.

It was like the Sirens singing to Odysseus and his crew. I went inside and found myself staring in quiet contemplation at another sign taped to the Lottery ticket machine. Tums in one hand, five-dollar bill in the other, I couldn’t move.

“Going to do it?” the fellow behind the counter asked. Friendly guy.

“I don’t really approve and anyway it’s like running your money through a paper shredder,” I said.

“You didn’t answer my question,” he said. Friendly.

I thought about all I could do with $332 million. Start a foundation whose mission would be to figure out how to re-take America from the extreme right. I would issue college scholarships, donate large sums to certain green organizations I admire. I would send hefty checks to some food banks I’ve helped far more modestly in the past.

I wouldn’t embarrass members of my family by asking if they needed some help. But if any of them, asked me, I’d write a check. No question.

Oh, and I’d buy a modest place to spend the winter, somewhere where it doesn’t snow. I’d buy a lot of music, and a subscription to the opera. Good seat in the orchestra.

Hey, you know, this millionaire business could be a lot of fun. I bought a ticket. “I knew you’d do the right thing,” he said, laughing.

I just bought that one ticket and had very serious second thoughts as I walked back to my car knowing the lottery is wrong. But then I wondered how high a stack $332 million would be in all $20 bills. Pretty high, I thought. (I discovered later that it would be almost 6,000 feet high; you could look it up and do the math.) I was impressed, quickly forgot about my misgivings, concentrated on three-hundred-thirty-two-million dollars, and was happy as I drove home.

I looked at the numbers on my ticket: 1-7-9-10-19-6. All low numbers. Can’t be good. Wait, this time it’ll be good because think of all the people I’d make happy with some of my $332 million. They say that winners of huge lottery prizes often wind up miserable, despised by their friends and family. Not in my case, of course.

I checked the paper on Wednesday morning. 4-8-15-25-47-42. The winning numbers seemed about as far away from my crummy numbers as you could get. Goodbye, opera.

But today I am an unmiserable man. My dollar’s gone. But I am once again moral. I again think that dangling big money before the public isn’t an ethical way to run government. But see me in a few months when the top prize again goes astronomical. Maybe we’ll have to talk about morals again.

What about you? Do you approve of the lottery as a revenue raiser, especially now in these hard times? Tell Zest of Orange. Oh yes, and what would you do if you won a nine-digit jackpot?

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One Response to “Ambivalent? Want to Bet?”

  1. Jo Galante Cicale Says:

    Oh, Jeff i think you’ve over-“thunk” this. I blew $5 on the mega mil the other day. My plan is pretty close to u. You know how we bleeding heart liberals are; we still want to save the world. I think about our local teen homeless shelter that just needs sheets and a new dining room set. and yes some family whose lives could be made easier. I only play when the stakes are high. I don’t like that this is a method to fund education, but then those flashing lights announcing $237 million sucks me in. We don’t lose our moral center in the process. You must see those people who have their own cards that they play weekly – usuallly on payday. They are the sad ones.

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