Tag Archives: lottery

Don’t buy scratch-offs in Massachusetts

Everything’s going great, man, I don’t think things have ever been better. Except maybe for that one time I won that scratch-off when I was seventeen. Dude, I felt like such a rock star, I was driving through Massachusetts, and everyone always talks like cashiers in Massachusetts are so strict, like you can’t get anything past their Puritanical ethics, but I was at this one gas station, I don’t know if he didn’t care, or if I just had that eighteen-plus look about me, but this guy didn’t even ask me for ID. And it was like, I had ID ready, I got this ridiculous fake ID at some tattoo shop in the West Village, so this thing was there, ready, already out of my wallet, man, part of me wanted to just show it to him anyway, and as he handed me that scratch-off, I was even tempted to try buying some beer, just to see if he’d give it to me. But better not tempt the fates, right?


When I got back home, I was showing off my big purchase, my parents immediately started giving me grief, “What are you doing spending your money on scratch-offs?” all about how I don’t have money to piss away, where did you get that lotto ticket from anyway, stuff like that. And normally I would’ve gone back, started a huge fight, but I just took out a quarter and started scratching. Bam, two hundred and fifty bucks. That got everybody really quiet. Although, I did have to drive back up to Massachusetts to claim the money, and this time, even though I went to the same gas station, it was a different attendant. I walked up to the counter, I didn’t even ask for anything yet, and this guy just goes, “ID.” And so I’m thinking, do I try out the fake on this guy? He seemed pretty serious, like not only might he not accept this out-of-state Delaware phony resident card, but maybe he wouldn’t give it back, maybe he’d call the cops.

So I was just like, “Uh, give me twenty at pump three,” try to make him feel bad maybe about just assuming that I was up to something illegal, even if only slightly illegal. And I don’t get that, the buying of the scratch-off should be as far as the state gets involved. Once it’s in my possession, man, just back off, all right? Just, I bought that two hundred and fifty dollars, what are you going to do with the ticket, you’re going to claim it?

He said, “You pump first and then you pay. This isn’t New York.” And so, whatever, I didn’t need gas anyway, and I just drove off, thinking that I had to drive three hours back to Long Island, and what, I’d have to convince someone to drive up there with me? Again? No way, I hoped this scratch-off wouldn’t expire, I’d just wait until my eighteenth birthday. I kept replaying the scene in my head. What I should have done is, I should have went to the fridge first, I should have picked out a Mountain Dew or something, and that way the guy wouldn’t immediately think to ask me for ID, like go ahead buddy, let’s see what you’ve got. And then as he was making change, I could have been like, “Oh yeah, I think I have an old scratch-off here somewhere,” made it like more of a casual transaction.

But I couldn’t wait until my birthday, and when I finally got my mom to take the drive with me, as soon as I got that cash, she was like, “You owe me for car insurance,” which, yeah, I guess I did, and I owed something around two fifty, for real, maybe it was even a little more, and so I just kind of handed it over, like the universe giveth and the universe giveth to my mom instead of me.

And seriously, talk about good luck, every time I’ve gone to Massachusetts since, I always make it a point to buy a scratch-off, the ten dollar ticket, the big money jackpot one, and since I was seventeen years old, I swear to God I haven’t won a cent. Not one penny. Isn’t that crazy? It’s like they saw me crossing the state line and they were like, here’s the plan boys, we’ll give him a moderately sized lump sum now, and boom, we’ll have a customer for life.

So yeah, it didn’t exactly end well, but just in that moment, scratching off those five matching numbers, unveiling that hidden coin for the extra fifty bucks, that was a hard feeling to top. Although, I am feeling pretty good right now. I just had a sandwich, and so everything’s just nice and full, my stomach, maybe I’ll have a soda. Maybe I’ll go buy a scratch-off, a couple of Win-For-Lifes.

Too good to be true

If you think something’s too good to be true, that’s when most people would say something like, you’re right, it is too good to be true. But it might not be. It might just be too good while at the same time being totally true. Like winning the lottery. I’ve never won the lottery, so I can’t actually make a comment based on any sort of real experience, but people win the lottery. Regular people, week after week, jackpot, winning numbers, ten million, fifty million, three hundred and seventy six million dollars that previously had not been in your bank account, and all of the sudden you have to hire wealth management companies, you’re looking to diversify investments. Again, it’s never happened to me, but that right there, it seems like it’s way too good, and totally true.

Like when you’re at a professional sporting event, and you see a camera crew walk in through the closest gate, you’re thinking, holy shit, they’re going to come over this way, somebody in this section probably won something, and they’re going to play it on the Jumbo-Tron, this week’s Home Depot Lucky Slam Dunk Winner, you and a guest just won tickets to a taping of America’s Greatest Home Bathroom Makeovers airing this Sunday.

That would be so awesome, you’ve never won anything at a game before, but just as you’re planning out how you’re going to be able to look straight at the camera while only subtly diverting your eyes now and then to soak up the image of your face on the big screen in the center of the arena, it turns out that you got carried away, that the camera crew was headed this way, but you weren’t the winner, it was the family of four sitting two rows in front of you, that these lucky spectators won a fifty dollar coupon to Outback Steakhouse, and they didn’t even try to look at the camera, they were all staring right up at the screen, smiling, waving, their sideways profiles of pure joy on display for everyone in the arena to see.

That was too good to be true, for you yes, but not for the lucky winners. Or maybe, depending on how you looked at it, I guess fifty dollars isn’t a lot of money, not for four people at Outback Steakhouse, and so it’s like, do you really feel like going out for a bloomin’ onion tonight? Not really, but the kids keep bugging about when you’re going to get to use the coupon, that stupid coupon, all right, I guess it’s Outback tonight.

What about when something’s not good enough, clearly not that great, but also true? Like when you’re at that same sporting event and an usher taps you on the shoulder, he’s like, you’re a lucky winner, go over and meet the camera crew at Gate 32. You run down, you have no idea what to expect, and there’s a little hockey net set up behind the middle row of seats, there’s the camera, some announcer is like, “OK! Let’s give a hand to our lucky contestant! All you have to do is hit these pucks into that net!”

Which should have been simple enough, but when was the last time you held a hockey stick? And this thing isn’t big enough, it’s hard to get a grip. You shoot the first puck and it’s a miss, you hear the entire arena let out a collective sigh of disappointment, are they playing this on the Jumbo-Tron? Two more shots, each one similarly unsuccessful, the audience starts to boo, they’re turning on you. “I could have hit that! You suck!” everybody’s chanting on your way back to the seat.

But the producer felt bad for you, he’s like, “You know what? I’m just going to give you the prize anyway, even though you didn’t hit the net, here you go.” And for a second, you’re spirits are buoyed a little, I could use a fifty dollar gift certificate, that would be a lot for just one, and you’re already starting to lick your lips when the guy hands you a rolled up t-shirt, it’s for the hockey team you’re here to see, but it’s a size XXL, and it’s got a big advertisement on the back, so you’ll never wear it.

My desk is cluttered with junk

There’s a Powerball ticket on my desk from last week. I already checked the numbers, and let’s just say, if you’re holding any outstanding IOUs, keep holding them. I’ll make good on them eventually, I promise. Well, promise is such a strong word, but let’s say just one degree short of a promise, you know, barring any unforeseen circumstances, like if I die suddenly and I can’t pay you back, or if you die suddenly, and I can’t pay you back. I don’t want your ghost coming back to haunt me, “A promise is a promise!”

Also I have this tiny stapler right here, it’s really small, like when you buy a regular sized stapler at the office supply store, a lot of the time, included in the box, there will be like a mini sized stapler, only big enough to hold twenty staples at a time, maybe twenty-five. I’m not quite sure how this stapler wound up being the only stapler in my possession, but that was it, that’s what I was relying on for the rare instance when I needed between two and fifteen pieces of paper stapled together. But this thing is such a piece of junk, which isn’t fair really, I’m sure it wasn’t built for the long haul, primary-stapler role I had assigned it. A staple got jammed a while back and, on a normal sized stapler anyway, I’d just slam it down harder, forcing everything out. But on this little guy, all I did was jam another stapler in there. It got past the point where it’s fixable. It won’t even unhinge anymore. I don’t even remember the last time I’ve thought about it. Like, how long has it been on my desk, broken, taking up space?

A few inches away I have this click pen, it’s white with blue letters screen printed on the side. Although they’re really faded by now, at one point it said, “The Journey,” it was the name of a megachurch, something evangelical. One time maybe four or five years ago, I was waiting tables and these Southern tourists left me this pen in lieu of a real tip. I thought, really? You want to convert me to your religion and the best you can do is this pen? Still, I kept it in my rotation of pens, handing it to guests after I’d run their credit cards. I was indiscriminate as to who got to sign with my The Journey pen at first, but after a year or so, I started to imagine it to wield magical tip-boosting holy powers. I could tell that if I kept handing it out every day, it would break or I’d lose it. So I started saving it for only the worst tables, like people that would not be pleased, heavy complainers. After a miserable experience for the both of us, I’d hand them their credit card with a big fake smile and say something like, “I hope you have a blessed day.”

Both the stapler and the pen are sitting right next to my watch. It’s very basic, some sort of a synthetic navy blue strap attached to the same colored navy face. Two months ago or so, the watch stopped. I remembered making such a big thing of it in my mind, like how it would turn into one of those simplest of chores that I’d just never make an effort to actually get done, how I’d lose all track of time, I’d get fired for being perpetually late. I freaked myself out to the point that I left my house that very second and rode my bike to this dingy watch repair shop on Broadway. I walked in and the guy didn’t even say anything, he had a special watch monocle, he used little tweezers to artfully remove the old battery, put a new one in, and then adjust the date and time to make up for all of the lost minutes and hours I’d let slip away since the battery died. I asked him, “how long do these batteries last?” and he told me, “Six months.” He charged me six dollars. What’s that like, a dollar a battery? Not too bad, something I could definitely make a little room for in the budget. But just last week, the watch died again. I brought it to the same watch guy, went through the exact same routine, he took my watch, my six dollars. What’s the deal? Are you giving me defective watch batteries on purpose to bring in more business? Am I being played? But for six dollars, I don’t know, I can’t really get myself to even bother asking another watch question. I guess six dollars every two months isn’t that expensive either, and as long as I’m careful about my money, my Powerball tickets, not writing out too many new IOUs, I think I can squeeze it in, yeah, I can definitely make it work. I’ve got to be able to be on time, right? Nobody’s getting paid if I’m not getting paid, if I’m not showing up on time because I don’t know what time it is.

I didn’t win that six hundred million dollar Powerball jackpot

Last week someone in Florida won the six hundred million dollar Powerball jackpot. I was so pissed. I was positive that this time it was going to be me. It’s like, I always feel like I’m going to win, I’ll always look at the ticket and get into these really deep thoughts inside my head, thoughts like, the numbers haven’t been chosen yet, and so any of these tickets could be potentially worth all of that money. And it just blows my mind that over the course of twenty seconds, the value of this little slip of paper could jump from nothing to everything.

And so yeah, at some level I’m always like, this is it. This is the one. And I recognize that, and I try to suppress it, to not let myself get carried away, just ripe for an almost guaranteed disappointment. But this time, like I said, I was beyond sure. I could feel it. You know how like sometime when you’re bored you’ll just sit there and check your email every five minutes or so, not really expecting anything, but just wanting something to happen? And you’ll check and hit refresh and nothing, there’s never anything, and you get like really numb to the whole process. And then another five minutes go by and you go to hit refresh again but this time something’s different. This time you have a feeling, a certainty, there’s going to be something there. And sure enough, there it is, an email.

That’s what I had this time. I had that gut certainty, like holy shit, this is real, I’m going to win the lottery. And now that I haven’t won, my whole email prediction theory has been thrown out of whack also. Maybe I don’t have special email prediction powers. Or, maybe my prediction powers only work for email, and so when I was looking down at my Powerball ticket, and I felt that feeling, like this is it, I’m going to win, maybe I should have just checked my email, there was probably something sent right that minute. And maybe it’s all about honing in on those email powers, strengthening them. Eventually I’ll get so good at it that I’ll be able to turn push notifications off on my iPhone. I’ll just know when new emails are coming in. That’s going to save so much battery life.

But that doesn’t have anything to do with the lottery. I had plans for that six hundred million dollars. First, and I told this to my family and friends, you know, the ones who were listening anyway, I told them that I’d spend a hundred million on a huge advertising campaign, billboards, TV and radio commercials, just getting it out there that I was the winner, that I’m the one who collected the giant jackpot.

I was hoping that people who have wronged me in the past, people who’ve maybe made a joke or two at my expense, or took a pen from my desk when I wasn’t looking, basically, any small sort of transgression that either escaped my knowledge or didn’t warrant me committing it to my permanent memory. They’d think that they got away with pulling a fast one on me, or getting in a good laugh about some lame prank. But then they’d look up at these billboards everywhere, it would be me, giving a thumbs up, to myself, and a text bubble coming out of my mouth, “I won six hundred million dollars, suckers!”

This could even apply to anybody just thinking negatively about me at all. But whatever, the advertising money would come and go. Obviously it would be kind of foolish to keep financing a campaign like that for an extended period of time. After I spread the word, I’d pull back somewhat, try to get a grip on living a regular life, something that wouldn’t change who I am too much.

And so I was telling this to my mom and she kind of laughed (I wasn’t kidding) and she said, “So would you quit your job?” And I was like, “What are you crazy?” and my dad interrupted, “Don’t call your mother crazy!” and I was like, “Sorry dad, figure of speech.” But no way, I wouldn’t quit my job. I would just go back to work like nothing happened. And it would be the best. I’m a waiter, and the worst part of waiting tables is that basically everybody in the whole restaurant is my boss. Every single customer can flag me down and start barking orders at me, and I have to say, yes sir, yes ma’am, right away sir, very good ma’am.

But if I had six hundred million dollars? I’d be like, listen, here’s five hundred dollars. You go into the kitchen and get me another Diet Coke. And they’d be like, you got it. So I’d be sitting there at this table with this random person’s family. I’d be smiling, laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. And then that person would come back, I’d take out my wallet and say to this person’s dinner party, OK buddy, now I’ll give you five hundred dollars to take that Diet Coke and pour it over your head. And they’d do it. I’d laugh. They’d laugh. We’d all be laughing, having a great time.

And maybe my manager would come over, “All right Rob, get up, you’re out of here.” And I’d just take out my checkbook and pay my manager to give me a raise. And then I’d make him go into the kitchen and start eating steaks until he’s sick. And everybody would keep laughing. I’d bake hundred dollar bills into the bread and watch people initially get really upset with a foreign object in their meal, but ultimately ecstatic at finding such a cleverly laid surprise.

But yeah, I didn’t win anything. I guess I’ll just have to be content at hiding pennies and dimes in the cracks of the seats, hoping that somebody might find them and go, hey pal, I just found some spare change, you want it? It’s all yours man. And I’d be like, thanks a lot, I appreciate the gesture. Would you like another Diet Coke?

I think I really want to win the lottery

Whenever the lottery gets past a hundred million dollars, I always start buying tickets. Everybody starts buying tickets. People at work start hitting you up for a dollar to pool your chances. You’ll be on line at the grocery store and you overhear the guy behind you and the lady in front of you talking about the jackpot, the big win, what you would do with the money, how much the take home amount is after taxes.

The really big jackpots, they never get hit right away. They keep growing and growing. And these multistate prizes, sometimes they get really up there, like almost a billion dollars. The chances are infinitesimal of actually winning, but still, somebody eventually wins. Somebody’s going to beat the one in a trillion odds. Why not me?

And that’s the mindset that I have right after I buy a ticket. I try to temper my expectations, but it’s really no use. My mind’s already planning out how I’m going to divide up the money, who I’m going to give to and how much. I always think about this, the dividing, and I never really figure out a good solution. Just give me the money first and then I’ll figure it out.

But seriously. I have a big family. Tons of extended family members. So does my wife. Do you have to make a list, like everybody that you know? And then how do you decide who gets how much? Immediate family would obviously get more, and then as you go outward less. But even that doesn’t sound right. It sounds almost feudal, something twisted about it. And wouldn’t that change everything, make every family get-together really weird?

Another solution would be to just divide it equally amongst just immediate family members, thus splitting up the responsibility of sharing with the extended family. But that sounds even more complicated. Depending on whose relationship with who, some people might get more, some might get forgotten. Can you imagine being part of a big family and somebody wins the jackpot, and while everybody else is getting cash bonuses, you get left out? Do you say something? Even if you do, even if you eventually get some money, that’s definitely going to do some lasting damage, straining family ties. Or what if everybody in the family starts sharing the wealth except for one person, he or she keeps it all to themselves. That wouldn’t really be fair but what are you going to do, make them share it? That defeats the whole purpose of sharing the responsibility.

And then on the other end of the spectrum you could just give the majority of it away and keep a small sum for yourself. Again, this doesn’t seem like a solution. Everybody that you know might get bitter, like gee thanks, you’d rather give your accidental fortune to a faceless group of strangers than to your own friends and family. And who are you going to trust to dole out the money, charities? How do you know your money is going to be doing any real good?

One time I saw a documentary about the lottery, and basically everybody that won a jackpot experienced a bunch of negative consequences, like losing all of their friends, or wasting all of their money on nonsense. There was only one winner, some guy from Vietnam, who really knew what to do with the money. He bought a bunch of gas stations, he started generating more money. He’d send tons of it back to Vietnam, building up his old community. He set his kids up with their own businesses, making sure everybody had the means necessary to keep making their own wealth.

But that’s really tough. Not everybody can manage a business. And that’s what you need, a good manager, somebody great with long-term goals, a leader. I’m not sure that I’d be a great leader of that wealth. But even if I won a jackpot and handed it over to a wealth manager, I feel like I’d still make enemies, people close to me who think they’d do a better job with the money. Maybe there’s no solution, for me, maybe it would ruin my life as I know it.

But I still want it. I still really want to win the jackpot. I wouldn’t have to wait tables. I could pursue any type of creative project, finance a movie, record an album, anything, everything. And so yeah, when the numbers get that high, I always throw money in. Maybe all of those problems would sort themselves out.

Today I bought a ticket and while I was feeling that feeling, like it might actually happen this time, like it’s totally going to happen this time, the logical part of my brain chimed in: you know you’re not going to win it. It’s almost guaranteed that you won’t. And that’s how it always happens. The momentary delusion slowly chips away, until it’s right before the drawing, and the majority of my consciousness is a lot more realistic to what’s going to and what’s not going to happen.

I was thinking, what about that Schrodinger’s cat experiment, the idea of the cat in the box that may or may not be killed. The gist of it says something like, until we as observers open up the box, the cat is equally alive and dead at the same time. I’m not pretending to understand at all what’s going on scientifically, but could it be the same with the lotto? Until we figure out who wins and who loses, aren’t we all in the same state of quantum flux? What if they do the drawing in a box, so nobody can observe the numbers being drawn? Would I get the same dead cat/alive cat magic? Because somebody’s going to win. Why can’t it be all of us and none of us at the same time?