Tag Archives: Massachusetts

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.


Every summer my family heads up to this lake in Massachusetts. We all try to spend as much time as we can up there, and, weather permitting, it’s always fun to take the boat out, do some water activities. Fishing. Tubing. Waterskiing.

Waterskiing isn’t the easiest pastime. It’s like, nobody in my family really knew how to waterski, not at first. My dad just bought some waterskis and we hooked them up. That first summer was a lot of everybody hanging out on the boat, taking turns bobbing up and down in the water, waiting for my dad to take off, just trying to successfully stand up on the skis.

It’s not easy at all. You think about yourself, in the lake, these two giant skis attached to your feet. You can’t swim with them on. It’s really all you can do in such an unnatural position to get yourself into a stance where, when that rope you’re holding suddenly jerks you forward, you’ll be able to balance yourself into standing upright, and then hopefully immediately be able to shift all of your weight into such a way that you’re successfully doing it, you’re actually waterskiing behind a moving boat.

For me, for a lot of people, figuring all of this out took a good amount of trial and error. Boarding the boat, navigating the boat out to the middle of the water, turning the boat off, attaching the rope, putting on a life vest, jumping overboard, getting the skis on, maneuvering into position, holding the rope, waiting for my dad to go, “Ready?” before slowly shifting the boat into gear, watching that line slowly unravel until it’s taut. And then the boat is far enough away where you can’t really hear anybody anymore, you just have to give a thumbs up, like go for it, I’m ready.

And that’s when the boat has to power forward, to pull you up fast enough so that not only are you and the skis out of the water, but you’re standing upright, gliding along the surface, skiing. The first time it’s, ready, set, go, and then immediately falling over without ever having even made it up. The line gets ripped from your hands, you tumble awkwardly over your own body, and maybe one or both of the skis falls off of your feet.

The engine then has to be cut, the line needs to be reeled in, and the boat has to slowly turn around and cruise back over to you, bobbing in the water. Someone throws you the line and the whole process starts over again, everybody on the boat watching you, waiting for their chance to give it a shot. My family has been doing this for like eight years now, so all of my brothers and sisters, we sort of know what we’re doing, in a basic way. But when we were all just learning, still figuring it out? That was so much starting and stopping, trying and failing.

When I went to Ecuador with the Peace Corps, I missed out on a couple of summers with the family. One weekend abroad a bunch of us expats were relaxing on a beach at some small coastal town. These guys would walk around, offering water activites, their boats, tube rides, parasailing, waterskiing. I figured, yeah sure, I know how to waterski. This’ll be fun.

He made me buy half an hour of his services. I got on his boat and we went out past where anybody was swimming. “You know how to do this?” he asked me. I’m sure he had tons of people with no experience thinking they’d just get out there and go. I got in the water, gave the guy a thumbs up, and off we went. I was waterskiing. It was fun. And then two minutes passed, and then five minutes. My back was getting tired, so were my arms. We went back and forth a few times and I waved to my friends on the shore.

And then I thought, wow, this isn’t nearly as fun without anybody in my family here. All of that waiting around with everybody else for your turn, watching people fall and get up and try again and fall again, having your ten or fifteen minutes on the water before somebody else gets to have a go, it’s all part of the activity, part of what makes waterskiing so fun.

Here I was on the Pacific, just kind of standing there, thinking that I still had twenty-five minutes to kill of having this guy tug me around. So I let go of the line. He came over and offered to throw me the rope again. I told him that it was OK, that I was done, that I had had enough. It was only like seven bucks for the half hour anyway. He shrugged and took me back to the shore.