Tag Archives: prize

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.

Ketchup Konfidential (or Catsup Confidential)

I won this contest a few years ago. I opened up a bottle of Heinz Ketchup. It wasn’t a squeeze bottle, it was like a real glass ketchup bottle. And usually, and I know this from working at restaurants for so long, but restaurant owners won’t buy only bottled ketchup. They’ll buy like just a few bottles, and then they’ll fill them up from these gigantic bulk cans when they get low. Or, if it’s in the middle of the shift, or if your boss isn’t looking and you don’t feel like going to the supply room and getting a big can, finding the giant can opener, trying to get all of that ketchup out of that big can and into that little bottle, without making a huge mess, (almost impossible) you can maybe just take two half empty bottles and pour one into the other to make one full bottle. That’s called marrying the ketchups. It doesn’t necessarily have to be ketchups that get married, but you know, I’m just illustrating ketchup, just for the sake of a good description.

Anyway, I opened this glass bottle of ketchup and I heard a pop. Just by what I’ve already written down you should realize how rare that is, to have a brand new bottle of ketchup, like fresh out of the factory, sealed. That almost never happens. Like I said, they use these bottles forever. Well, almost forever. Eventually they look terrible, the labels start to peel off, little bits of ketchup crust that accumulate after daily use, they grow into this thick substance, sharp even, and when you open the bottle some of the ketchup crust crumbles off, some of it getting in the bottle, with the fresh, or fresher ketchup, some of it maybe falling into your food. They’ve got to be tossed after a while, eventually, you just have to suck it up, order another case of bottles, and move on.

But restaurant owners, they’re in it to make money, and so sometimes they’ll hold onto those bottles, like way too long. What winds up happening, under worst-case circumstances, there’ll be this thin layer of ketchup that never gets poured out, it’s always just hanging out at the bottom, every time somebody marries a ketchup they happen to marry it into this one. And ketchup’s pretty vinegary, so it’ll stay good for a while, weeks, months even. But eventually, it’s a food, it’s perishable, it’s going to perish. Stuff happens, things start to bubble. Maybe this one ketchup will be in circulation just one day too long. And the top is on really tight. So all of those chemical reactions, the really old ketchup starting to ferment, whatever, I’m not claiming to understand the science, all I know is, you open that ketchup …

Like one time I was out to eat with some of my friends. It was at a bar and it was a trivia night so everybody was drinking and playing trivia and we ordered food. But the food was taking forever, like an hour, an hour and a half. Everybody’s OK, because there’s other stuff going on, but my one friend, he’s starving. He hasn’t eaten anything all day. So he’s getting pissed off. I’d be pissed off too. Finally the food comes. Oh yeah, did I mention that he was wearing all white? White everything, hat, jacket, pants, white, white, white.

Do I even have to tell you what happened? Unlucky day for an unlucky guy unfortunately decked out all in white. He got that bad bottle of ketchup. Ask him what happens when you let ketchup sit around for too long.

I’m getting distracted. The contest. So I open this bottle, it makes the pop because it’s so fresh, and then I go to pour. But nothing’s coming out. I try doing what my boss in high school always told his customers to do, to “Hit the fifty-seven! Hit the fifty-seven!” I mean, when you say it like that it might be a little confusing, but every Heinz glass bottle has the number fifty-seven carved in the side of the bottle. And I’m telling you, it works. You tilt the bottle, you hit the fifty-seven, I’ve always done it with an open palm, and the ketchup flows right out.

I was hitting the fifty-seven. Nothing was working. I wouldn’t give up. I took a knife and stuck it in the bottle, hoping to draw it out. But it wouldn’t go in. Whatever was inside, it was hard, totally solid. I looked on the Internet, “ketchup, bottle, rock hard,” and I found this obscure condiment blogger who wrote about some promotion that Heinz ran in the sixties. It was like the whole Willie Wonka and the golden ticket thing, but it wasn’t a golden ticket, it was a bottle of solid ketchup. There would be only one, and the person who found it would win a million dollars.

I started to get excited. Imagine my luck, this bottle of ketchup getting passed down through the ages, somehow never being opened. Or maybe people got so frustrated thinking that the ketchup was just stuck, maybe they didn’t know to hit the fifty-seven, maybe they worried about a ketchup explosion, and so they always gave up, always asked for a new bottle of ketchup. But now it was all mine.

I got in touch with Heinz. It took several attempts. Nobody knew what I was talking about, but finally I found somebody who’d been at the company for years. He confirmed was I already knew, that Heinz owed me a million dollars.

“Come on,” some guy told me, “That was the sixties. Back then companies could say whatever they wanted on advertisements and not have to worry about paying up, about legal action.” Still, I wasn’t backing down without a fight. I’d hire a lawyer, I told them, I wouldn’t go away.

Finally one day I got a package in the mail. Several packages actually. Two UPS trucks filled with packages. I told them to drop everything off in the basement. Attached to the last one was a card. It read:

Rob. You wanted a million dollars? Here it is. A million dollars worth of ketchup packets. No fine print in the sixties means we can give you a million dollars as we see fit. Enjoy!

Heinz! I guess they got the last laugh after all. What am I supposed to do with all of this stuff? I tried unloading to the nearby restaurants, and that kind of worked, but nobody wanted to buy a million dollars worth outright. No, I sold like thirty dollars here, thirty dollars there. Nothing really. It barely made a dent in my inventory.

And meanwhile, I know basically everything there is to know about bottled ketchup, but packets? Do these things go bad? Are they all going to turn bad and explode in my basement? That would be such a mess, attracting so many bugs. I’ve got to move this product, it’s like a red time bomb down there.