The lottery is like catnip to dreamers. But when it comes to money, I tend to be a pragmatist. It’s hard to earn and I don’t believe in throwing it away on some fantasy. Show me the money not the promise of it. Instant millionaire just isn’t going to happen to someone like me who never wins raffles or even bingo.
However, Barbara threw out the gauntlet. She’s a believer. A dreamer. She’s the one who contacted a clairvoyant to get a read on her future after her divorce. “Try the lottery just once,” she urged. “Buy a cheap ticket. What can you lose?” Money, I replied.
I believe that plopping down money, albeit a small sum for a gamble, is a waste. But I rationalized it this way, thank you Norah Ephron: “Everything is copy.” Hence, I am writing about it, and here’s the chronology of my lottery ticket buying tale.
Noon: Start at a nearby Chinese restaurant that doles out fortune cookies at the end of the meal. My fortune is prophetic: New financial resources will soon become available to you. I flip it over and decide to use the numbers on the back when I stake my claim. See my fortune cookie numbers below.
2: 20 p.m.: Per Barbara’s suggestion, I go to some out-of-the-way location, the kind of place that seems to produce jackpot winners, to buy my ticket.
2:25: I approach the machine at a local grocery store as cautiously as an electric fence.
2:26: I’m still reading the instructions about how to make this transaction. Trying to get my stride. I insert a dollar and push some buttons. The machine rejects my money. I’m convinced it’s a sign. I’m not meant to do this.
2:30: Approached by a Millennial, or at least she looks like a Millennial. She stands behind me in line. She’s yakking on her phone: “Can you believe what he said to me? He needs money; I’m strapped for funds. I’m in line now to buy two lottery tickets.” She starts to stomp her foot while I fumble with the machine. Still trying to insert my dollars. Still being rejected.
2:35: Perhaps this isn’t such a good idea, I think. I turn to the Millennial, “You go first,” I offer. I watch how she does it.
2: 40: I’m still fumbling with my dollars. A 40something man wearing lime green crocs approaches the machine.
2:41: “This is my first time. Feel free to go ahead of me,” I offer.
2:42: A woman with a child who is screaming “I want to put in the money. I want to put in the money” moves toward the machine. The woman apologizes profusely for her child’s outburst. I can tell she wants me to make a decision and get out of her way.
2:43: “Oh, please go before me. I’m slow.”
2: 45: A man wearing torn jeans and a wife beater shirt saunters up to the machine. He seems in a hurry. I’m still fumbling with the transaction. I turn around to apologize and catch him rolling his eyes.
2:46: “Feel free to go ahead of me,” I offer.
2:48: An older woman, her name is Jackie (I ask), approaches with bills dangling from her left hand. “Hey girl. What’s wrong? Is this your first time?” she asks. I nod. “The machine keeps rejecting my dollars.” She offers to exchange my three one dollar bills for her newer ones.
2:49: A man comes up behind her, and he seems agitated. He shouts sarcastically: “Get moving lady up there.” Referring to me. Oh, this is almost worse than road rage.
2:50: “Please. go ahead of me,” I say sweetly to the man. I ask Jackie if that’s okay with her. “Sure,” she says and offers to give me a tutorial once the man leaves.
2:51: OK. Now I know what to do. With Jackie watching over my shoulder, I hit the Powerball. The machine takes my dollar and spews out a ticket with preprinted numbers. “But I wanted to put in my own numbers,” I say to Jackie. She hands me something that looks like a voting ballot for the Mega Millions. “Fill in the numbers carefully and insert it into a different slot at the bottom.” She points. It works.
3:00: I can’t believe this took so long. Suddenly aware of what I just did, I start feeling pretty good. Hummm, I might win. I start to fantasize how I’ll spend my winnings. I picture myself on T.V. being given a big check smiling like a star. And then a slide show in my head begins. I’m seeing all the ways in which I’ll give it away to hungry kids, to find a cure for cancer, for better public education, to eradicate poverty, help victims of crime, support my favorite political candidates, to fight anti-Semitism and to support world peace like Sandra Bullock did in the movie “Miss Congeniality.”
Will I buy another ticket in the future? Probably. Since doing this, I now read my horoscope every morning and am considering a palm reading in my future. Cross your fingers or knock wood that I win.
Addendum: When I had my ticket scanned to find out my winnings, these words came up on the screen: "You're not a winner." After I bought my first lottery ticket, I felt like I was living a short distance from a monetary windfall. Since I didn’t win, I guess I’m still commuting.