I was 10 minutes late picking my elder daughter up from the train station today. I actually left home with plenty of time to spare and so decided to stop off at the . . . let’s say “news stand” on the way. Unfortunately, when I got there, a man was ahead of me who proceeded to buy $1500 worth of lottery tickets. Fifteen hundred. One thousand and five hundred. Dollars.
It took him a while.
I’m not sure exactly how the math works, but with one ticket, the chances of winning are something like 1 in 14 million. Somehow, I don’t think having 1000 tickets strikes 3 zeros off the end of those odds. But I could be wrong.
Somehow, I don’t think that, on the off chance this guy actually wins, his life will suddenly become gloriously happy. But I could be wrong.
Somehow, I don’t think that the week-long fantasy he was purchasing will make up for the disappointment he will feel come Sunday evening when the winning numbers are announced. But I could be wrong.
I sensed that he felt a bit self-conscious about what he was doing – especially with two other customers waiting in line behind him. He might as well have been whispering to a pharmacist that he needed some Viagra. Or Methadone. Or Nicotine Gum.
A good friend of mine has played the same numbers in the lottery every week for years. He says he can’t stop now because, what if . . . .? He’s sure that the minute he stops, sure enough, the very next week those numbers might come and . . . what then? So he buys his regular lottery ticket with a sigh. He says, “There! Now I have paid my Idiot Taxes.”
You see, like in many (or most? all?) places, the lottery is government run. And it turns out to be a terrific source of income for the State. Put that number together with all the tax income from tobacco products and alcohol and one can be forgiven for suspecting that the addictions of the population help to keep the government solvent. What a creepy idea.
I have had my own battle with addiction in life (smoking), but thankfully, gambling has never had any real appeal for me. Maybe it’s because I just don’t fantasize about striking it rich or winning the lottery. Or because, whatever problems I might have, money is not going to solve them.
Or maybe it’s because I have already won the lottery. Twice.
My first win was pretty pissed off about having to wait for 10 minutes at the train station.