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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Powerball Fever


It's Wednesday, and while that day is celebrated in offices around the world as “hump day”, here at Chez Keith it is better known by the appellation “garbage night”, for this is the day that heralds the weekly chore of lugging the trash to the curb – although, in truth, the plastic bag is seldom heavy enough to be “lugged”, the curb is a mere five feet away, and while ostensibly still a “chore”, the task requires more thought than effort. But today is also lottery night, and with the Powerball Jackpot having surpassed the one-billion dollar mark, Wednesday night has taken on an entirely new dimension.

I decided to throw my hat into the ring. I searched the Internet to learn where I could purchase lottery tickets. The better question, it seems, would have been Where can't lottery tickets be purchased? In a land where one can search in vain for affordable health care or an honest politician, lottery tickets were literally available on every street corner.

My next obstacle was the cost. I had no idea what these pieces of blue sky sold for, and wondered if I had enough change in my pocket. I was surprised to learn Powerball tickets cost $2 a piece. This presented a budgetary quandary – it would mean forgoing my nightly Cadbury Dark Chocolate candy bar. Besides the obvious pleasure of enjoying one of the most important food groups, a single Cadbury Dark Chocolate bar provides 100% of the minimum daily requirement of chocolate. Purchasing a lottery ticket would entail sacrificing my health and nutritional needs, but so be it.

Next, I had to choose the numbers. I had researched this online, as well, and found “expert advice” advising me to avoid 3, 7, and 14 because those numbers won most often and were chosen frequently, and would likely lead to my having to share my $1.3 billion winnings with others. I pondered the warped logic of why it would be better to choose losing numbers and keep nothing all for myself than to select numbers that might actually appear on the winning ticket, even if it meant receiving a paltry $625 million. It seemed to me, I could do quite well with only $625 million. In fact, $1 million would improve my circumstances considerably, but apparently this was chicken scratch to the Internet guru.

The online expert also recommended buying lots of tickets because that would increase the chances of winning. I suppose, were this a question on a statistics exam, I would have to agree the odds might be nudged infinitesimally, but real life doesn’t work that way. The odds of winning are calculated at 225 million –to-one. Now, I know my math is off, but if I wanted to knock those odds down to the odds of an all-or-none coin toss, how many tickets would I have to buy? 112 million? At $2 a piece. And then, I ‘d still have a 50-50 chance of walking home without a dime. No, random means random. I think I’ll have just as much luck as anyone else if I buy one ticket. The guy in front of me buying 100 tickets and I will have one thing in common tomorrow—neither of us will be $1.3 billion richer, but I’ll only be $2 poorer.

Of course, if I did win the lottery, I would soon be approached by long-lost friends who suddenly added me to their Christmas lists, distant relatives who discovered me via genealogy software, and enough charitable donation seekers to make a pack of Girl Scouts armed with cookies seem a welcome sight. Most lottery winners end up losing friends, squandering the money, finding new (or expanding on existing) vices like alcohol and hookers, committing suicide, or even being murdered.

I stared at my winning lottery ticket. (I’ve learned that every lottery purchaser believes he or she has acquired the holy grail, that single slip of paper that will ensure a “happily ever after”). I tucked it neatly in the plastic bag, tied the drawstrings, and lugged the garbage bag to the curb, secure in the knowledge that I had won the Powerball lottery and had emerged unscathed.

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