Saturday, April 7, 2012

Picturin' the Fortune / Just Tryin' to Spin the Wheel

Star of riches, my dick.

A week ago yesterday, I blew a cool $64 on Mega Millions lottery tickets (short-division made simpler: that's 1 ticket for every $10 million in the jackpot and proof that hood dreams can distill the inner tool in all of us). I saved some face with a $10 winner (not pictured, lest the haters emerge from the woodworks),  but at the end of the day I still lost more than $50 on some apple pie in the sky. Were he not so cowardly and delicate, my 18-year-old self would have kicked the living shit out my last-Friday self. He also would've had to borrow the money to play from his mom, though. So fuck him.

I think the lottery is awesome, and anytime the jackpot is around or above $150 million I have no qualms about throwing at least a Hamilton at it. I’m aware that this puts me squarely in the minority of moderately to substantially educated people that feel this way. I can also see how this could be construed by the majority as moronic given the fact that I was a math major for the better part of 10 minutes in college. Rest assured, people of the void, I am quite conscious of the fact that the returns on investment for this game are abhorrent. Statistically speaking, you’re about as likely to be touched by your priest and become president of the United States (though order is not important) as you are to correctly guess 56C5x46. Yet, then again...

In contrast, my bros’ dalliances with the lottery typically stop at second base with assorted scratchers. Any participation beyond that is solely to disparage me for willingly parting ways with my hard-earned dollars. Last Friday, however, even they were caught up in the human brain’s natural gravitation toward hopeful realms as they threw down on a staggering 15 tickets collectively. It goes to illustrate that for all of the recycled talk by the smarter-than-thous and reasonites of the world about how the lottery is but a tax on the poor and foolish, there remains a number (and judging by the number of people I saw last week struggling to figure out how to fill in a playslip, that number looks a whole lot like 640,000,000) at which the level head’s focus veers from probability to possibility.

These fantasies of fortune that fuel the lion's share of lottery purchases are not what ultimately drag me, hung-over and horridly disheveled, from my home on my days off to brave the callous disdain of mid-afternoon Shop-N-Go society. Or at least it’s not the desire to actually become rich that impels me to play. I’ll submit that in the days and hours preceding the drawing, the frequency and amplification of my daydreams appreciate significantly. My list of expenditures and good deeds is more or less set by now. To me, though, the value of the mirage lies not in the infinitesimal chance of its realization, but rather in the time spent in reverie itself. I’ve seen enough episodes of The Lottery Changed My Life to suspect that after the initial high of winning subsided, I would really hate being rich, especially by way of the lottery. The oft-heralded forgotten family members, the people in dire straights blowing up your spot with heart-wrenching pleas for assistance, the sudden and obligatory inclination toward finer taste: these are all things I’d find taxing to my general happiness and quality of life. Conveniently enough, they're also things that I don’t factor in while I’m pipe-dreaming the day away. The whole exercise is a vacation from the mundane of the workday, an escape to a world where pros come without accompanying cons. And that’s really nice.

This ultimately leads me to what I consider the true benefit of playing the lottery. Whilst straddling these two parallel and mutually exclusive realities, the hope from one tends to bleed into that in which it is lacking. For 2-3 days I afford myself at least partial abandonment of intrinsic bachelor concerns (read: basically anything related to money and/or my lack of it) and the stress tied to them. Liberation from worry is incredibly invigorating. It’s a weight lifted, to be sure, and invariably it results in an eagerness to pass that feeling on to others. Put plainly, I don’t just treat people better when there’s an overhanging possibility of pending wealth; I go out of my way to do so. It’s mostly in doing small things for strangers, sure. Opening and holding-open doors, giving up a spot in line or seat on the bus, or just generally being friendly to others are all things you’d expect of yourself normally, but they’re often the first things to be overlooked or abandoned come days of high water. It’s good to be conscious of your behavior towards others. And even if I’m not a rich bitch at the end of the day, at least I’m not just a bitch.

Aside from the intangibles, if you play this kind of game responsibly, you have to look at it solely as means for entertainment much in the same way that sensible folks look at gambling. I’m a terrible gambler in terms of both skill and attitude. When I play, I lose. Then I get angry at my lack of ability, and I lose more. When I awake nude a stone’s throw from the casino, I’m largely forlorn and upset not just that I lost money, but that I lost money because I wasn’t good enough to win it. In this respect, the Mega Millions is a game seemingly made for me. Whereas anyone with discernable talent and winning ability decries the terrible odds allowed by the lottery, this is probably my favorite part about it. There’s no strategy that gives anyone a better chance at winning: not buying a fuck-ton of tickets, not picking your dog’s birthday, not buying from multiple stores based upon diversity of ethnic ownership (the last two might by my own strategies, though I’ll never confirm it). Everyone is subject to statistics and the cruel, indifferent hand of gravity, and it’s awesome. The best part is that when I woke up last Saturday a little more broke than I had been, the only thing I regretted about losing the money was that I had opted to follow the not-so-esoteric advice of a goddamn fortune cookie.

Was spending so much money on this particular venture ill-advised and irresponsible to a fair extent? Unquestionably so. (Though, have I spent much more on much worse? Also a yes.) But as far as cheap thrills are concerned, nowhere will you find a bang/buck ratio greater than this. Hell, the California Lottery slogan says it all: “Imagine what a buck could do…”  IMAGINE?! I don’t have to imagine when I can just tell you outright that a dollar can’t do shit for you today. There was a period of pre-inflationary time when a dollar could put enough gas in your tank to get you all the way down to Flesh Club, where for a couple more dollars you could run that bitch. You go ahead and try to give a stripper $1 today and see where it gets you. Guaranteed that location does not contain the letters V, I or P. Now that's wasteful

You know, in the end, it's like Nas said, "I switch muh motto. 'Stead of sayin' 'Fuck tomorrow', 'That buck that bought a bottle coulda struck the lotto.'" Beleedat.

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