Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

With How Many Times I Have Been “Lucky”…

If you have entered a convenience store to pre-pay for gasoline, or approached customer service at your local grocery store over the past two days, you undoubtedly have been stuck in a ridiculously long line, waiting for your task that was only supposed to take less than five minutes when you left your house. Welcome to Powerball mania.

In full disclosure, I think I have only played an actual lottery maybe once in my forty years of adulthood. Yeah yeah yeah, “you can’t win if you don’t play” is the war cry I always heard at work. My co-workers frequently pooled money together to buy a larger number of tickets to increase their impossible odds of winning even $5. But here we are again. Last night’s drawing was estimated to be $1.2 billion dollars. That’s right, $1.2 billion dollars. Alas, no one won. On to Saturday’s drawing for the Powerball, jackpot estimated to be $1.5 billion dollars.

It is either the way that I was raised, combined with the way that I lived my life fiscally, that I am truly uncomfortable with being the “fool whose money end soon parted.” I honestly have higher priorities, than throwing good money after ba… I mean good money after none.

I get it. I understand the excitement when someone actually wins a scratch off ticket, or a televised lottery drawing. I have known a few people who have won anything from a few hundred dollars to a couple of thousand dollars, but nothing large enough to pull a “Johnny Paycheck” able to tell their boss to “take this job and shove it.”

There are likely two types of lottery players. You have those that play constantly, and consistently, whether it be with daily drawings or scratch off tickets. Astoundingly, it is not uncommon for me to be standing behind someone, who will purchase anywhere between $25 to $100 worth of chance, without the blink of an eye.

But then you have the other type, the opportunist, the “I feel lucky this time” player. This person may not buy scratch off tickets, but when a particular lottery drawing hits a certain jackpot level, that is when this person decides to join in the fun. Probably about two weeks ago, as the jackpot neared a half billion dollars, this person would walk down, and nonchalantly lay down a $20 for the Powerball drawing, not really believing they have a chance, but “what the Hell? Why not?” No one wins, and the jackpot increases, but so does the belief of the purchaser, their chances of winning have increased, resulting in a larger purchase of drawing tickets, as much as $50 this trip.

Tuesday evening, as I was standing in a customer service line, to resolve a two minute issue, I saw hundred dollar bills being placed on the counter in exchange for more chances at the billion dollar jackpot. Sure, nothing is impossible, but putting down $100 for 100 tickets, does not do much to increase the chances of wining something with 1 in a 292,000,000 chance of picking all the right numbers and power ball.

I have never gotten caught up in this mania. I just cannot rationalize taking money, and getting nothing in return. I am not just like this with the lottery, but gambling in general. I have been to casinos a few times in my life. Often times, I just walk by everything. On occasion, I have walked by a card table, and “felt” something (could have been the subliminal tugging on my wallet), and would sit down to play. I would put $20 down (I only played the $5 dollar tables). I would play four hands minimum, until the $20 was gone (losing all 4 hands), or if doubling my money setting my original $20 aside, playing one more hand. If I lost, I would leave with $35. If I won, I would guarantee leaving with $40, continuing to play off that $5. I would not normally play longer than a half an hour. In contrast, I had been involved with someone who held the belief, that even if they hit a jackpot on the slots, and it did happen at least once, there was an intent to put it all back in the machine, because “it was all about the fun.”

“A fool and their money…”

When it comes to luck, I have experienced my share of it, both good and bad. I do not dwell on the bad luck events of my life, but use those as springboards to recover and rebuild. In 1990, I defeated Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and since 2008 I have faced six other health issues that could have ended tragically, not to mention, just barely escaping a head-on car collision turning at the last second.

Nope, if I am going to use my luck anywhere, I have had it at the right time. I respect “my luck.”

I do not begrudge anyone who does play, of course, depending on the state the lottery is from, proceeds can benefit anything or anyone from seniors to education. So, lotteries can be a good thing. And someone, will eventually win. The question that will have to be decided at that point, is how to collect. With the option of having to wait over time to collect the estimated $1.5 billion dollars over many years, or just take the very reduced lump sum amount, which is clearly enough for someone to live on, the decision is not an easy one. How much money is enough?

If I could spare any luck at this point, I would throw some towards the Philadelphia Phillies, a team seemingly set on destiny, to wrap up the World Series Saturday night. Others, will be watching for the Power Ball drawing at 11pm.

Good luck to all.

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