The Great Lottery Experiment

Everyone thought the announcement some bizarrely complicated typo. “Guaranteed winning tickets,” the lottery promised. The ticket cost twice the normal price, but promised a sure payout. Maybe not the grand prize — even the Lottery Commission wouldn’t promise that — but more than the cost of the ticket. The double-price guaranteed tickets didn’t sell at all the first day, out of suspicion. The first few purchases came the second day, and were as good as their word. People talked eagerly about it. News spread fast; within two weeks the guaranteed tickets outsold the regular-price ones. Which still paid out, yes, but only on rare occasions for even the smallest of prizes.

For a while anyone with any sense bought the guaranteed tickets. Well, what would you do? But in surprisingly little time the thrill of the sure payout waned. There was somehow a purer thrill in playing the regular game. Even if you lost, which you almost always did, you could show to everyone how you had gone about it the harder way and here’s the worthless ticket to prove it. And if you did somehow win after all — well, that was only all the sweeter. Plus, they were cheaper, after all.

So the regular old loser tickets came back. First among hipsters and people who wanted to show how they had the money to just throw away. Then among people who saw that, you know, there was some stupid goofy fun in that way. The guaranteed tickets transitioned into being an occasional thing, something done when a person needed some extra money, or the surety of a prize, or a change from the routine. The loser tickets sufficed for everyday purposes.

Everyone agreed that this taught them something deep and important about people, but danged if anybody could say what the heck it was.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

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