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.
There’s this billboard showing the current Mega Millions and the Powerball lottery jackpots. It’s gotten a little crazy the past week since, well, you know. Last Saturday we were driving past it and there was the powerball sitting at 800 Million. And next to it, poor little Mega Millions trying to drum up interest in a mere 15 million dollar payout. I can’t help thinking that Mega Millions has been spending the last several weeks crying out, “Ma! He’s doing it again!” And Powerball yells back, “What? What? I’m not even touching you! I’m not touching you!” There’s surely a lot of slapping involved.
Anyway, this week, the Powerball sign moved over from saying ‘Millions’ to ‘Billions’ and the numbers don’t look so enormously different. Still, Mega Millions is sitting there at 15, resolutely not moving. It’s got me wanting to go over and buy a Mega Millions ticket just so it doesn’t feel completely unloved anymore. Maybe I’ll also pat it on the back and give it a jelly roll or something. Its time will come. We all have to get lucky eventually.
This is one of the Halloween decorations we’ve got. It’s from the same kit that was hung up in elementary schools when my love and I were kids, and it turns out they’re still being printed and sold and all that, so that’s great. And, you know, it may look like a slightly nightmarish howling skull on fire. I find that impression dissolves just as soon as you know that the skull is actually wide-jawed with joy and surprise at learning she just won $35,000 from a scratch-off lottery card. And suddenly, now, aren’t you grinning a little and realizing that you don’t know whether it’s possible to tell whether a skull by itself is male or female? That’s because the correct answer is: it’s a skull on fire. How could she even scratch off the card?