Do You Play The Lottery?

I do, but mainly because I long ago made myself neurotic about it, not because it makes sense.

When the first lottery games started in California in 1985, I had no intention of playing. The first games were “scratcher” games, which I’ve never played and which I have zero interest in playing. Other folks…

When the first weekly game started in 1986, I again had no intention of playing. I have a degree in Physics with a decent amount of math, as well as an MBA, so I have a pretty good grasp on both statistics and Return On Investment (ROI). I’m well aware that the best course would be to take those $1 bets, put the money in a safe bank account, and occasionally buy a share of a blue chip stock. Anything else was a fantasy.

But that’s logic. This isn’t a logical or rational transaction. It’s terror-based.

Admittedly at a time in my life when I might have been a little bit more stressed than “normal,” I got a bit of a phobia about not playing. (In a way it’s a bit like why I know why I’m freaked out by snakes, but that’s a story for another day.) At the office, we were shooting the breeze, talking about the Lottery game that had just started, and someone said, “Okay, you’re not going to play. Got it. No problem. But, just for fun, if you were going to play, what would ‘your’ numbers be and why?”

In retrospect, this was very much like Gozer the Gozarian asking the Ghostbusters to choose the form of the Destructor. Ray accidentally thought of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man and the rest was history. In my case, my brain almost immediately said, “Easy, they would be x1, x2, x3, x4, x5, and x6, because this is that and that from dates that mean a lot to me, these are from this, that, and the other birthday. Simple, I would never forget them.”

And I didn’t. And couldn’t. And haven’t.

At the time, when the Lottery was very new to California and getting quite a bit of attention, every time they would pick new weekly numbers it was a big deal. It was treated like it was actual news. Live television, front page of the paper, repeated about once an hour for the next day on the radio, etc.

Occasionally I would hear one of ‘my’ numbers. Sometimes two. Once three. And every time, my primitive, monkey-based, Terror-R-Us, neanderthal brain stem would scream, “WHAT IF THEY PICK ‘OUR’ NUMBERS AND WE DIDN”T BUY A TICKET AND WE’LL KNOW FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES THAT WE MISSED BY JUST **THAT** MUCH BEING FINANCIALLY WELL OFF FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES AND WHY DIDN’T WE TAKE A TEENY, TINY CHANCE AND BUY A TICKET IT’S ONLY A DOLLAR WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME SO SCARED??!!!”

So, usually, I buy lottery tickets. I’m not obsessed with making sure that I never miss a drawing. If I get tied up and busy with something it’s not a big deal, and there have been times when I haven’t bought them for months. Then, a couple of numbers will catch my eye…

As for the “other folk” who play the scratchers game, I once knew someone who would buy scratchers tickets and then keep them in his wallet until he “felt lucky.” Then he would scratch the foil off, figuring he had better odds than if he had just scratched it off at some other “unlucky” time. I once pointed out that the card had been printed and manufactured weeks or months before, sitting in storage and in the liquor store (or wherever) until its turn came up and he bought it. The numbers weren’t magically rearranging themselves under there like some bizarre quantum physics experiment, a cultural variation  on Schröedinger’s Cat. I was told that they were doing that, it was better to wait until he “felt lucky.”

Everything’s relative. Whenever I feel a bit neurotic about my terror-based purchase of a lottery ticket, I remember that at least I’m not that guy.

It’s a small source of comfort to me.

What’s your story?


Filed under Paul

3 responses to “Do You Play The Lottery?

  1. I don’t usually buy lottery tickets but if there is a huge jackpot and I happen to be walking past the lottery agent I may buy one, Funny thing is, I use the the phrase “When I win the lotto” more than I actually purchase tickets. I guess I’m relying on a miracle 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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