Saturday, January 9, 2016
Okay, I'm stupid too....
Yeah, I bought a Powerball ticket. Friday, on the way to the train.
Stupid, I know. Because I'm not winning. Nobody is winning, at least nobody has for the past nine weeks. Which is why the jackpot is $800 million. The media focuses on that enormous, nearly-a-billion buck payout, and not the fact that you could have bought every single ticket sold for the past two months and change and still not won.
But I bought a ticket anyway.
Why? I suppose because I was hungry, which might sound strange. I had a small salad from home for lunch, now it was late afternoon, I popped into a Corner Bakery. I didn't want to buy a 600 calorie muffin. So I bought the smallest thing in the store, a 99 cent ruggalleh (a little cookie-sized square pastry, for you non-Jews). It cost $1.10 with our highest-in-the nation tax.
So a buck plus shot to momentarily bat back hunger, and no chance at all for the Mount Everest of cash. That softened me up. So when the hand-drawn sign saying "$800 million jackpot!" or some such thing, in the window of the convenience store in the Civic Opera building caught my eye, I had just spend almost as much on next to nothing, and I knew I had two singles in my pocket.
What the hell? Why not?
Lots of reasons. A sucker's bet. A vote for innumeracy, for failing to grasp the reality of long distances, long spans of time, long odds. The odds of winning the Powerball lottery are the same as the odds of picking one person at random from the population of the United States of America and having the person you randomly select be Barack Obama. I played the Powerball a month ago, because they had set up a machine at the 7-11 in Northbrook and I wanted to try the new machine out, and I didn't hit one of the six numbers you need to match. It's like setting out on a journey to Alpha Centauri and making it to Lincolnwood.
The glib line is that you are paying for the dream, and I did think of what I'd do if I won the money. Ready for something sad? My dreams of avarice were a new driveway and siding on the house.
The truth is, even those who win, which I won't, half the time end up wrecking their lives with the money. They were happier without it. Just as money can't buy a personality or a heart, as Bruce Rauner proves, so it can't buy happiness either.
Sigh. So putting down two bucks on the same irrational stupidity that leads people to anti-vax theories and the belief that space aliens are watching us, and airing my small-bore dreams of adequacy in the bargain. Chasing the same empty dream that turns cooing babies into Bruce Rauner, forming his fingers into pyramids and cackling over his piles of gold.
Well, honestly, just to see that trait laid bare is worth two bucks. And picking up shirts on Saturday morning, the dry cleaner and I had a pleasant Powerball exchange. And my youngest and I passed five minutes actually talking to each other about how we'd spend all that dough. So I did get my two bucks worth after all.