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.


  1. Money can't buy happiness, but it allows you to rent it for a while. That said, I never play, figuring I have pretty much the same odds of winning whether I play or not.

  2. I truly enjoyed the references to the megalomaniac in the governor's office.

  3. Just escaping for a few minutes is worth the two dollars I spend maybe twice a year on powerball.

  4. Only losers buy powerball tickets expecting to win a big prize, when the odds are an astronomical 1 in 292,201,338. The odds of matching five numbers without the powerball are only 1 in 11,688,054, then you win a million dollars. That's nothing to sneeze at.

  5. Although it's the worst kind of regressive tax, one supposes the millions the lottery collects from citizens either uncaring of or unknowing about the laws of probability lift very slightly the fiscal burden on the rest of us. And giving people a dream to chase is not an entirely ignoble enterprise. As Charles Revson, one of the great salesmen of the last century put it in putting a gloss on the questionable utility of his products: "In the factories we manufacture lipstick. In the drugstores we sell hope."

    Tom Evans

  6. I guess we all have dreams of what we would do if we won the money. One has to imagine that winning such a sum would create far more problems than it would solve.

  7. And yet some are spending more than they can afford on weekly lottery playing.

  8. In Illinois, the state is so broke that the poor folks who did win large LOTTO jackpots couldn't even collect their prizes.

    Via the Sun-Times:
    "Illinois Lottery winners sue for interest payments on delayed prizes

    Sign-up for Chicago Sun-Times newsletters.

    A group of Illinois Lottery winners have filed a class action lawsuit seeking interest payments from the state after their prizes were withheld for about five months last year due to the ongoing budget impasse in Springfield.

    Lottery payouts of more than $600 had been on hold since July 1, 2015, until Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill freeing up funds for prize money to be distributed starting Dec. 14.

    Now the group of 21 winners—who already have cashed prize checks ranging from $1,000 to $2 million—are looking for back payments on the interest those prizes accrued while sitting in state coffers, according to the suit filed Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court.

    Illinois Lottery officials could not immediately be reached for comment Friday evening.

    The group estimates they represent “thousands” of other winners in the state in claiming the state violated their constitutional rights by holding onto the interest instead of handing it over once prize payouts resumed, the suit says.

    B.R. Lane, the lottery’s acting director, is also named as a defendant, along with state comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger and treasurer Michael Frerichs.

    The three-count suit seeks back payments and legal fees."


    1. It seems Illinois has enough funds to annoy people. Michael Frerichs periodically sends out spam email. If they're so broke they should turn off all the spam servers.

  9. As a chronically selfish person, I hate these gigantic jackpots because it clogs up the lines at c-stores and gas stations with idiots buying tickets.

    Bitter Scribe

  10. The queues would thin out if, as you say, these idiots played for the huge jackpots online (e.g. thelotter review), it would make us breathe easier.

  11. These people who buy so many tickets each week should save up and a least get a certif. of deposit account.

  12. Open a Roth IRA instead with the money one would save for those that spend so much per week.

  13. I hope you aren't driving to Wayne area in this ice storm.


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