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Sunday, May 21, 2006


So the lottery has its pitfalls. Namely, you're not going to win. Yes, I realize that, technically, someone has to win - the actual slogan some states use - but it's not going to be you. Powerball is even worse. Your odds of winning powerball are zero. If you had a disease and they told you: you have a 1 in 146,107,962 chance of dying, you may as well not even skip work. You have a significantly higher chance of dying of something else while you wait for the illness to kill you. Besides, it's always civil service employee groups somewhere in the midwest who take these things. And second prize, for matching all but the powerball, is only $200,000. Okay, fine, $200,000 is a lot, but the odds for winning it are 1 in 3,563,608. Playing blackjack with even the most basic strategy is fifteen times more likely to net you $200,000.

I play powerball.

This is a choice which is basically mocked by everybody I know. You know what the lottery is? It's a voluntary tax on people who are bad at math. If movies are any indication, I would be better off just handing the dollar to a homeless person, and hoping that they are an eccentric millionaire who has lost touch with "the people" and has become jaded with his millionaire friends and wants to give it all away and start anew. I assume he would also reconnect with his alianated children, and his wife would leave him, but that's okay, because he could just go back to his high school sweetheart who he should have married anyway because - they were in love. That, or he'll spend it on Mad Dog 20/20. But hey, better than the dollar evaporating.

Yet there's something about it. I used to leave my house every morning at 3:45 so that I could be to work by 4:30. That's "in the morning". Those long drives through the District of Columbia were the worst. The rest of my day, I could avoid the introspection that I so dreaded - but those contemplative winter mornings, I couldn't help but let my tired mind wander to the subjects of discontent. Dating someone I knew I didn't love, a job that I enjoyed the effects of, but which clearly wasn't a long term solution, a thesis that I abhored for a degree in a subject that I had utter contempt for. On a superficial level, my life was everything I could have hoped for - and, in fact, was everything I had been working towards until that point. Yet it felt totally empty. And there wasn't anything I could change.

Helplessness is an emotion that can breed despair in a way that no other emotion is capable of. But buying that ticket wasn't about winning the lottery. That would have been an interesting fringe benefit. Buying the ticket was about the attendant hope - it's a ticket to consider what one would do with the money. It makes those mornings easier, because even a tiny action like buying a piece of, essentially, worthless paper can be an expressive act in defiance of your situation. The lottery is a $1 ticket to happiness.

cranked out at 10:52 AM | |

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