Saturday, July 20, 2024

The Dark Lottery

It’s not because I don’t like to waste money or that I don’t know how to do it; the reason I don’t play the lottery is it’s a pipe dream with an equally extreme flip side. If you truly believe that you could be that lucky one in a million who hits all the right numbers and ends up being paid like an NBA point guard for the next 20 years, than you also have to consider that you could end up as that poor guy who spends the last hour of his life locked in the trunk of his late model sedan while a bunch of cold-hearted punks drive around town using his credit cards. 6-17-33-36-40-54: You’re dead.

Whereas the winner pulls charmed numbers out of the air, the unlucky innocent victims simply walk down the wrong street or leave their kitchen window unlocked or fail to notice the colorless Oldsmobile that’s been following them since Fonda San Miguel. They didn’t do anything wrong when they hit the tragedy raffle. It’s just that their number came up.

For every person who is photographed holding a check the size of a door, there are three or four stories in the paper every day about the big losers in the dark lottery. The reality of modern life is that bad things happen to people, and it doesn’t matter if they play the

lottery or not. Just by being born, you have to participate in the game of chance called life. But what I try to avoid is the mindset that something extremely rare and extraordinary is going to happen to me. I’ve learned to be realistic about the odds. I know that I’ve got as much of a chance of winning the lottery as a horse with John Goodman in the saddle has of winning the Preakness. By the same token, I can be relatively assured that the noise I heard outside my window was the wind rustling branches and not three would-be intruders unsheathing their knives.

A monument to false hope and a slap in the face to the old American work ethic, the lottery is an insidious addition to a society already short on values, but I guess that states do it in order to get back some of the money they shell out for welfare and other programs. Don’t tell me that the lottery isn’t crazy. It’s like when all those people line up for half an hour and buy tons of tickets when the pot is way up there, say $100 million, but when it’s only $12 million there’s no fervor. You know — why bother with a lousy $12 million?

I think it’s also insane that poor people in bad neighborhoods play the lottery. Besides wondering if the money might be better used on other things, such as baby food or condoms, I wonder what they’re thinking. I mean, people are being killed for damn wheels. What do you think would happen to someone whose picture’s in the paper holding a check for millions? There’s such a fine line between a ticket to nirvana and a death warrant, so if you don’t mind, I’ll sit this one out.

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