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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Baby, I'm a Rich Man

Millions of Americans, me included, have been taking flights of fancy the last few days. We've all got tickets to a lottery, and the jackpot is up to 1.5 billion dollars. It's the largest jackpot in U.S. history. The drawing is tonight. If no one wins, it will go up even higher.

Lotteries go back in history a fair bit, but weren't always on the up and up. It is a form of legalized gambling, and to give it the veneer of wholesomeness money goes to things like education. But it still gets knocked by a lot of people; some call it the "Poor People's Tax," because only desperate people play it. That may be true on a weekly basis, but I know some people who are quite wealthy who buy tickets when it gets this stratospherically high.

I like the lottery, though I only play when it gets very high. This was true when it was easy to buy tickets, in New Jersey, and especially so now, when it is not. I live in Nevada, which does not have a lottery system. With almost the entire state having legalized gambling, the powers that be don't want to lose any money to a lottery. So my girlfriend drove to Arizona (three times now) to buy tickets. Her wait was thirty minutes the last time. She is smart, because it's also a short drive to California, but in Primm, the first town over the line, the wait was five hours.

I understand the argument about lotteries. When people buy tickets instead of buying essentials, it's a bad thing, but it's like any form of gambling, or any addiction, really (I know people who buy cigarettes instead of food). What the lottery offers, at two bucks a ticket, is the ability to dream, which is not a small thing. If you bought a ticket for tonight's drawing, you're probably spending the money in your head. You're figuring how what will you buy, how much you'll set aside for family and friends, thinking about being completely debt free. Most of us would stop working with that kind of money, and could thus live anywhere. Where would that be?

With that kind of money, if you won the jackpot, you could do really outlandish things (the cash pay out is over 900 million). You could buy a plane. You could finance a movie (my dad and I want to make a remake of Shane--we get to pick the cast, and give small parts to ourselves). I could pay for the college education of everyone of my students. I could self-publish a book, or start a magazine and not care if anyone actually buys it. It would not be quite enough to buy a professional sporst team--maybe a minor league baseball team.

When I've been low, sometimes a big lottery jackpot gets me through the hard times. Sure, I don't win, and I move on. but for a few days that daydreaming is succor to my soul. As long as it exists, I have a way out.

Of course the odds are ridiculously small: 1 in 292.2 million. My odds of winning an Academy Award or being canonized a saint are higher. Also, there are the inevitable "winning the lottery ruins your life" articles. Some people have squandered fortunes, ruined families, etc. But those people weren't smart. I'm just the right kind of person to win, because I would know how to handle it, tee hee. And for those who say it won't solve my problems, well, it will solve all the financial ones. I'd rather have my problems living on the beach, everyday a Saturday, then not.

So, if you have a ticket, good luck--on winning the second-place prize. First prize is mine.

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