Friday, March 30, 2012

Hope: True or False

Everyone in America, it seems, is rushing out to participate in the big Mega Millions lottery. The drawing is this evening, and the jackpot is a staggering $640 million.

Here's a secret: I have managed to reach this advanced age without ever playing the lottery -- until today.

Why not? Even if my chances are only about 1 in 160 million, I might as well give it a try for just a couple of bucks. Somebody has to win eventually, and it may as well be me (echoing the thoughts of millions of Americans tonight, I imagine).

What's the Draw?
Not being a gambler, I don't really understand the attraction of games of chance. It always seems sort of pathetic to me when I see a discarded lotto ticket on the ground, pathetic that someone wasted a couple of their precious hard-earned dollars on false hope.

Nor do I feel pulled to casinos. In fact, they seem ugly to me, dreary, smoke-filled places with people grimly feeding coins into vending machines that give out no merchandise. Whether they're on Native land in California, or rising out of the desert in Nevada, casinos look to me like resource-extraction devices, draped in a very thin glamor.

It Was My Idea
Nevertheless, it was at my request tonight that my boyfriend and I trundled down to the liquor store in his rusty old Toyota to buy lottery tickets.

I didn't even know how to go about buying a lottery ticket.. He had to show me every little step. I had to read the instructions on the back of the card. I had no idea it was so complex,

All the people were gathered 'round the lottery kiosk waiting their turn to use the single pen, to pick some numbers and take their chance. I picked at random, without thought or system, and my boyfriend let the computer pick for him. We spent $4 total. The drawing is in two hours

All this is leading up to what I really found interesting about the whole experience, as a person working two jobs, living in a small apartment with few amenities, and driving a borrowed car. A person like so many others, who works hard and just can't seem to get ahead. A person with one-in-150-million chance of getting a lucky break, a chance to stop the vicious cycle of struggling until your youth fades and your health fails and you die.

What's interesting to me is our conversation about what we would do with our money.

We agreed, by the way, that if either of us won, we'd share equally with one another.And our dreams were rather similar.

I want a house, a Victorian maybe, on a very large piece of land, free from neighbors. A flower garden, a nice big kitchen. I would get myself a reliable, fuel-efficient vehicle.

I'd pay off my student loans and get the government off my back. I'd still work part time because I like to work, but I would also have some of the free time I crave. Maybe I would get my PhD, but only through a distance program, like Texas Tech's, because I wouldn't want to be far from my children.

I'd get everyone in my family set up comfortably, with a helpful person coming by my parents' house every day to give them a hand with their chores and drive them wherever they need to go. I'd set my kids up with a monthly allowance that they could have as long as they were enrolled in college full time or working at least 20 hours a week.

My boyfriend's dreams looked a lot like this too. He'd build a big wall around his big comfy house and garden. He'd surround himself with people who didn't hassle him. He'd buy his mom a house but stipulate that there could be no animals in it. He'd still work too, building and refinishing things, maintaining a small vegetable farm.. He'd buy a truck just like the one he has but new and in pristine condition.

What strikes me about these dreams of ours is that they are so modest. No Ferraris, no Tahitian vacations, no plastic surgery, no exploitation of other human beings at all. Wow, what would the world be like if people got rich and didn't exploit anyone?

The whole thing, the lottery, the millions of Americans participating, the tiny rays of sunshine as they hope, "Maybe it could be me!" All these things seem like a statement on modern American life. We're so fat, so surrounded by plastic crap and conveniences, so seemingly robust and fortunate, but it's false, false, false. Under it all, we're unhealthy, tired, in debt and our dreams are fading fast.

But somebody's going to win the lottery, maybe tonight. Someone is about to get another chance.


beachcomber said...

Not a fan of smelly dank casinos and can't remember the last time I played the Lotto. I lost whatever interest I had when they kept six numbers but one was the mega or whatever. I have what I perceive to be my lucky numbers but NOW I have to choose which one to be the mega...ptfh. And truthfully, I think my chances are better if I buy tickets THIS week, after everyone else has blown their collective wads on the big ones and fewer are clamoring for the smaller jackpot. But don't tell anyone; it's my secret.

Spouse and I are much the same as you: gift the relatives, gift the kids more then go one a really nice long vacation while contractors finish fixing our house's ills. Don't think we'll move or buy a fancy house or car. Might work because there would be something satisfying about knowing you don't HAVE to be there and can pretty-much tell them to pound sand if you want to. Seems like I could tolerate much if I didn't have to.


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