The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Might as Well Play the Lottery

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I can’t get a refinance on my mortgage.  I bought in 2006 and financed the place as best I could at the time.  The first year with the mortgage was a real bear, which is pretty normal as you adjust your life around the biggest investment you’ll most likely ever make, but I got on top of things the next year.  That’s not to say things are easy now; they’re not–they’re just easier.  I’m still shelling out quite a bit each month to cover the mortgage, but manage well enough (and perhaps better than many others in these economic conditions).  But time grinds on, and no matter how comfortable and able I may be, things can change fast.  Before I knew it, there was a housing cataclysm and the value on all 48 condos in my complex plummetted.  Now instead of me holding down my mortgage, my mortgage is holding me down.  More specifically, it’s holding my head underwater.  The bank keeps calling to tell me about the phenomenal rates available and how I should refinance, but after a trio of failed investigations into what a refinance would cost given what I owe and what the place is worth, those calls have become nothing but teases.  I’ve asked the bank to stop calling.

None of this is to say that I’m poor.  I’m not.  I have very little debt. In fact, besides the condo, the only thing I owe money on is the laptop I’m using right now. I haven’t missed any bill payments since I don’t know when. I’m not struggling to make ends meet. I’m not hungry. My pantry is stocked for nuclear winter. My school district is preparing to strike, and I’m set-up well enough to navigate those rough waters for as long as I think they will last. I can live a comfortable, somewhat modest life on my salary and savings.  I’m not going to be changing jobs or forced to relocate, so I can in all likelihood ride this out over the next several years with minimal consequence to my normal life.  But I’m still facing the cold reality right now that I won’t soon have any significant release of financial pressure.  By my estimation, I have roughly the same chances of getting a refinance that I do of winning the lottery.

So to spite Fate, I’ve decided to play the lottery.

What do I have to lose, besides the $10 I allow myself per week?  I barely feel the pinch of $10 throughout the course of a normal week anyhow, and $10 isn’t that much to play the sucker on Wednesday and Saturday nights.  Besides, if I follow the right superstitions, won’t that increase my chances of winning?  Let’s hope so.  I realized three weeks into this ill-advised diversion that I had already established a set of routines:  I play Powerball only, I buy five double-play tickets per week at the gas station down the street from my condo early in the week (preferably on Sundays), I get quick-pick numbers only, I stick the tickets to the refridgerator for Wednesday’s drawing and then move them to my desk for Saturday’s drawing, I roll over winnings of $10 or less into the next week’s drawings, and I check the winning numbers on my home computer only.

I can’t think of another area of my life that has become characterized by such structure so quickly, except maybe running 5Ks.  But that’s more about preparation to succeed, not the blind hope of winning big.  My own strange wealth-motivated behaviors aren’t the only ones I’ve noticed in the past few months, either.  I have taken considerable note of what happens when lottery jackpots soar so high that the mere contemplation of the sum is enough to induce vertigo. There was such a jackpot a few weeks ago when Powerball was jacked up to $245 million.  I no sooner said “Lottery pool” in the office than seven people jumped in–3 of whom said they’d never so much as bought a lottery ticket before. The possibility of sudden filthy wealth had us all seeing stars. Several pool jumpers commented optimistically to me, “What the hell?” Given our current labor situation, there were other sentiments expressed, too.  Most of them involved a specific set of instructions about where certain persons can deposit the contract we’ve been offered should we hit the one shot in 195,249,054. Not that it mattered: We bought forty tickets, and none of them scored more than two of the numbers. Maybe next time.

None of these contemplations is meant to gloss over the fact that the lottery is a total sucker’s bet, and the people least financially able to play it are the one who are routinely the biggest suckers.  Never having been a lottery player, I didn’t realize how many lottery games there are, and there are more than enough to feed a serious addiction.  If you consider drawings alone, you can be in as many as forty drawings per week in Illinois.  If you prefer scratch-offs, I counted 48 different ones on the Illinois Lottery website–some that go for $20 and $30 a pop.  Both the drawings and the scratch-offs are glitzy enough to milk the indiscriminate consumer who thinks it’s his turn to beat the odds.  I know first-hand, too, the fool’s paradise the lottery can create in a player’s head.  It’s nice to sometimes daydream about being financially independent for the rest of your life or to envision driving a Lamborghini down Lake Shore Drive to hop on your boat for a cruise on Lake Michigan, but it’s far more important to accept and live within your own reality, and to make steady, if small, steps towards improving it.  I caught myself daydreaming all too much the first few weeks when I started playing, until the reality of the odds finally sunk in.  It took completely crapping out on Powerball and MegaMillions two weeks in a row to see the truth, and that didn’t happen until several weeks into the experience because the first week I won back almost all my money, and the second week I won half of it back.  What kind of fool dreams big after breaking even on a $10 bet?  I’ll give you a hint:  he’s 6′, 195 lbs, and writes a blog.

The idea of sudden filthy wealth from the $245 million jackpot a few weeks back got me to thinking about how I’d spend the money.  Most likely, I would put my teaching career on the back burner for a little while and become a newly-minted Doctor of Creative Writing in about three years.  Most programs can be negotiated in two years, but I’m certain I would lose considerable study time due to the phenomenally long vacations I would take to relieve all the stress from studying.  Heck, I’d probably do the same with a jackpot a mere fraction of the $245 million up for grabs.  Until all that comes to pass, though, I’ll live my normal life in middle-class reality.  I’m pretty happy with it, especially when I can flick Fate in the nose twice a week.

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Written by seeker70

December 28, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Unfortunately I hear they will now be charging $2 a pop for the Powerball. I started playing after I had my daughter 11 years ago because I desperately wanted to be a stay-at-home Mom and enjoy my child growing up unfettered by the need to work. So far, the most I have won on a Hoosier Lotto or the Powerball is $7. But I keep hoping. I found it interesting that you plan to go to school if you win, because my big dream now, if I win, would be to go to law school and have an exclusive log cabin on a private lake. Good luck, Jeff! Hope you win the big one!

    amy

    January 3, 2012 at 10:00 am


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