By LEON YOUNGBLOOD
I readily admit, I wish these thoughts on losing the lottery were rather thoughts on winning the lottery. And I don’t meant that “penny-ante” million-dollar stuff, either. I mean that $700,000,000+ stuff that some undeserving Yankee won last week in Massachusetts.
I confess, I spent two dollars on a ticket. I yielded to temptation.
The temptation came via a cashier at a small-town store, who asked as I was paying for gas, “Do yo’ want a lotto ticket? Dat Pow’ Ball thang, it up to more’n 700 milyuns.” (And incidentally, this is exactly how the good man spoke.)
I asked, “Well, sir, do you think I should invest two dollars?”
“Suh, dat between yo’ and de Lawd. If d’ Lawd want yo’ t’ win, yo’ll win. If He don’t, you won’t. But it’ll cost yo’ two dolla’s to find out de Lawd’s will, ’cause Ah cain’t help you on dis one! But Ah’ll sell yo’ a ticket. Ah’ll sell yo’ as many tickets as yo’ want!”
I bought one.
“Now, fren’, sellin’ dis h’yar may be blasphemy,” the clerk said as he handed over the ticket. “Yo’ know what Jesus said ’bout ‘love o’ money?’ But dat ain’t ’bout jus’ de rich folks. De rich, dey know how to use money, an’ how to ’niputate money. But it look like it take people who ain’t got no money to worshup it prop’ly. Dat jus’ ain’t somethin’ rich people can do. In fact, it us po’ people who worshup money mo’. Do yo’ know how many tickets Ah’ve solt to people who cain’t affo’d to buy dey babies milk? De devil, he sho’ know how to temp’ people wid dey dreams an’ hopes! But Ah ain’t no diff’runt. If’n yo’ win, yo’ will remembuh yo’ fren’ Billy, won’t yo’?”
I promised I would, and shook hands with the old gentleman to seal the deal.
I am something of an authority on losing the lottery. I know all about it. It is unlikely the various states’ lottery schemes would survive if they depended solely upon persons like myself to sustain them, but they are ahead on what little I have spent over the last couple of decades. They have more of my money than I do of theirs’.
Is it fair? Sure it is. The “something for nothing” temptation is at the heart of all forms of gambling, perhaps, but in spite of atmospheric odds, people do win. The Massachusetts $700,000,000 winner had equal odds of being struck by lightning while drowning.
An element of the gambler’s psychology was summed up by a retired friend when he observed, “I’m not going to become a millionaire any other way.” He spends six dollars a week, and always plays the same numbers. He hasn’t won yet, but his bills are paid and he and his wife are able to get the grandkids plenty of things they don’t need.
Which brings to mind when “Riverboat Gambling” came to Vicksburg, Mississippi. My wife and I were traveling south to visit my Mom, and had to pass through that city. We had heard fables of feasting like royalty for a few dollars at these new casinos, as the bill of fare was paid for by gamblers.
We stopped at one, late in the evening, for dinner. The doorman greeted us and, to our inquiries, explained we could get sandwiches, but that was about it until restaurant installation was completed. He suggested a couple of other good places to dine. We thanked him, and left.
Going back to our car took three or four minutes. I noticed the people going in: a dozen old retirees, some using walkers, spending their pensions on entertaining distraction; and dozens of younger adults who looked like the sort who would probably be gambling with the rent money. They shouldn’t have been there.
The scene still haunts me. The gambling industry is heartless. They want your money even if your babies starve.
With Billy, I had at least made a friend. I said, “Brother Billy, if I win the jackpot, I’ll give you $2,000,000 for talking me into buying the ticket. What would you do with the money?”
“Suh, Ah’d still be behind dis h’yar counter.”
Bemused, I asked, “Really?”
“Yessuh! ’Cause Ah’d own the sto’! We’d be callin’ it sumpthin’ else, though.”
It’s a moot point, now, of course. Billy and I lost, but we can still dream.
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