October 19, 2005

Pondering the Powerball

Last night, I almost won $340 million. OK, I didn't come close. But, a man can dream, can't he?

I'm usually oblivious to the Powerball lottery, mainly because I'm smart enough to know that I have a snowball's chance in hell of actually winning. Come to think of it, how would one manage to transport a snowball to hell? What unlucky courier was tasked with delivering a mass of compressed frozen water to the underworld of the damned just to verify the accuracy of that cliché? I'm betting it was a UPS guy. Poor fellow; those trucks don't even have doors to shield out the heat. He must have been sweltering. . . and scared out of his mind.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, right. . . Powerball. As I said, I typically don't pay much attention to the lottery, because I understand that the odds are entirely stacked against me. As far as likelihoods go, there's a better chance that I'll discover oil, gold and a mummified Egyptian pharaoh by digging in my basement than winning the Powerball. So, I don't participate in the lottery all that often, because I'm obviously too busy digging in my basement for that elusive mummy.

But, when I'm driving home after work, and I see one of those Powerball billboards proclaiming that the winnings have ticked up to $340 million, well, my usual inner rational Scrooge becomes a sudden spend-head who says "Oh, what the heck. It only costs a dollar. In fact, buy five; improved odds!"

Of course, I wouldn't have actually won $340 million. The actual estimated cash value after Uncle Sam steps in to collect the "You're-Too-Lucky Tax" was about $164.4 million, which is still a respectable sum that could buy a few trinkets here and there.

I'm not totally naïve. Becoming a $164.4 millionaire over night would completely change me. I readily admit that. I'm not strong enough to say "I'm just a simple Minnesota boy who would never change." Of COURSE I'd change. Man would I change. I'd even stop buying Levi's jeans and upgrade to those Guess jeans that, for no particular good reason I could fathom, were so popular in the late 80s and early 90s. I'd also have all my teeth replaced with diamonds because then, man, I could chew anything, and I'd have the most sparkly smile in the world.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself here. I have to actually win the Powerball first, and I already touched on the snowball in hell aspect of those odds. But, let's say I actually did win. I've pondered what it would be like, to suddenly be standing in my living room, having just realized I hold a ticket worth millions and millions of dollars. There are not enough psychiatrists in the world to talk me down from the sheer paranoia I'd feel at that exact moment.

I once thought I had won $10,000 on a scratch-off lottery card and, man oh man, was my mind racing, creating all sorts of scenarios of how best to get that card to the lottery office in the Twin Cities. I was all set to take off work the next day and stay at a hotel that night. My hands were shaking, and there was a slight ringing sound in my ears. Ten minutes later, I realized I had only won $10, and the letdown, shall we say, was considerable.

And that was only for $10,000! Imagine my bowel-loosening paranoia if I actually won the Powerball! You couldn't pry that ticket out of my hands with a team of horses. It could very well be that I'm not genetically prepared for dealing with sudden, obscene wealth. I'd certainly like to test that hypothesis, of course.

But, anyway, I didn't win. Some person in Oregon did, and that person is no doubt right about now making a dental appointment to have diamond teeth put in, that lucky jerk.

Or, at least they should be making that appointment because, man, then they could chew ANYTHING.

Posted by Ryan at October 19, 2005 11:45 PM | TrackBack

I hate the lottery. I hate that it gets your hopes up even though you really have no (statistical) chance of winning. I hate that people go nuts for the lottery when it gets to the big, big numbers and I hate that people spend their rent money and bill money on tickets to "improve their odds" and end up feeding their kids Ramen for a week.

And I really, really hate that I've never won a damned thing in it (and yes, I'm a big fat hypocrite because I do play it when the payout gets so ridiculously huge).

Posted by: Johnny Huh? at October 20, 2005 03:34 PM
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