The first time I ever played the lottery, I won five hundred dollars.
The second time I played the lottery, I won three hundred dollars. True story.
Before you get your panties in a twist, about that not being true, hold your horses and let me tell you a story.
I was 18-years-old, a senior in high school and on my way home from Wednesday night church Youth Group (yeah, yeah judge all you want). When I was almost to my neighborhood, my phone rang and it was one of the parentals asking me to pick up a gallon of milk. Sure, no big deal; there was an Exxon that I was about to pass anyway.
I go into the gas station, get a gallon of over-priced cow juice and walk up to the counter. Right as I set the milk on the glass counter top, an idea pops into my head, “I’m 18…I can buy cigarettes and lottery tickets…” I opt out on the cancer sticks and ask the cashier which scratch-off tickets were between $1 and $5.
He points to a section containing the cheaper tickets (they go up to $50), I looked them over and picked the one with a black Ford F-150 on it. What high school senior wouldn’t want to win a pickup truck?
As I was driving home (not in a pickup truck), I felt amused by the fact that 1) my dad was going to be pissed that I bought a lottery ticket and 2) that I bought my first lottery ticket immediately after church. Nothing wrong with a little gamble-gamble!
Just as I expected, my father was very annoyed (to say the least) about my purchase and went on a five-minute lecture on how playing the lottery is a complete waste of money. As I’m sitting at the breakfast table, scratching the ticket, I can hear him lecturing me from various places of the house.
The lottery ticket that I purchased was one where you had to match the ‘bank’ numbers to ‘your’ numbers. There were 21 places to win cash, a truck, or a Harley Davidson (…can’t see me riding on that).
Being my first scratch-off lottery ticket, I was confused because all of my numbers matched the numbers listed in the bank…all 21 times. Underneath the matching numbers, were various amounts of cash; from $1 up to $25.
I yelled at my dad (who was still lecturing me from a distance) and asked him to look at the lottery ticket because I didn’t understand what it all meant. He snatched up the ticket, changed his facial expression, set the ticket back down and said, “Well, you won. Now you’re going to be addicted, run off and spend all of the money on more lottery tickets and then you’ll lose it all.”
As he was walking off, I asked how much I had won; he said he wasn’t sure. I read the instructions once more, tallied up all the cash amounts and then realized I had just won $495.00 (-$5.00 for the ticket). To a high school-er, that is a very nice amount of ‘free money’ to have clogging up your pockets.
The next day after school, I went to cash in the winning ticket at a large grocery store chain. As the old lady behind the service desk was congratulating me, she asked if I wanted to break one of the hundreds for another lottery ticket. My dad’s words of “you’re going to spend it all on more tickets” made me think twice about saying yes to another ticket, but that doesn’t mean I said no.
In fact, I bought two $2 tickets and one $1 ticket. I didn’t spend all of it, just enough to have a little more fun…especially since it was only my second time to play. As I sat in my car, scratching off the tickets, I was sad after going through two of them without any luck of winning.
The last ticket was one where you had to match three identical amounts in order to win and I did just that. Three identical amounts of $300 meant that I had just won another three hundred dollars, which made my lottery winning total for the week a cool $800.00. I was one very happy camper.
When I got home, I saw my dad in the garage and told myself not to be a jerk about it because in reality I knew that he was right. I had just beaten the odds somehow and knew that my luck was more than likely over.
Dad saw me walk through the open garage door and asked me, in a cheerful voice, if I had cashed in my winning lottery ticket. With a big smile on my face, I said that I had. “How much,” he asked with a smirk. “Actually, it turned out to be $500, so $495 after you count the price of the ticket,” I replied.
A shocked look came over his face, but he immediately asked me how many more tickets I bought with the winning cash. “I bought three more lottery tickets for a total of $5,” I said as he shook his head in an ‘I knew it’ manner.
But, before he could say anything else, I reached into my pocket, pulled out the newest winning ticket and said, “One of the tickets turned out to be a winner as well.” I set the ticket on his workbench; he leaned in over it and, after studying it for a few moments, began shaking his head again as he began walking off. As he was leaving, he said “Only you, son. Only you.”
I’m not going to lie, after that little winning spree I bought a few more small-dollar tickets, but sadly didn’t win anymore. I guess my luck had all been used up and has yet to replenish. I bought a Mega Millions lottery ticket yesterday, dreaming for a piece of that $640,000,000 prize, but sadly my dream did not become a reality.
I might not have won, but I was reminded of the story you just read and, when my dad reads this, he’s going to chuckle because he was right; the lottery is a waste of money.
At least the Mega Millions is, if you’re going to play, buy a five-dollar scratch-off on the way home from church; apparently it works. Don’t forget the milk.
America: Land of Entitlement