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LIFE (permalink) 04.19.2012
there's more than one reason they call them scratchers
at my last job once a week the database guy at my shop walked the aisles of cubes collecting money for lottery tickets. everyone would hand him a wrinkled buck or two, he'd make a scratch on a small piece of paper, and move to the next. then at lunch or on the way home, he'd buy a block of lottery tickets with the money. routinely i was the only one who did not participate. routinely he was the one who would shake his head and tsk-tsk my decision, saying i'd be really sorry if they ever won because i'd be the only one left in the office to hold all of these systems afloat. to this i said if they all won, in a year's time i'd be the happiest one of everyone involved. that comment bought me many a debate on the merits and ills of an average person coming into an un-average flood of money.

my belief on the lottery system spread through the office and my lottery-playing co-workers would appear at my cube in twos, threes, and fours to confirm what they heard and question the source. i would confess to the row of bemused expressions that i did believe they would all be miserable if they won the lottery. when pressed on how that could possibly be i would explain. i would single out one of the gawkers asking about their family. parents still living? how many siblings? aunts? uncles? friends? after getting a sense for the inventory of friends and relations i'd ask what their plan for all of them was. they always had a plan which i imagined got drawn up in their forty plus minute commutes home. their presence would gain a beat as they excitedly stepped through the awards each tier of the family would get thinking they were the first to stagger the amounts with such acumen. i'd then move us along saying ...
ok. so you give the sister you don't like so much and her husband fifty grand just like you did for your other siblings and in nine month's they're reporting the t-shirt decal business they invested in went under because there are now printers and special paper that can make decals every bit as good as theirs. but now they have a great new idea and it can't loose but they just need another thirty grand to get it off the ground. what do you say to this? (now some people say they will give them the 30k. when that happens, i bring the bad business duo back in another five months asking for more. and again. and again. eventually everyone says they have to at some point say no.) i agree. you do have to say no. but what do you think that eventual line in the sand will do with your relationship with your sister who you previously had no significant angst with? and then how do you react when your other siblings call and express shock that you wouldn't give her more, and they just had a bad break, and you've got so much, more than you can even use, and it's not like you did anything to earn it, how could you tell your own sister no, how could you be so heartless? then your dad calls. and then your mom. and then what does the next family gathering look like? you pulling up in your fancy car while you're sister couldn't come because she and her obnoxious hubby are getting put out of their duplex because they lost their business just because you wouldn't give them another thirty grand which for anyone else under the picnic gazebo would be like dropping a dollar bill in the turned up hat of a sightless beggar. you're fully convinced it was the right choice. maybe it was the right choice. but do your friends and family agree?
while all of my arguments were based on simple conjecture which were based on scenarios i'd drawn up in my head, after more than a decade of my lottery-conviction, i heard my first bit of first-hand evidence through the aunt of a close friend of mine (and a woman i had socialized with as recently as six months back). four years ago this woman's christmas list was 225 addresses long. then her husband died and she was awarded one point five million dollars. guess how many names were on her christmas list last year, or rather, three years after she was handed one point five millions dollars? when i asked bella this question, she guessed 1,000. i had to tell her the real answer was seven. and then less than three months after the seven-name christmas she took her life with a handgun she had from earlier times.

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