The Mega Millions national lottery jackpot rose to $290 last Saturday. So many more people bought in for the Tuesday drawing that it reached $355 million by the time it closed. Swept up in the excitement, people who don’t normally buy tickets–like our roommate and my brother, made forays to lottery ticket vendors. My brother called Paul to ask where one goes to buy a ticket, and the roommate called to ask the deadline time for ticket purchases–things he would know, as he plays every time the jackpot tops $140 million. There’s some statistical reason for this that I can never quite understand.
Paul bought his tickets at the donut shop on Monday. “If you win, I won’t see you– you’ll move away,” said the donut shop owner in his accented English. “When someone wins he has to shut his doors,” he made a shutting motion, “to the world.”
Everywhere I went on Tuesday–drinks at the Bounty, late night grocery shopping at the Vons, people were talking about it. “Whoever wins it,” said my cashier, “God bless’em.”
Two people won the big jackpot. I want to say they were from Washington and Idaho. Something like 9000 people also won $150 dollars each, playing the numbers made popular by the TV show LOST.
I’m no sociologist, but I assume there must be a relationship between lottery furor and the economic climate of the country–the world–right now. I feel it in myself. Although Paul has always had aspiration toward being a millionaire, when we were in a very middle income bracket, I was happy. We used to argue (not real marital discord, but more philosophical debate) about winning the lottery. I would cite all the ways it would make our lives more complicated, and data about people whose lives it ruined. I maintained that I liked the connectedness of making money through work, and using that money to live with an appropriate level of comfort, and give to other people for their work. It was like the economic cycle of life, it seemed to me.
But now, as we slip out of the middle class–in terms of income, but not sensibility–I see that in comparison to the known complications of being poor–of Grand Canyon-sized holes of debt, and creditors turning you down because of your low income to debt ratio, the inability to help friends and family they way you’d like to, genuine fear for your health because of the financial the ramifications–the imagined complications of being insanely rich seem more and more palatable…
In a side note…I wiped out the last of my liquid cash today, and maxed out our credit card to pay my last tuition bill. My choice to attend spelunking school may or may not result in employment, but it has made me more empathetic to the poor and disenfranchised. Before, I was merely sympathetic. Of course, before, I also wrote annual checks to various charitable organizations, which I fear won’t be happening this year–but I’m sure they will be edified to know that I am a better writer and a deeper person.