## Thursday, July 24, 2008

### Mega Millions

It rained on Saturday. Specifically, it poured rain during the exact 2 hour time span that I had invited friends over for drinks on the deck prior to going to see the Mamma Mia Movie. We had a nice time anyways, but it bothers me greatly that it doesn’t very often rain like that, and I don’t plan very many outdoor activities, and yet they seem coincide just about every time. What are the odds here? I tried to do the calculations: Times I try to have a party divided by the available hours to do that times the amount of those hours it is likely to be raining, times…well the odds are high and I keep beating them. Something had to be done to correct this imbalance of the universe.

So I did something I have never done before: bought a Mega-Millions lottery ticket. I figured that if I am in some sort of cosmic mode of odds-beating, I should take advantage of it. I never play the lottery because I have been educated in probability and statistics. I once heard the lottery referred to as “a tax on people who can’t do math.” I have always been astonished to learn that people do all of these crazy things like tracking the numbers picked, and buying more tickets, to try to improve their odds. I always said that if I ever played the lottery I would pick the number 1,2,3,4,5,6. People say that’s crazy, but it has statistically the exact same likelihood of being picked as any other random number. Those same people can’t seem to understand that picking two numbers is like taking two grains of sand out of the whole beach, and NOT like cutting the odds in half. I looked it up and the odds for winning this jackpot are 1/175,000,000.

The pot was up to 124 million dollars, and the drawing was Tuesday night. I didn’t want to get into my car after all of my commuting, so I combined it into my bike ride. I stuck some dollars into my bike pack and rode over to the party store by Frosty Boy. I went into the store and announced to the lady I wanted to buy a mega-millions ticket, and she hit a button on her cash register. Then I started to tell her about the number I wanted, and she said that she had already done an easy pick. Which would be ok, except that then what if my special number won? That would make me even madder than rain on a party. So I bought another one. And it sure felt like I had doubled my odds of winning!

I put the tickets in my bike pack and rode past Frosty Boy back onto the trail. Right away, I noticed that I had this springy feeling. The thrill of possibility. The excitement of having a chance at something big. In spite of all my statistics knowledge, it felt good to be riding along with what COULD BE a winning ticket right there beneath the seat.

I know that people who play the lottery get enjoyment out of planning how they will spend the money, so as I rode along, I tried doing that. Well, we could pay off the mortgage, invest, donate…not really that fun to think about so instead I imagined how my coworkers who are in a lottery pool would react when they found out that I won it on my first try, and also remembering the words to that song: Haven’t you always wanted a MONKEY? But not a real green dress that’s cruel…

When I got home I generously gave Larry, who was watching a baseball game on TV, the easy-pick ticket. He didn’t seem to understand that I had just given him 50% of my chances of winning a hundred and twenty four million dollars. I tried to start the conversation about what we could buy with all of that money, but it just wasn’t going anywhere. Jeffrey suggested that I buy a giant pump to pull all of the water back to our side of the lake. I liked that, and took it up a notch by suggesting that I have the lake re-named “Lake Mindy.” Larry looked up and said that I couldn’t buy that, it was probably up to the council members to vote on. “I could BUY them off!” Yeah! He just shook his head and grumbled something about how quickly money corrupts, and returned to the TV. Jeffrey pointed out that the lake was named after a historical founder of our town, and it wouldn’t be right to name it after me just because I was rich.

Then I had another great idea of what I could do with my lottery winnings. I pointed to the TV. “I know, I’ll buy the TIGERS!”

“Their payroll alone is 138 million, you won’t have enough.” Larry stated simply.

This amazed me for these reasons:
1) That he knows that
2) That they pay so much for playing baseball
3) That I could beat one-in-175 million odds and still not have enough money to buy this random of-the-moment desire of mine. What is this world we are living in?

Then Jeffrey told me not to get too excited about my lottery ticket, “You know, Mommy, many will play and few will win.” Whatever happened to the little boy who used to look for leprechauns in the landscaping?

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Well as you probably guessed I did not win a cent. But I have changed my opinion about the whole lottery thing. I think we Americans NEED to believe that everyone has a chance to make it big, that our vote counts, that something wonderful could happen to any one of us, whether it’s mathematically likely or not. Getting those tickets made me feel like that, if just for a moment, which was surely worth the two bucks, and is less than the cost of an ice cream cone, plus no fat calories!