There was a long line to buy lottery tickets yesterday at the Gas 'n' Go Away. The jackpot this week was $155 million.
Last week, the prize was "only" $58 million. There was no line to buy tickets then. You could have walked right in and bought as many tickets as you wanted; it seems no one has much use for $58 million.
"Fifty-eight million? Chump change," says the guy in line in front of me. "If you think I'm going to stand in line for 10 minutes for a lousy 58 million, you got another think coming. You couldn't even quit your job with that kind of money. When you split it up between me, the ex-wives and the seven kids -- why, it hardly comes to anything. And if I was the kind of person who could be happy living on next to nothing, why, I'd get a job."
Me, I'm just there to buy a quart of 1 percent milk. There are only a hundred or so people in front of me, and the line is moving pretty quickly. Talk about luck: I'll be able to get out of here in half an hour or so! Meanwhile, my line partner fills me in (and everyone near us) on the finer points of the lottery.
"Now, I'm taking a big risk buying $200 worth of the the 155 million tickets. What if I have to split it with someone? That would make me crazy. When I think of the time I've spent coming up with these numbers, and then to have to share the prize with somebody who just reached up and pulled the numbers out of thin air -- I don't think I could handle it. To have to split the pot with an amateur? That would practically kill me.
"And then there's the taxes. That's the government for you, always sticking their hand in your back pocket. I do all the work -- picking the numbers, standing in line and buying a lottery ticket -- and then they want to take half my money. It ain't fair. Who did all the work? I did! So between the taxes and the bum I have to share the prize with, I'm down to $39 million.
"Thirty-nine million. Is that supposed to make up for all those years I did without? Well, I didn't do without much, but the wife and kids sure did. I'd hate to think they went without new shoes and good food for all those years for nothing."
Since I've been in line, the jackpot has gone up to $170 million. What happened to the fast, friendly service that Gas 'n' Go Away is known for? You used to be able to come here and get some overpriced gas and some overpriced milk and get shoved out faster than you could say, "You short-changed me."
This is taking forever. People in line are starting to have debates about the best way to spend their winnings.
"Take it as a lump sum or spread it out over 20 years? Sure, the lump sum is a lot less cash, but then I can invest it myself instead of the state."
"What do you know about investing?" the guy behind me sneers. "If you know so much about the stock market, why are you in line with the rest of us? Take the yearly payments. That way you'll never have to worry about money again."
"Either way will be fine with me," chimes in another guy, "as long as you don't tell my wife I won."
It turns out that none of them needed to worry about how to spend the money. The winning ticket this week was sold a thousand miles away, to a man who bought his first and only lottery ticket on a dare from a friend.