On Wednesday I have a raging sore throat so I stop at the grocery store near my house when I run out over lunch to take the baby to her sitter. I’m looking for cough drops, because they make me think I feel better regardless of whether they really do anything.
They’ll get me through the afternoon.
The checkout line is empty but the front of the store is crowded, men and woman standing around the service counter. The woman on the other side looks harried.
“Are you all here for lottery tickets?” she calls out and everyone nods. An old man raises his hand toward her, calls something back and I hear the eagerness, the desire, in his voice.
The powerball is up over $500 million and the sheer enormity of it, the fact that somebody somewhere is going to purchase a winning ticket very soon, is driving people to buy.
And though I’ve never played the lottery and I know the odds are so dreadfully against any one person, there’s a hitch in my step as I pass the counter and the ‘what if’s’ begin.
Just once won’t hurt. The odds are bad, yes, but someone is going to win and what if it’s me? I could give away $499 million and just keep the $1 million and still be oh-so-overwhelmed with sudden wealth.
I could go home this afternoon, and take the baby back from the sitter where I left her minutes before screaming because she was hungry and maybe her throat hurt too (though I know she is perfectly happy now because the sitter was giving her a bottle as I walked out the door). We would sleep, and then make the pretty salt-dough handprint ornaments they have on pinterest and maybe actually put up Christmas decorations this year.
Or we could just do the laundry and sit in the afternoon sun on the couch.
I keep walking. By Thursday the winning tickets were sold in two different states. All those lottery ticket buyers at the grocery store on Fourth Street are disappointed, like they are every time they watch the numbers during the late night news.
I’m that much richer for having kept my money, I congratulate myself.
And today the sore throat is gone and the baby smiled so pretty before I left and working is good for the soul and really, millions make no one happy.
But I withhold judgement on those who did buy. The siren’s song of security, of wealth, of living in peace and luxury with those you love — it’s awfully hard to resist.
Even when you see the reality is just another $2 in the kitchen trash after the late-night news.