The Powerball jackpot has once again eclipsed one hundred million dollars. Though I realize that the odds against winning are astronomical, a shot at that kind of scratch is worth a couple of bucks to me. Hell, I might even splurge and buy two tickets.
I was at the supermarket, picking up a couple of things to round out the dinner menu. I had a five-spot burning a hole in my pocket, so I wandered over to the customer service counter to buy a chance at financial independence. I got in line behind some guy and waited more patiently than I would for most other purchases.
When buying lottery tickets, I feel that it’s bad form to do anything which might upset my mojo. I’m pleasant and cooperative in ordering. I smile as though the ticket is already a winner and I thank everyone involved in the purchase. I’m sweet and polite to anyone else in line. In my mind, I imagine these same people in weeks to come as they tell their friends about being in line with the jackpot winner, and how nice he was. No doubt they’ll be sick with the notion that if they hadn’t dawdled in the baking supplies aisle, they might have bought that winning ticket instead of yours truly. At least they can take comfort in my seeming like such a swell fellow. I hope they have the decency not to try to track me down looking for a handout – I don’t picture myself being quite so nice once I’m filthy rich.
As I politely waited, I tried not to listen to the guy in front of me, as eavesdropping would certainly qualify as boorish behavior and might jinx my already slim chances at winning. Despite my efforts, I couldn’t help but overhear as he discussed his lottery ticket purchases with the cashier. Apparently he had quite the system and it was terribly complicated. It was as if he were giving her step-by-step instructions on how to assemble a combustion engine from a huge pile of parts in front of her. The woman behind the counter did what I considered to be a stellar job of not rolling her eyes or appearing to be even slightly annoyed by his detailed instructions as the line behind me grew.
Picking lottery numbers should be a fairly simple endeavor. The winning numbers are randomly chosen from a vat of ping-pong balls, often with an additional Power Ball or Mega Ball which is chosen from a second pool of balls. If you have the same exact numbers as all the ones chosen, you win the jackpot. Logic tells us that playing random numbers against a system of randomly chosen numbers gives one the same statistical probability of winning as choosing numbers with some sort of personal meaning or some complex mathematical relevance. Plus, it takes a lot less time for the clerk at the store, and lets the guy behind you get out of the supermarket before his gallon of skim milk turns into cottage cheese.
Besides the time-management aspect of allowing the computer to randomly pick the numbers, there’s another reason why I never pick my own – Blame. If I lose because the computer generated numbers aren’t winners, which has been the case every time I’ve ever bought a lottery ticket, I can blame the machine. If I were to choose my own numbers, I’d have to share some of the blame myself.
Here’s an example: the winning Powerball numbers for 10/24/2012 were – 3, 18, 21, 23, 50, and the Powerball was 4. I’ll save you the trouble of rummaging through your old receipts and coupons looking for your ticket – according to their website, no one won the jackpot. A quick look at the numbers reveals why I might have played each of those digits.
3 – I was born on the 3rd of January (I’m not expecting presents from you guys, I know how taxing the holiday season can be).
18 – Probably one of my favorite ages, I had all my hair, damn little body fat, no back-hair to speak of, the ability to buy liquor legally in most of the country, and I thought “prostate” was a legal term. Obviously 18 was a very good year for me.
21 – This is one of the universally recognized cool, lucky numbers. Think “The 21 Club” and blackjack. Also, 2 + 1 = 3 which is my birthday, as previously noted. It’s also the age when I was able to buy liquor legally in the remaining states. I don’t have a drinking problem – stop reading between the lines.
23 – Michael Jordan wore 23 – I’m not a basketball fan, but the guy’s kind of an icon, right? Also I got married at this age, so this number has special meaning as the start of married life and also being the age I was the last time I was single.
50 – This number has strong voodoo. Once you turn 50, no one will ever consider you young, unless you’re hanging out with the geriatric set, and you know how squirrely they can be. Turning 50 was the last time I gave a rat’s ass about how old I was turning on my birthday. Also, 50 is half way between 0 (birth) and 100 (death – but don’t tell that to someone who’s 99).
4 – The Powerball – As you have been reminded several times, my birthday is 1/3. 1 + 3 = 4. Plus my youngest daughter’s birthday is the 4th of January. As if these facts were not sufficient reasons to choose number 4, I’d like to point out that it was also my brother Steve’s high school lacrosse jersey number. 4 has quite the connection for me, I’d have to play 4.
So there you have it, the critical relationship I have with each of the winning Powerball numbers.
Why then, you ask, am I not writing this post from the lido deck on my personal yacht as I bob in the gentle swells of the Riviera? A fair question, but I felt you were a little snide in the way you asked it. The reason is that at my age, with my scary brain, I have some sort of connection with virtually any number under 100. I know at least one person who was born on any given day of the month, so 1 through 31 are spoken for. I’ve lived in houses with a variety of street addresses and I’ve travelled on any number of numerically named highways and biways. I’ve watched and played sports over the course of my life, with every jersey number important from 00 (Jim Otto – Oakland Raiders) to 99 (Jerome Brown – Philadelphia Eagles and Wayne Gretsky – Edmonton Oilers).
Picking numbers with a special connection is entirely too possible, for me. I’d be scared to death of picking 5 out of 6 winning numbers. In some ways, it would be worse than picking none at all. Don’t call me greedy. No one buys a Powerball ticket with hopes of almost winning the grand prize. If I had to settle for a measly second place payout because I didn’t choose 55 for my grandparents’ street address in Red Bank, NJ and instead went with 27 for my youngest grand daughter’s birthdate, I don’t know how I’d live with myself.
So there you have it. No complex formulas, no more than a minute of my life taken up by the act of buying a lottery ticket with random, computer-chosen numbers. My only hope is that if that guy in front of me somehow manages to win, that he never sees this blog, because I’m going to try to hit him up for a couple of bucks – he’ll be able to afford it.