lottery tickets

All right, I confess. Secretly, I have always been a bit intrigued with the idea of winning the lottery, the big one, the Powerball variety that sends a person into untold wealth and unbelievable financial opportunities.
Really, who doesn’t at least dream a few minutes here and there of having enough cash for anything and everything, enough funds to finance one’s retirement (early or late) and enough cash to help out a few friends and family members. The “life of Riley” and role of Santa Claus has its appeal.
So for the past year of having a lottery in Arkansas I have toyed with the idea of purchasing, one, just one, lottery ticket for a dollar in the hopes of winning the big one. I just never got around to doing that. To insure no one knew about my purchase, I would promise myself “Next week when I go out of town, I will buy one of those things. Really, this time I will do it.” And then find myself short on time, lacking the cash or promising myself “I’ll buy it on the way back through.”
But I never did.
So I had no clue how to go about buying a ticket other than knowing this is one purchase a person can not put on their charge card. It’s a good thing, too, as I discovered during a road trip through the forests of Arkansas.
The ding of low gas had sounded just as the miles ahead promised to be devoid of a gas station on every corner. I found a gas station with the old fashion kind of pump – the kind without a credit card slot allowing me to buy, fill and leave without ever seeing the inside of the store.
So I filled up and meandered into the little country store with my credit card. I stood right in front of the dispenser for lottery tickets. While the clerk did the paperwork, I studied the lottery display in front of me. Bright, bold fonts declared the tickets cost $3, $4 and $5. I looked in vain for anything that said $1 or $2 – something I might consider purchasing with my spare change.
“Wow! I did not realize that the lottery tickets cost so much,” I commented to the clerk.
She looked up. “We have tickets for less.”
“Yes, but those are not the ones that get the big award. I just don’t have the money to pay that much,” I said. I prefer the sure thing of a simple fast food lunch to the quick loss of cash for a worthless piece of cardboard.
“I haven’t purchased one yet, myself,” the clerk admitted shaking her head – probably thinking of the many losers who had purchased tickets.
I left, slid behind the wheel and drove away thinking about the variety of fast foods that could be purchased for $3, $4 or $5 rather than line the pockets of those serving on the lottery commission.
After that stop, I had a much better understanding “why” folks say the lottery robs the pockets of the poor. I thought I knew it all until our most recent trip on the Interstate with gas-ups at the big truck stops. Stretching my legs, I meandered around the shop and found a vending machine selling lottery tickets for $5, $10 and – hold the phone! – $20.
I could not believe anyone with limited means would spend that much grocery money on something with such improbable odds.
Still suffering from sticker shock, I mentioned the horrific prices to a relative.
“Some places sell them for $100,” he nodded knowingly.
“That much!” I thought about all the groceries, clothes or Christmas toys $100 could purchase. With odds of being the one person in eight million who wins, the folks who need cash for those things buy the ticket with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, only to wake up to find coal in their stockings. The odds of winning equal a 100 percent chance of having less money for basic needs.
I still have not splurged on a lottery ticket, however, if you loan me the cash to buy one or two, I promise that when I win I will pay it back with 100 percent interest. Really, I will.
(Still looking for investors, Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at