Some men bring women flowers on a first date. I bring my dates lottery tickets. What better way to potentiate a lifetime of romance and wonderment than by winning $80 million, or more, together?
Needless to say, I have not won a jackpot and I am still single. Though I would like to think these things are wholly unrelated. But I keep buying lottery tickets. As they say, you have to be in to win it.
I would not call myself a regular player. In fact I don't even pay attention until the multi-state lottos like Mega Millions or Powerball tip over the $200-million mark. I have no regular pool of people I buy tickets with nor do I have favorite numbers. But like clockwork, when the lotto frenzy picks up every few months, I am as susceptible as the next person. I head over to the newspaper stand to get a couple quick picks and start planning my life as a kabillionaire.
I know my odds of getting bitten by a shark/struck by lightening/contracting ebola are better than winning Powerball. (Last night's drawing had odds of one in 175 million.) But the enjoyment I get out of the occasional $6 ticket is worth it: Should I take the cash payout or go for the annuity? Should I buy my island house in the Pacific or in the Atlantic? How much money should I give away to charity?
However, it's more than an outlet for magical thinking: A giant jackpot becomes a community event that crosses all kinds of social and economic barriers. Yesterday when I went to buy a ticket at a local 7-Eleven, I chatted with the cashier, the guy behind me in line, and the handyman who works in my apartment building about their Powerball dreams.
Participating in the lotto brings together diverse groups in a way that few other national events do (unfortunately). With economic and political disparity growing on what feels like a daily basis, finding ways to share the ways we are alike rather than different feels like a victory.
It turns out magical thinking is actually good for us, too. Some research has shown that if you believe you are lucky, you actually perform better on tasks. Clearly that doesn't translate into changing the balls drawn in a lottery. We are totally powerless over that. But the occasional lottery ticket is a cheap way -- that I can afford -- to enliven a sense of luck.
As far as first dates go, it's an ice breaker like no other. You can learn a lot about someone playing the What Would You Do If You Won? game.
And in the end, what is finding love but a little bit of luck?
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