Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Curmudgeon plays the Lotto, explains why

Like you, I didn't win the $355 million Mega Millions drawing last night. But I did have $5 in the pot.

Middle Son came over for dinner last night and the lottery came up in conversation. He, too, had a buck in. (He pulled out his smart phone and showed me a photo of his ticket. I remember the days when we just made photocopies of tickets bought for a pool. Time marches on.)

Anyway, Middle Son said he was reluctant to waste the dollar, but he was shamed into it.

Now any regular visitor here will know that I am a total cheapskate, er, rather frugal. So you may be surprised that I (a) bought a ticket myself and (b) endorsed Middle Son's buying a ticket. But that's only because you haven't heard this story....

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The lawyer on the other side of this case I had a few years back was a nice enough fellow and we chatted before or after court appearances. Turned out, he represented a suburb out near Boondockia, the distant Chicago suburb where I spent my awkward adolescence. Representing a small suburb in the Chicago area means prosecuting traffic tickets, mostly, and, in the course of handling this business, this lawyer had developed a good working relationship with most of the police officers in the town.

Thus it happened when the state lottery jackpot got rather large (not $355 million-large -- this was well before the current days of Super Mega Ultra Power Multistate lotteries -- but large enough that the several times rolled-over jackpot was in the news) this lawyer was asked, by his policemen friends in that small town, to throw in a couple of bucks for a pool of tickets. All the cops had done so; even the dispatcher had kicked in.

But the lawyer was made of sterner, more practical stuff. He may not have known the odds I heard quoted this week in connection with the Mega Millions drawing (chances of winning are 1 in 176,000,000) but he knew the odds were steep. He turned them down.

The phone call came in late at night, well after the lawyer and his wife had retired for the evening.

The lawyer was still crying about it months later: The call from his very excited (and probably intoxicated) police friends wasn't made to rub it in; actually, the cops wanted him to handle the legal work of setting up a partnership to handle the lottery proceeds. Yes, one of those pool tickets had been the big winner. And the lawyer had chosen not to get in. "At least I got some legal work out it," he told me, shoulders slumped.

I've often tried to imagine how he explained that late night phone call to his wife. I didn't have the heart to ask him whether he ever told her that he'd turned down the opportunity to join the cops' pool.

Ever since, though, whenever the lottery jackpot gets so large that TV cameras are dispatched to gas stations and liquor stores to get pictures of suckers, er, players waiting in line, I find a couple of bucks somewhere to throw in. Perhaps now you understand why.


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

i have never won the lotto. i don't play it so that MIGHT be why...

smiles, bee

Jean-Luc Picard said...

So you contribute to the winner's pot. I keep the money!

Anonymous said...

I always get into my office lottery pool for Powerball and MegaMillions. I do NOT want to be the only person left working in the office if our office pool wins big and everyone quits their job.