Why am I embarrassed to buy a lottery ticket? Is there a voice deep inside telling me I don’t deserve 700 million? Or maybe I secretly don’t want to be responsible for that large sum. Either way, I play. I’m game. But don’t tell anybody.
I don’t want to be that person who makes buying a lottery ticket an errand. It must be convenient, a last-minute thought. I pretend that I need gas, as I pull into the Arco station. I fill her up and the magical pump charges my credit card $21.99. Four-ish gallons? A gal one pump over winces at me like I’m holding up petroleum traffic. I want to tell her, “I was in the neighborhood, thought I’d top her off.” She grabs her receipt and peels out.
“Oh, look, an AmPm,” I say casually to myself as if I just noticed the neon sign in the window telling me that Mega Millions is up to 999,000,000.00. (If the winning amount was 5 million, would I still play? Why is it that a billion dollar bet suddenly makes everyone a gambler? But winning 5 million? Pshaw.)
I head inside the AmPm building without a grocery list-- just for a lottery ticket. No one knows this fact but me. I peruse the mini mart as though I might buy that tiny travel aspirin for $10.50. Oh, but look, they carry tampons— even though I’m way beyond that “period” in my life. I pick up the box and hide my shock at the price. Is it the mini mart or inflation? My gasp is silent. I pretend well. I used to be an actor. Oscar-worthy.
The swarthy guy with a thin mustache behind the counter eyes me. I smile and wave at him.
Now I’m in the chip section. I casually call out, “These Funyuns any good?”
I already know the answer having tasted them as a teen. I spit it out. It was disgusting. And with my valley girl accent I probably said, “It’s dis-gust-ANG.”
I scrutinize the package so Thin Mustache knows I’m at least shopping for much needed items before I buy a lottery ticket. After all, the lottery is an after thought not an errand. It’s an un-errand.
Funyuns. Huh. I look at the ingredients. Onion powder is toward the end of the list which means there ain’t a lot of onion flavor in this chip. I wonder who came up with that name. I google it on my phone right there in the AmPm— Funyuns was invented in 1969 by a Frito Lay employee, George Wade Bigner.
Maybe tapping on my phone Thin Mustache will think I’m texting my boss, telling him I needed to stop and buy Funyuns and why isn’t it spelled Funions?
I sigh and frown and put the Funyuns back on the shelf just as another customer enters. He’s heavyset with slicked hair and heads straight for the rotating hotdogs in a heated hamster wheel contraption.
I approach the counter empty handed.
“No Funyun today?” Says Thin Mustache, not pronouncing the S. Without it there is just a single Funyun, living alone like a rich widow in a 6000 square foot bag.
“I have food intolerances. Just a lottery ticket,” I mumble.
“Which one,” he says.
Slick Hair looks at me askance. He’s got half a hot dog hanging out of his mouth. I want to say, “Hey, you’re the one with a processed brown test tube hanging from your jowls.
But instead, I cough, “Mega Millions.”
Thin Mustache looks me over as though I don’t deserve to win the lottery. “Unworthy” reverberates in my brain. The winner should be toothless, car-less, and jobless. I know this but I want to tell him, yes, I have great teeth and a nice car but I’m a writer. A blogger. And I want to be able to say to hubby, “Surprise, you can retire. Is that so wrong?”
I wonder if it’s easier to use the grocery store lottery vending machine. The last time I tapped the glass for Mega Millions I slouched and dipped my hat over my eyes hoping no one would see me and chase me out of the store yelling, “You have teeth and a car!” What’s worse is when I win $2 back. The horn blares and I must redeem the ticket at the register where there is sure to be a long line of people giving me the stink eye.
As Thin Mustache prints out the ticket, he makes a Sheesh sound. Was that a Sheesh, the word, or Sheesh, an exhalation?
I fumble for my wallet as Slick Hair places a diet soda and a half eaten hot dog on the counter; the 4% pork and what not is wrapped in a greasy napkin. My lottery ticket suddenly looks poster sized. Slick Hair and Thin Mustache groan at the same time. Without looking at Thin Mustache, I slap down $2 and leave.
I glance back and notice a Scratch-Off ticket dangling from Slick Hair’s mouth like a puppy with a cardboard toy as he holds his soda with one hand and pushes through the heavy door with the other. The hot dog is gone. He must have finished it before paying $20 for the scratch off and I think-- $20—Hello, fluster buster. He’s a gambler like the Kenny Rogers song. But maybe he’ll win $5000 a week for the rest of his life. That’s a lot of hot dogs. He could buy that heated hamster wheel. I wonder if they sell those at Costco.
In my frazzled state I hide the lottery ticket in the console of my car. By the time I arrive home I’ve forgotten where I put it. I look in the console and see my pepper spray, grocery coupons and an emergency protein bar. No lottery ticket.
Inside the house I tell Jeffrey, “I just bought a lottery ticket and now I can’t find it.”
“We don’t deserve it. We’re doing fine.” He doesn’t say that. It’s in my head.
Where does this mindset come from?
Who told me or how did I deduce that I’m undeserving? I think about my acting days. Did I have unworthy plastered on my forehead back when I was auditioning? After all, I was never able to earn the minimum requirement for the coveted SAG Health Insurance. An actor had to make 12k in a year. Even then it was considered poverty level. I remember a friend of a friend who was a soap opera star said, “Someone has to get the part.” I would roll those words around over and over in my mind when I went to every audition, even a commercial for a Laxative, which I booked. I was that someone who got the part, and I was thrilled. I wasn’t unworthy— for that week anyway.
I decide that the next time I buy a lottery ticket I will walk into the AmPm loud and proud. Maybe not loud— that just sounded good because it rhymed. Proud. Yes. Someone has to win. Why not me?
1. Have you ever bought a lottery ticket?
2. Are you embarrassed, or loud and proud?
3. Have you ever won $700 million dollars?
4. Did George make it to the bag?
No Funyuns for me, unless I outlive my wife, and then I won’t want them. George should be on the bag!
Ooh, Funyuns. My son loves those. I get indigestion just thinking about them!