My father was a student of the lottery. Growing up, I remember him sitting in the kitchen every night, assiduously reviewing data amassed from years of weekly draws, every set of winning numbers carefully transcribed in a set of dedicated books. He would pore over these like a cryptanalyst seeking out hidden patterns, looking to identify elusive numerical biases. When he passed away, among the things he bequeathed his loved ones was a set of lottery numbers my sister has since played on a dedicated weekly basis going on thirteen years now (along with a second set of potential winners that, mysteriously, came to ME in a dream some five years back).
I remember working on a show many, many years ago when, during a snack break between scenes, I got into a conversation about sin taxes — taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. “How about a tax on stupid people?” offered the office P.A. “They already have one,” replied the first A.D. “It’s called the lottery.”
According to “the experts”, the chances of your winning the lottery are significantly longer than the likelihood of you:
- Being killed by a meteor!
- Being struck by lightning – twice!
- Winning an Olympic gold medal!
Which is incredibly sobering and all until, really, you stop and ask yourself: When was the last time you heard of someone being killed by a meteor? Or being struck by lightning twice? Compare this to the number of times you’ve heard a lottery winner announced. Also, I don’t have the statistics at hand, but if one were to tally up all of the Olympic gold medal winners and all of the big-prize lottery winners over, say, the last fifty years, I’d hazard that the number of lottery winners is more than “slightly higher”.
Hey, that’s not to say playing the lottery is a smart move. The odds against you are astronomical (though, clearly, much better than being killed by a meteor, winning an Olympic gold medal, or being struck by lightning – twice). Someone once said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” And, while I think the clinical definition of insanity differs somewhat, I can see the logic in this. Why would you keep playing the lottery if you never won?
Why was my father so captivated by the lottery that it became an almost obsessive hobby for him, keeping such meticulous logs, studying past winning number combinations with a single-minded commitment usually reserved for cancer research? In short, why did my dad keep playing the lottery? Oh, that’s easy. Because he won. Once. And I’m not talking a free ticket or a couple of hundred bucks. It wasn’t much in today’s dollars but, back then, it was twice what he and my mother had paid for their first home. They used the money to pay off their mortgage, clear their debts and set aside a modest sum for a rainy day.
For one crazy draw, he defied those seemingly insurmountable odds. And then tried to do it again because, I suppose, statistically, you have no less of a chance of winning a second lottery than you would a first.
As for me, I’m not much of a lottery guy, preferring to pay the equally long odds of trying to land a TV show. Still, whenever I see the grand prize inch past 50 million, I am tempted. After all, I may not know any gold medal champions, but I have first-hand knowledge of at least one lotto victor.
Over to you…
Congratulations, you’ve won the lottery! What will you do with your winnings?