The Lottery Tickets

Comments 25
Photo by Robert Donovan
Photo by Robert Donovan

They peek from my wallet.

Two small pieces of paper with random number sequences printed on them.

They’re most likely worthless. Like all of their predecessors. Banished to the landfill with my junk mail, banana peels and empty Golden Grahams boxes.

But there’s a one in 176 million chance that my having them puts me in the 1%.

I never check the numbers right away.

I let them marinate. Let the dream linger.

A fool’s hope.

I pull them from my wallet. They’re dated 11/03/2013. I even procrastinate at lottery tickets.

I bought eight picks. That was probably all the cash I had on me.

If such a large jackpot had hit in my town a month ago with no one coming forward, I would have heard about it. So I already know I’m not a millionaire.

But there are still $250,000 and $10,000 prizes to be won if the stars align.

A fool can always hope.

I Can Never Win

One of my high school friends and I had this conversation a couple months ago—we can never win.


Because we graduated with 75 kids in a small-town Catholic high school. And one of those 75 won. Her husband and a group of others split a Mega Millions jackpot sometime in the past five or six years.

If winning is already impossible at one in 176 million, how long are the odds of two people from the same small-town high school class hitting?

Longer than my… you know. Pretty long.

Checking the Numbers

I find the Mega Millions winning number archives on the lottery site. The jackpot for the November 5 drawing was $99 million. That’s $40 million after taxes and taking the one-time cash payout.

I could make $40 million last, I bet.

The Mega ball was 02.

I check the last digit on all eight picks. No 02. That rules out the jackpot and the $10,000 prize.

Whew. I was so nervous trying to figure out how to shove $40 million under my mattress.

I check the rest: 02-11-42-64-74.

One of the picks hit the 02, but no more.


Eighty-sixed. Where dreams go to die. With the junk mail. The banana peel. The old cereal box.

I crack a half smile.

Outside, darkness falls. Everything is covered in snow.

The glow of the computer screen highlights the stack of bills in front of me.

I’m going to order some Christmas presents for my five-year-old son.

Watch football.

Feel thankful. For the light from the Christmas tree. For the warmth from my furnace. For being alive.

I want more than simple cash can buy.

You know what the odds of being a person on planet Earth are?

According to Business Insider, the odds of you and I being alive are the same as two million different people rolling a TRILLION-sided dice and all rolling the exact same number.

The odds of us being here are pretty much zero.

Yet, here we are.

Bask in the impossibility of it all.

You’ve already won the lottery.

Just like me.

Once in a lifetime.

25 thoughts on “The Lottery Tickets”

    1. Ha. 🙂

      If I happen to be somewhere that sells lotto tickets and there’s a big jackpot, I buy some.

      But I don’t know that even buy tickets once a month. It’s a foolish thing to waste money on. But sometimes it feels worth it to me to spend $5 to daydream about having $100 million.

  1. Well said.
    I recently watched an interesting documentary on Netflix called Lucky, that followed the stories of several different mega lottery winners. It was fascinating to see the different ways people handle their new wealth. I’d always wondered about the winners you read about who somehow manage to blow through a gazillion dollars and wind up right back where they started. If you get a chance, you should see it. =)

    1. Appreciate the suggestion. Always found the entire concept pretty fascinating. I think I’d have a huge guilt complex if I ever did win.

      But of course, that’s nothing a bunch of good deeds and a bunch of drinking couldn’t cure. 😉

  2. True. =) One thing I hadn’t really considered was how managing one’s money becomes a fulltime job- one I’m sure you’d be willing to take on, right? The other thing that struck me was the reaction of friends and family. Not always as happily ever after as one might hope.
    I keep recommending this to people because I want to discuss it with someone. So I hope you do watch it someday, and then blog about it!

  3. What a great post! This made my evening.

    After six years of having kids in Catholic school, we finally won a raffle: a set of hideous, 12 inch tall, technicolor goblets. Next time vikings come over for dinner, we’ll be prepared.

    1. Thank you. 🙂

      Viking goblets. That makes me laugh. If you want to be really awesome you’ll write about them and share photos so I can laugh some more.

    1. Thank you.

      You know, I had no idea how unlikely–statistically–existing is.

      That needs further research and probably its own post.


      A wonderful excuse to feel grateful every day. 🙂

    1. $7! Woot!

      Jackpot’s big right now. $340 million and change. That’s about $140 million after taxes and taking the lump sum.

      I, for one, am rooting for you.

      Appreciate you reading. Thank you.

  4. I know someone who won the Reader’s Digest sweepstakes back in the early 80s. The money was a blessing as her husband had just died suddenly of a heart attack. But she immediately became inundated with phone calls and people knocking on the door begging for money, some quite aggressively. Complete strangers who felt entitled to the money. It was crazy! She basically had to become a recluse for quite a while, unplugging her phone and being careful when leaving her house. Eventually the attention died down and life got back to normal.
    So, when you win that jackpot, be sure to change your phone number to an unlisted one and consider moving! ?

    1. I’m totally anonymous as a single adult. It’s my friends and family I’d have to worry about. And it would be my pleasure to give a bunch of money I didn’t earn to them.

      Readers Digest sweepstakes. Rad. Was it a lot? In the 80s? Millions?

      1. It was about $115,000 after taxes back in 1983. Not millions, but enough to bring everyone and their brother out of the woodwork to ask for a handout!

  5. Ever heard of a park ranger named Roy Sullivan? He’s famous for having been hit by lightning on seven different occasions. Let the odds of two people from the same small-town high school class winning the lottery be damned.

    1. I have not heard of Roy Sullivan.

      But I do know a guy who got struck. It’s interesting to hear about how it’s affected him.

      Seven times? I’m A. Dying to know how each impacted him. B. Questioning his decision making skills.

  6. How I win the lottery:

    1. Fantasise about what I would do with £1m or £20m
    2. Keep my £2 stake

    If I had played the lottery every week I might be £800 down on it.

    1. It’s good to be smart and responsible.

      I make bad decisions. It’s kind of my thing.


      Thanks for reading and saying hi.

  7. What are the chances that you are alive and are exactly you? 100%. OK, there’s a statistical rant in there somewhere …

    I know the impossibility of those lottery things and, I admit, I buy a ticket or two once in awhile. It’s a small thing I can sometimes do to believe I’m trying to change things. Worst case, someone else gets their life changed (ruined?) and our local education and open space budget gets a little more cash. Best case … my life gets changed (ruined?). OK, just changed. It doesn’t make practical sense to play the lottery, but a life filled with just practicality is boring.

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Matt Fray

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