Lottery Did Not Change My Life

I believe there are two kinds of luck. You can be lucky in that you land on your feet time and time again despite little effort and even less logic. Or you can possess luck that lets you win things: random contests, the lottery and big money raffles.

I am Irish and an eternal optimist, so I should have this luck thing all sewn up. Alas, I have discovered that you cannot be lucky twice over. Not that I’m complaining, but I have always been the nine lives kind of lucky. I never win anything. EVER.

That doesn’t stop me from trying, however, as I buy scratch-offs, Powerball tickets and enter online contests by the dozens.

I was just meant to be a winner, I know it!

Recently, I received a scratch-off lottery ticket in a birthday card. And not just any scratch-off; it was a $5 ticket. See, people who never win anything only invest in $1 instant win tickets because spending more would be like driving down the road and throwing $5 out the window.

But I was perfectly willing to waste someone else’s $5, and that ticket burned a hole in my purse the entire way through dinner.

When I got home and looked at the ticket more closely, my first reaction was confusion. The expensive tickets have a ton of directions. I mean, this was the “War and Peace” of scratch-off rules and procedures.

I was savvy enough to know this was Maryland Lottery’s way of weeding out the weak. Make one mistake—erase even one unscratchable box—and the whole thing was null and void. I was not falling for that like some kind of amateur.

Instead, I read every line of teeny tiny print twice, grabbed a quarter (my lucky coin) and began scratching. Moments later a mound of steel gray shavings indicated I was done.

The card was a sea of numbers and dollar signs so it took me a few minutes to match everything up. On first glance, it looked like I won. On second glance, it still looked like I won.

There it was plain as day: I was a winner, dammit.

Now, I realize that winning $5 is not earth-shattering news. But to the winning challenged it means you broke the seal—like going scoreless in the first half of a basketball game and getting that first bucket. It signals a change in momentum.

Could this be the birthday gift that changed my life forever?

The next day I excitedly tucked the ticket in my pocket as I headed to the grocery store. I was giddy as I presented it to the woman behind the counter. My smile faded as she proceeded to inform me that the machine was being temperamental so she couldn’t verify just then.

I volunteered to leave the ticket with her as I shopped and return to collect my crisp $5 bill later. I had my wallet open and ready when I stepped back up to customer service with its shiny, red lottery machine. Unfortunately, the only thing that was crisp was her tone as she said,

“It’s not a winner. The machine says it’s not a winner.”

I opened my mouth to protest, but she had moved onto the next customer and their urgent cigarette needs. Fine, I thought, I will take the ticket somewhere else and get my money. What did she know anyway?

The following afternoon, I stopped at 7-Eleven, the holy grail of scratch-offs and all things lottery. I grabbed a Diet Coke for a little celebratory toast and handed over my ticket. Imagine my surprise when the clerk said, “This ticket has already been paid out.”

What the what?

I explained my experience at Giant and the nice 7-Eleven lady handed me a slip of paper confirming previous payment and location. Oh, and then she wanted $2 for my Diet Coke. That stung. I planned to pay with my winnings.

So far, being a winner was less fun than I had imagined.

Fueled by Diet Coke and a few episodes of “My Lottery Dream Home” on HGTV that morning, I drove straight back to the Giant.

I impatiently tapped my toes at customer service while a guy wired some money. Then it was finally my turn.

I gave up the ticket and the payment slip from 7-Eleven and before I could begin my story, the woman cut me off, saying, “This has already been paid out.”

Well, that was annoying. I had my whole story mapped out, but I guess words are at a premium at customer service; everyone there has a sad tale.

I plunged into my explanation anyway, complete with a physical description of the employee who had wronged me in the first place and a dazzling visual wherein I emphatically pointed out the winning line on the card.

She was clearly annoyed but when you have three boys, you spend a lot of time at the good old Giant. They knew me. As far as they knew I had never scammed them before, but she was still conflicted about whether to pay out the money. So, I did what any rational person would do.

I threw my kids under the bus.

“It’s my kids’ ticket. I mean, I wouldn’t make such a big deal about a measly $5 if it was mine. They will be so disappointed. You understand.”

I would just have to go to Confession later. Surely all the meals, messes and mania endured at the hands of said kids amounted to at least $5 worth of trouble.

Well, that did it. The red, shiny lottery drawer smacked her in the stomach as it sprung open. She yanked out the $5 bill and handed it over.

Woot! I was a winner. Finally my luck had changed.

As I buckled myself in to head home, I made a mental note to thank my girlfriend. And that is when it hit me.

I was not a winner. She was. She picked the ticket; all I did was erase it and then crisscross the county and waste at least $5 in gas (plus the cost of the Diet Coke) to get my paltry winnings.

I was still my same boring, non-winning self.

I did have an extra five bucks in my pocket though. And as Garrison Keillor says … “Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have.”