On March 30, six white plastic balls, whose fate would otherwise have landed them in a cup of beer during a college beer pong competition, rolled out of a spinning machine and changed forever the lives of three .
Over the past few days my mind has often dwelled upon these lucky Baltimore folks who just hit it big in the $656 million Mega Millions jackpot. The self-dubbed “Three Amigos” purchased the winning ticket at a just eight miles north of Catonsville in the town of Milford Mill. After the March 30 drawing, each of the amigos immediately became $35 million dollars richer, approximately 583 times more money than the average yearly salary they likely receive as public school employees.
This afternoon I discussed the big local win with my son who is on Spring Break from middle school. I had to wait until the afternoon for this discussion because he is employing a brilliant plan to remain unconscious until at least noon each day this week.
“What would you do with the money if you won?” I asked my 13-year-old son.
His reply came immediately.
“I’d buy Minecraft (a computer video game) and an entire roller coaster,” he said. “And an iPad and a MacBook. Oh, and I’d get a debit card, with $1,000 on it just to carry around.”
“What would you do Mom?” he asked.
“Well, first I’d pay everything off: car, house and college. Then I’d hire a therapist to deal with my intense and alternating feelings of extreme anxiety and elation. This therapist would accompany us on all of our
luxury vacations around the globe. At least $10 million would be set aside for the future. And the rest would go to set up a foundation to help poor people. Yes, some sort of poor people.”
“Oh right, a foundation,” my son returned. “Me too, I’d set up some sort of foundation.”
It was obvious we had no idea what we would ever do with $35
million, a logical confusion considering our usual financial situation is such
that the presence of real Coke in our house feels like a holiday. In order to
gain some insight, we turned to the TV show that has guided my son in making so many life decisions when I’m not monitoring him. Family Guy.
In an episode entitled “Lottery Fever”, Peter, the patriarch of the Griffin
family, takes out a second mortgage on his house to buy 200,000 lottery
tickets. When one of them turns up a winner, the family finds themselves $150 million richer. Among other items, Peter buys a solid gold suit and Stuey (the British-accented baby) buys a giant mobile that hangs in the sky, enabling him to sleep anywhere at any time. A lobster and some caviar is purchased, placed on a helicopter, and sent on a tour around the city for absolutely no reason at all.
Family Guy satirically illustrates a very good point: most of us have no idea what we would do with such a surreal amount of money. For most of
us, playing the lottery is a game, a fantasy that allows us to escape our real world economic difficulties and spend a few minutes in our heads driving Bentleys and distributing wads of cash to the homeless.
After all, as Brian the dog says so succinctly, before the Griffin
family finds the winning ticket, “Peter, the chances of winning the lottery are about 150 million to one. Don’t you realize the lottery is just a tax on stupid people?”
I never claimed to be a genius. As my son and I head out the
door, intent on purchasing a couple of Slurpees and what is sure to be another winning ticket from the 7-11 in Milford Mill I remind myself that, apart from a few very lucky winners, for most of us the joy of the lottery is found in those hours and days before the numbers drop, when the tickets in our pockets might still hold those winning digits.
Sadly, Brian is about right with those statistics- most of us will not win the lottery. What the heck, a dream is worth a couple of bucks.