God Save Me From The Lottery

I don’t know where this lottery thing came from, but it’s driving me crazy.

Which doesn’t make any sense. I don’t play the lottery. I never have. I make my living doing things that are sort of logical (sometimes), and the lottery makes no mathematical sense. See, the expected value is less than one. That means if you played the lottery an infinite number of times, you’d lose money. Simple! It follows that you should continue to dwell on your unexceptional, yet still unattainable dreams all alone in your room.

Powerball is no normal lottery, though. We’re Americans, and if we can send a man to the moon, then by golly, we can make a profitable lottery with an expected value greater than 1, too. Nerds have been denied lotto fever, and that’s just undemocratic.

So that’s exactly what they did. It’s an extremely complicated lottery called Powerball. I can’t be bothered to learn exactly how Powerball works, but the long and short of it is that, most of the year, it’s a terrible deal like any other lottery — I mean, it has to be. It’s gambling. That’s how gambling works. But it accrues a jackpot, and when that jackpot gets high enough — boom, expected value of your ticket is greater than one. Which technically means that you could go down and buy $1B worth of tickets without inspiring your portfolio manager to murder you with a flying anvil.

And thus it is that my life, filled with sane people who are condescending enough to understand how math works, is now infected with lotto fever.

I’m operating at a whole other level of condescension, though. Here is the freshest in above-the-crowd middle-aged-man common wisdom: if I won $1B, it would be like a bomb went off in my life. Why would I show up at my job? Who on earth would I date? How much should I give to my church? By any definition of “economy” I know (none, actually), my life would no longer have any economy at all.

So I’m still not buying any lottery tickets. As an act of self-care, or something.

Yet that’s not the end of it. You see, my office has a pool for the lottery. A pool! Most everyone in the office has purchased a ticket, and if any of them wins, everybody gets a piece of it.

Oh, I’ve taken my stand. I’ve preached my doom and gloom: “If you maniacs win this lottery, you’ll take the whole company down!” I have no part of it. I stand athwart this pool, yelling, “Stop!” But underneath, I’m afraid I’ll still be a victim when I’m the only person who didn’t believe the miracle could happen.

I’ve been visualizing the aftermath: there I am, interviewing for another job. “It looks like you loved your last job. What happened?”

“Everyone won the lottery except me. And then I was the only one in the whole place who gave a damn.”

“Ahh, no wonder. That must have been awful.”

“Yeah. Well… when your dreams come true like that, it never works out the way you think it will, does it?”