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You pay your buck and you take your chances

Register • May 18, 2014 at 10:39 PM

I very rarely play the lottery. It’s much more efficient to just flush money down the toilet than to waste time buying instant tickets, scratching them off and then looking for a trash can in which to deposit them.

I gave up playing the real lottery years ago. For more than a year and a half I played each day, buying one ticket using the my and my daughter’s birthdates. Every day I’d check the results; usually not even one of my numbers would come up.

I was a reporter at the time, and news doesn’t happen on schedule. Sometimes things happen and you are rushing from one assignment to another, with scarcely a chance to breathe.

One of those days occurred and I wasn’t able to get to a store in time to buy my ticket. I wasn’t upset as deep down I knew my numbers would never come up.


I went to work the following morning and checked the winning numbers. Not only were they the exact numbers I’d been playing for more than 18 months, they were in the exact order I played them. It would have paid me thousands.

I never played again.

Once in a while, though, I’d feel lucky and take a dollar or two of change and buy an instant ticket. And usually my instincts would pay off with a winner -- if you can call a $1 prize winning, since all it did was refund the buck I’d spent on the ticket.

Occasionally I’d win $2, and buoyed by my success, I’d quickly convert my winnings into two new tickets, both losers of course.

So eventually I came to realize there are two kinds of lottery players in the world; those who win, and me. I stopped buying tickets altogether, except for rare lapses in judgment. But the losing ticket that would result would always snap me back to reality.

Way back in the early ‘90s, when I was living in Norwalk, my wife went to visit her mom for the weekend. Sunday morning came and I wanted to walk downtown to Berry’s Restaurant, grab a newspaper and enjoy a leisurely breakfast.

That idea came to a fast halt when I discovered my wife had taken with her not only the checkbook, but all the ready cash on hand as well.

I had a dollar in my pocket.

Oh well, I thought. I can make breakfast at home. But I really wanted a newspaper, as one of my great pleasures was to pore over the Sunday edition as I munched on eggs and home fries and sucked down coffee.

So I made the mile-long walk to the Dairy Mart that used to be near the train tracks at the bottom of the Benedict Avenue hill.

I walked into the store. They had sold all their Sandusky Registers, so I grabbed a Sunday Plain Dealer and headed for the cash register.

“That’ll be $1.25” the cashier said. I looked at the front page and, sure enough, the price had gone up a quarter -- 25 cents that I didn’t have.

I couldn’t believe it. I’d walked a mile and I couldn’t even buy a dang newspaper. Dejected, I was about to head home when I turned back to the counter.

“What the heck” I said. “Give me a lottery ticket. All I have is this dollar. Who knows, maybe I’ll win a couple of bucks and be able to afford a paper. Just give me a ticket; I don’t care which one” The gal at the counter selected a ticket, I gave her my dollar and promptly scratched the card with no real hope that I’d even win a free ticket.

I was right. I didn’t win a free ticket. Or a $1. Or $2. I won $50. I think my wife heard my squeal of delight all the way to Cleveland. I bought a newspaper and headed to Berry’s for steak-and-eggs.

Inside, someone finished with their Register and tossed it my way. I had an awesome breakfast, got to enjoy two newspapers and had my faith restored in the lottery. Once more I began to buy tickets. I should have quit while I was ahead, because it’s been nothing but worthless tickets ever since.

These days I seldom even glance at lottery tickets. Every once in a while, maybe 3-4 times a year, when I’m feeling lucky or am just plain desperate, I’ll buy a ticket or two, hoping lightning will strike once more. I’m still waiting for that day.

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