Humor by John Christmann

Easy Come, Easy Go

a stick man standing under a meteor

It may come as a bit of a shock, but I did not win the Powerball lottery last week. Nor did anyone in my family.

Nor did you.

Just like that our dreams vanished and we were out $1.6 billion. Not to mention the two dollars we spent on the ticket.

The good news is that a few lucky people did win.

The bad news is that, given the odds, there is probably at least one left-handed golfer who is lying in very big divot underneath a meteor after just hitting a hole-in-one.

Not to mention all those many unfortunate people struck by lightning. That is the real shocker, so to speak.

I purchased five lottery tickets for ten dollars. One for each member of my family. Unfortunately I did not allocate any one family member a ticket thinking that we might split the winnings five ways.

I honestly don’t know what I was thinking. We argue over who owns the right to the television remote at any given moment. I can’t imagine the heated rhetoric that would ensue over who actually won the right to $1.6 billion.

I heard a story recently about a woman who chose six very special numbers, wrote them on a piece of paper, and gave them to her husband to go buy a lottery ticket at the local convenience store. Being a statistically practical man, he instead put the two dollars to better use toward a bottle of Jack Daniels.

The special numbers won and until the sheepish truth came out, his wife enjoyed a brief but enthusiastic life as a nouveau rich millionaire hundreds of times over.

The husband didn’t enjoy his Jack Daniels quite so much. He died mysteriously when a room air conditioner inexplicably plummeted from a second story window just as he was leaving the house.

And he wasn’t even a left-handed golfer.

Odds are a funny thing. Psychologically our brains are just not wired to think practically about wild, random events. The odds of winning if you don’t buy a ticket are absolutely zero. The odds of winning if you do buy a ticket are only slightly better than zero. Actually, in the most recent high stakes lottery, one in 292 million.

But for two dollars you can cross the threshold and buy a chance to win, however small that chance may actually be. And that chance is psychologically reinforced by someone actually winning. Someone, maybe, like me. Or you. Or most likely, by someone none of us know.

To the contrary, I don’t worry that one day I might end up on the 17th green at St. Andrews flattened by an asteroid after miraculously draining the hole in a single shot. Mainly because I am not left-handed or a golfer.

But the fact is, it could happen.

And that is why, against all the odds nagging at my better judgment, I bought lottery tickets for my family. That and because my wife asked me to and we happen to have an air conditioner near a large window above the front door.

But unlike ignoring my much improved chances to be laid out by space junk while playing miniature golf with a left handed putter, I willingly paid ten dollars for the infinitesimally small chance for one of us to become a billionaire and immediately began to think about what I would do with all that money.

Besides, of course, involuntarily funding the federal government with 40%.

I asked my son what he would do with a billion dollars. Outside of buying a few Xbox games and a maybe a car when he finishes Drivers Ed, he had no idea and admitted as much.

We talked about the responsibility of having so much money. About investing. About managing trusts and endowments and starting charitable foundations. About the enormous hidden operating expenses incurred owning a 120 foot yacht or Downton Abbey as a second home.

About who sells islands in the South Pacific.

And about the relative importance of going inside when you hear thunder.

For thirty minutes we enjoyed a winning conversation as extremely unlikely billionaires. And for ten dollars it was the most enriching conversation I have ever had.

And then we argued over who had the right to the remote.

I am not a lottery winning billionaire nor am I at all likely to become one. But I am fortunate enough to be healthy and have a wonderful family and own more than one TV.

And as the rightful holder of the chance to become a billionaire in our house, I can ultimately watch whatever I want.

Or, if I so choose, play left-handed golf in the rain.

Because after all the numbers are said and done, I am still one lucky guy.