Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Scourge of Lottery

So, I'm in Wesco this morning in a slight hurry because I wanted to run into work and get this stuff posted on my blog. Ok, so it is not necessarily the most critical thing in the world, but it is hugely satisfying to me to improve your lives through the example of mine. And I had some deeply insightful things to share with you today. I was eager, you see.

Unwittingly, I got behind the wrong person. I was standing in my usual state of equanimity (HA!) when I heard the cashier ask the woman in front of me whether she'd like her winnings in cash or lotto tickets. It took everything within me to keep from audibly groaning when the woman in front of me began rattling of a HUGE, looooooooong series of numbers so that she could take her winnings in tickets. I exaggeratingly rolled my eyes for the edification of anyone clever enough to look to see what my reaction was to this unseemly development: a handful of fanned lotto tickets and then about ten of those expensive scratch-offs. While I waited.

Being sociologically aware, however, I used the opportunity to critically observe the woman so I could reinforce my already disparaging views of the type of people who buy lottery tickets. I was not disappointed. Now, let me preface my observations with a bit of a nod to Dave Ramsey, best known for teaching people how to get out of debt and achieve Financial Peace. While I don't know if he was the first person to say this, he is the person who says it best (and most often): lottery tickets are a tax on the poor. A voluntary tax. This woman standing in front of me physically represented what could be construed as "poor." She was wearing flip flops (the $1.99 kind you can get at KMart in which the rubber begins to fray around the edges after day two), a cheap looking pair of shiny athletic pants that were too short and a nubbly-worn pink tshirt with an advertisement for the Bahamas on it.

Now, people can dress any way they want. It was not her attire I disapproved of. It was the fact that she was obviously poor and she was there spending good money on a statistically improbable chance at winning millions. She has a better chance of getting struck by lightening than winning the lottery. Even worse, instead of using her winnings to pad her obviously depleted wallet, she used it to perpetuate her long-odds hope.

I believe this situation makes a deeply striking statement regarding human beings and how we will grasp at toothpicks even as we go down, flailing, in the water. Let's think abut this woman in Wesco and use her as our example. Now, she's obviously poor. As a poor person, she's got a few options to turn her situation around. Undoubtedly, the hardest option open to her is to continue working at whatever godforsaken shithole job she currently occupies while she attends higher education part time until she educates herself enough to either get promoted or get a better job. Ten years down the road. While it's the hardest, it is also the most profitable. Her lifetime earnings would statistically be three to nine times higher. Another option would be to get a second job. That would suck, but it would also probably serve to get her to the Bahamas occassionally. Or she could sell various consumer products, both legal and not. Or she could go to the casino/buy lottery tickets. But the farther down this road she goes, the longer her odds get at actually getting a return on her investment. Unfortunately, she doesn't realize this because she is not educated. If she were, odds are that she wouldn't be in line buying lottery tickets. She'd probably be in line somewhere to buy concert or theatre tickets, things that could actually enrich her life. But no....we find her wasting away my precious time buying her one in seventeen million chance at untold riches. Like I said, a tax on the poor.

Oh, and while I am busily improving the world, let me make another suggestion: could convenience stores make a lottery-only line so the rest of us could zoom through our transactions, please? My excellence thanks you.

27 comments:

shortensweet said...

ok..a comment to the 'obviously poor' I'm not poor. I make a pretty good wage, and I think I look 'obviously poor'
Some people just choose to spend their money on other things. Education, children, hobbies...whateva. I personally would and HAVE given the LAST of my money to help someone else. So, I guess if I know the people I love are being taken care of, I'll look obviously poor :D

Also, I hate being at a bar when people who are playing keno get service before i can get a drink..hmmf

Chill Daddy said...

I loved this post, Bunny.

Dave Ramsey also demonstrates how you can invest the same amount people typically spend on lottery tickets, and make a million dollars by age 65 100% of the time.

How do you like those odds?

bunnyjo georg said...

Shorty: If it helps, she did not get in her car and drive away. I saw her walking down Sherman clutching her last best chance at riches. My vote is that she was poor. BTW, we all constitute the working poor.

Chill: Thank you for pointing that out. I like those odds a lot better. For those that are interested, start investing early and it will proportionally increase the dividends. In fact, starting early is a prerequisite for making that million, am I right?

Mom said...

I never could understand gambling, even though gamblers have tried to explain it to me dozens of times. BTW, guess where 3 of our 4 southern guests are today?! My mother was asked if she was going and she said no. She was asked why not....she replied, "What would I do there?" And was then asked, rather insinuatingly, "Well, what would you do here?" HMPF! That kind of hurt my feelings. Why would gambling be more important than being with family? I guess we all have our priorities.

shortensweet said...

I had a really bad thought. I look..obviously poor..HELP! I need to go shopping. And the car thing..maybe she didnt want to polute the air. It is an ozone action day :p
P.S. I use to like scratch offs too..do you think there is hope for me??????

bunnyjo georg said...

Don't sweat it, shorty. This woman was seriously trashy. You are not, k? Don't go applying my ill-humored, narcissistic judgements to yourself. Unless, of course, I aim my comments directly at you.

:)

bunnyjo georg said...

Mom, I think I know who said that. I don't know why he comes. He's bored after two days. Face it, he's not exactly into visiting or bonding. Thus, he is a lonely, old man with few friends to call his own.

DCveR said...

When I am in the US sometimes I walk half a mile to the nearest WinCo, do my shopping, carry everything back to our flat.
Oh, and I always wear 'kmart style' clothes.
But I guess you probably did a good-enough evaluation on the socio-economical status of the person you saw.
The problem now is where to invest my life's savings, if not in lottery tickets?!
:P
C'mon, let ye who never gambled throw the first stone!!!
At least here in Portugal the profit from the lotteries goes to charity.

bunnyjo georg said...

Well, that's the thing. I just don't have a prediliction for gambling or loterry anything. The thing about my evaluation that you don't know is that Muskegon is a very poor town filled with largely uneducated people working for less than a living wage. Especially on the side of town that I was on (although it does get far, far worse in other areas.)

Listen, people, let me just make this statement, since so many of you seem to think that somehow I mistook a perfectly middle class person for a pauper: let's pretend this woman was well off financially, ok? It still does not change the fact that the VAST MAJORITY of people buying lottery tickets would be better off spending it on something else. That was my point, k?

DCveR said...

Regarding that photo... I've sent you an e-mail, but if u are using a different address than the one in your profile u better e-mail me with that address...

bunnyjo georg said...

Thank you, DCvR!! Well, I should be saying thank you to your wife. Tell her I will enjoy that photo everytime I look at it. Bless her!

Bonnie Blithe said...

hmmmmm. I buy the occasional easy-pick, and I'm poor, but I don't LOOK poor.
Gambling is fun when you don't overindulge, just like every other fun thing!
Buying lottery tickets instead of clothes or a car is a personal choice. As Dave Ramsey says: there's no law against stupid! As Forrest Gump's mama says: Stupid is as stupid does!
I pay for clothes and a car AND a lottery ticket every now and then. I have almost zero savings, which is stupid. The clothes have taken more of my potential savings than the lottery. But at least I don't look poor.

bunnyjo georg said...

I'm with you, Ms. Blithe. Looking good has eaten my budget up over the years. but, I take great pride in the fact that no one would guess I was poor unless they A. saw me climbing in the drivers' side door of my car or B. looked at my bank statement. Otherwise, I'm one upwardly mobile looking young lady. :)

Here's the dividing line between entertainment and stupidity: whether or not you can meet your needs afterwards. If you can, it's entertainment and you get what you paid for. If you can't meet your needs afterward, you need help.

Bunny Jo Fan said...

I love the Dave Ramsey radio show on Sundays! FREEDOM!

Chill Daddy said...

It's best to just not have things. At all. Don't, like, 'want' them either. Probably shouldn't look at or touch anything while your at it... come to think of it, you know, life isn't for everybody. Just saying.

bunnyjo georg said...

LOL - As always, helping us keep our perspective!

Mom said...

I think we should take up a collection and get bunnyjo's home computer fixed so she can write some more. I for one miss the daily entries.

shortensweet said...

my pooter is broken too :(

Chill Daddy said...

my pooter just sucks

Mom said...

My pooter blows.

bunnyjo georg said...

this is sounding gross..you and your pooter talk. it reeks of potty humor!

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