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.