In case you haven’t heard, the Mega Millions drawing is done and had your ticket had the numbers 05, 28, 62, 65, and 70 in combination with Mega Ball number 05, you would have netted a cool 1.6 billion dollars. Just to tell you the kind of luck I had, not a single one of those numbers appeared anywhere in the 5 rows on the $10 ticket I purchased. That’s pretty damn pitiful. What’s probably more pitiful, however, is the fact that in the run up to the drawing, while everyone was fantasizing about buying their own private island or an NFL franchise, I was thinking how awesome it would be to spend some of my winnings on another 1984 Nissan 200 SX Turbo.
I told the story of how I purchased a beaten down 200SX Turbo, and how that little car helped me recover from some dark times, in the second article I wrote for TTAC. Like most of what I write, it’s a true story and the memory of that little car, the circumstances under which I purchased it and how we helped one another back to a better place, has become an important touchstone for me. I often think of that car when I am down and it helps to lighten my mood. Maybe it’s a reminder that sometimes, just every once in a teeny tiny little while, there is some magic in the world after all.
Getting another of the little Nissans was a nice little fantasy but I know that, had I won and then actually gone out an gotten one, it wouldn’t have been the same. The special little car I wrote about is long gone, swept away by changing times and new priorities, and anything I might have gotten to replace it would have been a pale imitation of the original. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve come to the painful conclusion that I will never be a collector. I just want what I had, not more stuff and not even better stuff – just my stuff.
Is it a mid-life crisis that this has become something of a recurring theme in recent years? As a young man, I was focused on the future – no, scratch that. I wish I could say that I was focused on the future but the truth is, like a lot of people, I was focused on whatever was directly in front of me. Turning in the homework so I didn’t get beat when the progress reports came out. Getting a job so I had some money in my pocket and then spending that money on whatever caught my eye or more often, filled my stomach. It wasn’t a great system, but it worked well enough and, over time, I was actually able to accumulate some pretty nice stuff. But then the bottom fell out.
I allude to those times and those still surprisingly fresh memories in the original story, but stop short of going into the details. That’s because I know other people have had hard times, too, some probably some a lot harder than the ones I went through, and I don’t want to end up comparing the sizes of our hardship dicks. Maybe my hard times pale in comparison to other people’s, I don’t know, but what I can say is that it hurt to see the many things I had managed to accumulate over the years get sold off item by item. The losses, though small, still bothers me.
Those times changed me. They split my life in two and while I can still see the memories of those good times in my mind’s eye, the feelings I associate with those days are becoming harder and harder to understand. The world seemed a more positive place then and I really believed that I could do anything if only I put my mind to it. That’s all gone now and all that is left is a clear-eyed vision of the way things really are and a much harder heart.
Those things, I think, are here to stay and despite the fact that I miss that other guy who I left behind, I have a hunch that even 1.6 billion dollars wouldn’t have brought him back. Still, I’d have liked to have had the chance to test that theory…
“Just to tell you the kind of luck I had, not a single one of those numbers appeared anywhere in the 5 rows on the $10 ticket I purchased. That’s pretty damn pitiful.”
one of the best classes I took (and a class I think everyone should have to take at least by the end of high school) was Probability and Statistics. one of the earliest example problems was going through the calculations of the odds of selecting the winning combination, and arriving at that “odds of winning 1 in 450 quadrillion” statement. The math is actually fairly simple so long as you’re not scared off by factorials. that class is a big reason I’ve never bothered gambling at all. even the non-rigged games are hilariously stacked against you.
I took it. Remember some of the basics but it’s been awhile. I dont remember what lotto numbers go to but if they go.to 70 its 1 in 1.7 billion chance to win (hope my math is right) I still bought a ticket
I just watched “The Empire Strikes Back” and it was funny to contrast the iconic probabilities that C3-PO rattles off with the odds of winning the the lottery.
Humans are stupendously bad at truly comprehending very large numbers. While most of us know that 1 in 450 quadrillion is a smaller chance than 1 in 450 million, the reality is few can /truly/ grok just how bad the odds are. I agree that probability should be a required course, at least in college where hopefully most have the capacity to understand the basic concepts.
Like you, I just trust the math, and that has kept me away from ever buying a lottery ticket. I can’t fault those who spend $10 for the fantasy but for me working out the probability of a win takes away the enjoyment.
Interestingly I have played the slots while I’m bored in a bar somewhere and, in perhaps the dozen times I’ve played, I have won every time. Anywhere from a few bucks to $1000. I attribute that to the random walk and my eagerness to walk away after my first little jackpot.
First rule of gambling: Never play more than you’re willing to lose!
Yet there’s a person out there who ignored the odds, spent the 10 dollars on a ticket and who is now 1.6 billion dollars richer. I respect what you’re saying, but at the same time, you gotta be in it to win it 👍 I don’t think the occasional lottery ticket is a bad thing
You make the most excellent point that all money can do is enhance the circumstances you’re in. It can’t capture a future you desire, it can’t bring back a past you miss, and it certainly can’t be counted on to secure your joy today.
Personally, I’d go full “year of jubilee” and pay off my debt, the debt of my family and those I consider close enough to be family, and the debt of my church and its members. I’d put some nominal amount aside to make sure my kids could get training or schooling after they graduate. Then I’d set the rest up as the *Fake Name Here* Charitable Trust For Things I Think Are Worthwhile That The Board Agrees With. No joke, that would be the name. So if you ever hear that mentioned as a sponsor of NPR you’ll know I made it.
From that point on I’d just live off what I make as an engineer.
On a more lighthearted note, I will say that my automotive lottery fantasies tend towards doing something ridiculous with a cheaper car, like putting a GT2 engine in a Karmann Ghia. With apologies to Ms. Brosh, Singerize all the things!
“If money can’t buy happiness I guess I’ll have to rent it” .
Well spoken Thomas .
Many here have BT, and DT, me too including living out of country but for different reasons .
Glad you made it home O.K. .
In the late 1990’s a buddy was given a clean old Datsun pickup with that NAPS-Z 4 cylinder engine, it too ran terribly and he asked me if I could make it run well enough to do some light hauling for the house he’d just bought, I discovered the mixed up spark plug wires and it was off to the races .
No one else but he and I were impressed by it (we’d both had 620 Datsun Lil’ Hustler pickups before) so he decided to give it to a nice elderly Mexican man who couldn’t afford a car at all, boy howdy was that old man happy .
If ever I win the Lotto (I know, gotta buy tickets) there are several people I’d have to buy homes for .
Plus rebuilding my termite farm house =8-) .
Meh. 1.6 billion would be such a pain in the ass to manage, you’d never have time for any fun. I’d rather have a million or two. Pay off debts, kids through school, top up retirement fund, help some other folks and done. Time to go surfing in Costa Rica.
Anyway Thomas, if we compare ourselves to all of humanity present and past we are doing very well indeed 🙂
I read this post and thought it was written by JB until I saw the author of the linked TTAC article. Perhaps the low times are far more universal than we’d like to think.
A very religious man in deep financial trouble saw the lottery jackpot was over $1 billion, which would solve all his problems and allow him to help many others, so he prayed to God: “Please God, let me win that jackpot, I’ve always always followed the golden rule and been a regular church goer, so please help me out of this financial jam by letting me win.” The day of the drawing came, and the religious man was disappointed to find out that someone else had won the money, and so he prayed again to God: “Why God did you not allow me to win?”. Much to his surprise God answered the man directly in a booming voice: “You can’t win without buying a ticket”.
Just So ~
I often tell folks : faith will move mountains but you’d better bring a shovel .
Tom, this is a relatable piece. I’ve had ups and downs, and I have sold many things. Few of them made me as happy as the accomplishment required to acquire them. Knowing a few auctioneers, and having a father who freelanced in Estate Sales, I’ve caught the attitude. My things own me, rather than the reverse.
Also: God preserve me from mega-lotteries. The task alone of hiring the people required to start the foundation (that would handle the requests of my extended family members) would lead to terminal substance abuse!
Enjoyed this, and the 200SX link.
G’ma used to ‘play the numbers’. I never saw the draw and usually refuse to kick into the ‘office pools’ on the big lotteries.
One of the sadder things I’ve seen was the row of oldsters in Reno, many with oxygen tanks, walkers or wheel chairs, plugging their Social Security into the slots one quarter at a time.
I like the idea of The No-Lose Lottery. Apparently Michigan has one. They have one in the UK. Basically, you get a free savings account at any bank, every dollar or every $100 you keep in savings for the month is an automatic lottery ticket entry, up to a certain amount. Prizes are like $1m or whatever in the UK (I forget if it’s 1, or 10-20 awarded per month or however the math works out), life-changing money but hopefully not life-ruining money. It should come with free financial counseling of some sort, etc. They pay for the prizes with the interest pooled from all the accounts, so more people saving equals more prizes, etc. It’s a pretty cool idea, and it would help people budget for emergencies or at least try to drive a decent savings rate in this country. But the State Lottery commissions are all vehemently against this. http://freakonomics.com/podcast/freakonomics-radio-who-could-say-no-to-a-no-lose-lottery/