Saturday, March 31, 2012
Lottery ... Schmottery ...
I haven't bought lottery tickets in years--not since the Ohio Lottery commenced with 50-cent tickets. I never won a dime but lost lots of dollars. In the days when I couldn't afford to do so ... still can't ... so I don't. I have lots of friends who play all the time and one, I fear, who's an addict and has lost a small fortune over the years.
In the Beacon story yesterday, there were interviews with all sorts of folks talking about what they'd do if they won. There was no mention, in the coverage I skimmed, of the odds. I looked it up today: about 1 in 176,000,000. That ain't good. In fact, the odds aren't all that good in any line at the counter--1 in 20 or so? The only lottery I ever won was in the school where I was teaching, a raffle among the faculty for a turkey at Thanksgiving. I won it during a most impecunious period when I was wondering how we were going to buy a bird for the holiday.
Now, I know better than to rail against other people's vices. It's pointless. Our own vices are not vices. Everyone knows that. Our own vices are habits. Or hobbies. Or entertainment. Just for fun.. No harm, no foul. Other people's vices--they're pretty bad. Destructive. Demeaning. Pointless. Corrosive. All those cool words we use for others.
How far would the line of dodos go?
Well, 176,000,000 feet divided by 5,280 will give us the number of miles. Let's do the math. 33,333.33 miles. Oops. That's a bit farther than the 2900 or so miles between the two coastal cities. More than ten times farther. In fact, the circumference of the earth at the equator is a bit under 25,000 miles. So our dodo line, at the equator, would circle the globe--and then some.
But let's stick to I-80. We want to use a car for this activity.
So we'll line our dodos up, 10 or so deep, along the entire interstate--New York to San Francisco. And remember--every dodo has an individual name.
Then we'll drive along that road, potentially all 2900 miles, looking at all the dodos. 176,000,000 of them.
And let's say that one of those dodos is named Fred. Just one, remember.
Fred is standing somewhere out in Nebraska, the fifth dodo back in his line of 10.
Your chance of winning the Mega-Millions is the same as if you left from New York City, passing stacks of dodos, 10 deep every foot of the way, stopping the car in Nebraska, walking back through a stack. Picking out Fred.
Well, yesterday, when I finally got to the counter at Acme to buy my stamps, I joked with the clerk: "Lotto fever, eh? I'd forgotten."
"Want a ticket?" she asked.
"Buying a ticket is the same as making a bonfire of dollar bills out in the parking lot," I said.
She looked as if I'd slapped her. So I laughed, smiled, groveled, simpered.
But did not buy a ticket.