Monday, January 24, 2022

Microstory 1806: Winning at Life

I won the lottery. I worked for nearly twenty-five years. It wasn’t backbreaking work, but it wasn’t fun or rewarding either, and it didn’t pay particularly well. I had always wanted to quit. I remember one class in college that required a lot of group discussion. We had a little trouble getting along, so a fellow student suggested we play some team-building games so we would have a better understanding of where our opponents were coming from. One of the questions was what you would do if you won the lottery. Everyone else had all these elaborate plans involving buying sports teams and owning yachts and private jets. I figured I would just take enough to live on, and donate the rest. They weren’t disappointed in this answer, but they wanted me to come up with the kinds of charities I was most interested in. I had to give them a thoughtful answer, and not just be lazy with it. They actually asked me to do homework that no one else had to do so they could follow my logic. I didn’t end up winning the millions of dollars that we talked about during that exercise, but I still held true to my original answer. I saved up enough money, and finally felt fine about being a little frivolous, so I began to spend a little on instant win scratchers. Twenty bucks approximately four times a year. I never exceeded my maximum, and I managed to win a few times, breaking even twice, and making a five dollar profit once. Though, that’s not really a fair assessment—is it—since I spent a lot of cash on losing tickets, so I didn’t truly make anything. Until I did. I finally won big, and it was under unique circumstances. It was because I decided to spend more than usual.

The grocery store where I would always buy the tickets started using a vending machine. You selected which game you wanted to play, inserted your money, and it would spit it out for you automatically. I know, in 2022, that’s not a big deal, but it was special back then. I found out later that mine was the first state to introduce these new machines. I had a little bit of extra cash on me, and it had been a bit longer than usual since the last time I played, so I decided to splurge. It sometimes makes me shiver to think that I almost didn’t do it. I was this close to just sticking to my normal technique. I won $150,000; I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to call my boss right then and tell him that I was going to go in another direction. That was what he had said to me years prior, and he only ultimately hired me because his first candidate turned out to be terrible at the job. I never forgave him for it, and I couldn’t wait to return the favor. I had to wait, though. Maybe I was mistaken. Maybe I was on a prank show. I had to be patient and careful. I took my ticket to the lottery offices, confirmed the win, and watched the numbers go up in my bank account. Only then did I quit my job. I wasn’t a millionaire, but I only spent about $1,000 a month, so it lasted me a decade, with a few mediocre investments, and a couple of luxuries just for me. The rest went to charity, as promised. I stopped playing the scratchers, and just enjoyed my hobbies, which were bowling and knitting. Boring, I know, but I liked them. Then the money started running out. It was bound to happen, and I had resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to return to the workforce. Hopefully employers would agree with my life choice, and not hold it against me. On my way back from my first interview, I stopped by my store, and bought another ticket, spending thirty bucks like last time. Guess what? I won again; this time, for $250,000. Funny enough, I got the job, but I went in another direction.

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