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As Long as We Remember...

April 2, 2012

Lottery Hope

Steven R. Berryman

Upon winning the Mega Millions cash prize on Friday, it was surely time to reflect upon the circumstances and lessons learned; friends revealed themselves, and human nature walked around in her birthday suit. It was not about the winning, though…


Forty-something states collaborate in a prize drawing every Tuesday and Friday; the jackpot is progressive in that if the exact numbers are not chosen by even a single player, then the total cash paid for the tickets just gets added into the next drawing. On Friday Maryland Lottery Mega-Millions – its local host – announced a beginning payout of over six hundred million dollars.


All of the media ran with that; it was inescapable and Lotto-fever ensued. Even people that don’t ever gamble found money to play…just this once…


By sheer luck, indeed Maryland was one of only three states to have a winner among the three who will split the grand prize!


Our part of this grand story played out at my workplace when our customer service arena began buzzing with grandiose plans if they won; and manager and line-level associates together forged a hasty alliance in order to pool money for a common batch of tickets.


We had to do this right, as other companies – the enemy – were probably doing the exact same thing.


By the end of the planning and solicitation, all but two employees had paid in for a batch of computer selected random numbers for the Mega Millions. Carefully selected and trusted workers were sent out to make the buy.


We collected – literally – tens of dollars toward a batch of potentially winning numbers. We had a sign-off and opt-in/opt-out form, signed and witnessed individually. This was then photocopied and distributed to each participant, along with copies of the actual lottery tickets. The trust system was designed to be circularly transparent.


The original tickets and original signature sheet found their way to a safe…for safekeeping against the animal spirit within the human nature beast. It was hoped that the opt-in/out signoff sheet would make life easier when we hired a lawyer against the inevitable lawsuits about collecting the split winnings.


Our plan was to take the winning ticket to a safe-deposit box in an undisclosed bank while we hired an attorney to guide us in the process of hiring a law firm that specialized in handling the ugly foibles of human nature that this anticipated magnitude of cash always produces.


Losing would be the easy outcome. The winning would be hard. History and lore of grand prizewinners has included high incidences of eventual bankruptcy, loss of friends and family, and even suicide.  Kidnapping of loved ones for cash was not unheard of.


Even split evenly among our “players,” each would receive $28 million dollars after the State of Maryland got its cut. Enough to spend $3,800 per day, every day, for 20 years according to a quick calculation by one of our participants known for quick evaluations.


But the best part for me was not the winning; it was the coming together process, cooperation, and hope that continued all the way up to the actual drawing that evening.


The “what are you going to do with your share” conversations – how to protect the loot and make it last – apparently was common in many places where employees pooled their money for a better shot at wealth.


On a slow workday, we collected in groups and pontificated and dreamed for an hour on gold vs. bonds, real estate investment vs. the stock exchange. And where do you want to build your dream beach house? Gotta get multiple checking accounts if they only insure up to $250 grand maximum each…etc.


Live on the interest alone? How many levels of relatives (if any) should we share the windfall? Go into seclusion and change our names for protection? Still want to work, or just buy this place? The camaraderie was the best part, and we shared a keen sense of the likelihood we would actually WIN!


How were we so sure that we deserved to win, against all of the other players – millions of them – that were in the game just as surely as we were? Was winning actually proof that God loved us, or was the message in losing that fate had won out?


I was the first to text around that we were winners.  2, 4, 23, 38, 46, [23] was the winning sequence.


We, as a group of 15, between us and having invested a total of $75 for 75 tickets, had picked the last digit [23] not once, but twice. What were the odds? It was an automatic winner!


Now, how to split $2 fifteen ways evenly?


…as what had been “hope” yesterday will now be discussed in terms of “that horribly regressive tax known as the lottery” today.


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