“If I had a million dollars we wouldn’t have to eat Kraft dinner.
But we would still eat Kraft dinner.
Of course we would, we’d just eat more.
And buy really expensive ketchup with it.
That’s right, all the fanciest ketchup … dijon ketchup!”
This week I actually entertained the notion of having not just a million dollars but hundreds of millions. I wasn’t the only one.
It all began Tuesday morning. As I was drinking my morning coffee, my girlfriend asked me what time I needed to be at work — not out of general curiosity but in the way that I knew she wanted something. She then asked me how far it is from our house to the Nevada/California line.
“Why?” I asked suspiciously.
“I want to buy lottery tickets,” she said in her best I’m-cute-so-you’re-not-mad-right? tone.
My loving girlfriend explained to me the jackpot was at a record high. Needless to say, that morning at about 8 a.m. in my pajama pants and slippers I drove the 25 or so miles to the nearest Golden State convenience store to buy lottery tickets. I wasn’t pleased but I went along with it. We walked right up to the counter and ordered our tickets from the cashier, who said that the night before the store was incredibly busy. I thought nothing of her comment except to wonder why a little market miles from anywhere was so busy. A couple of days later, after nobody won the money and we returned to buy more tickets, I found out what she meant.
When no one won the Tuesday drawing, we returned Thursday afternoon to try our luck again. This time, we were accompanied by hundreds of other people with the same idea. Since it was my day off and we had time, we took our place in the line snaking out the door and stood in the cold wind for about an hour and a half before we got inside the store where it was warm but we still had to wait another hour as the queue twisted around the aisles and finally up to the counter.
At first I whined about the idea of spending my free day waiting to pay for a 1 in 176 million chance of winning big money. But after the first 45 minutes or so and my body became accustomed to the cold, I began to appreciate the experience. I gazed around at the other people waiting in line and took notice of the variety of humanity brought together by this chance to win more loot than we’d all earn cumulatively in our lifetimes. I saw men in suits, old ladies in pajamas, grizzled men, neatly dressed young ladies and moms with children. My girlfriend and I chatted briefly with an older gentleman in a USMC cap and his son-in-law who looked to be about 28 years old. The former Marine told us he was down from Oregon because his daughter and son-in-law had a baby three days prior. Enough time had passed, so it seemed, to justify ditching new mom and infant in favor of the possibility of mega millions.
After the first drawing of the week and my girlfriend had talked about all of the possibilities with all that money, I got sucked in by the fantasy. Together she and I dreamed about paying off my house, buying the world’s finest RV and slowly traveling across the country. We’d live off the winnings but start our own businesses — she making and selling crafts and me as a roving photographer — and we’d work when we wanted to and live where we wanted to. Visions of long, exotic vacations followed by hysterical fits of generosity danced through my head. I’d pay off my parents’ house and make it so they would only have to work if they wanted to, and both of our siblings would get a little something. Then there is the charitable work, maybe a fat check for the local animal shelters or educational opportunities for children.
The ideas whisked gleefully through my head until I had almost convinced myself that it might actually happen. As 8 p.m. rolled around Friday and we waited for the numbers to be posted online, the excitement was oozing out my hair follicles. “In just a few short minutes,” I thought, “I’ll never have to worry about paying another bill again or chalk up this dream or that as being unattainable. When those numbers come up, it will mark the beginning of our total freedom from the disappointments and frustrations that come from running into walls that can only be scaled atop stacks of gold coins.”
As you might have figured, I didn’t win any money. It seems three people in Kentucky, Illinois and Maryland will get a chance to find out what hundreds of millions of dollars can do for them. The other 175,999,997 of us will go back to life as we know it. I have heard that vast riches don’t really solve anything, and in fact can cause more problems. But if money isn’t the answer, why does it seem to be the only response to so many questions?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to eat some Kraft dinners with Dijon ketchup.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.