After my run, I walk down to Foster’s Market. The Oregon Lottery Megabucks prize is up to over $18 million and I want to play.
White-haired Dave, the one who always wears sunglasses, is behind the counter, helping a black lady. I wait my turn while I look at the reader board to confirm that no one won the Megabucks prize, that it’s still a huge amount. I calculate in my head that if the “prize” is $18 million, that after splitting it in two to take it as cash, and after the mandatory tax withholding, that’s still a lump sum of over $6 million.
A shorter, dark-haired guy is behind the counter, beside Dave, talking to me. I’ve seen him before but not often. I think he’s new. “What can I get ya?” he asks quickly.
“Megabucks, Quick-Pick, five plays, plus kicker. Total of ten dollars” I say, just as I’ve said for every drawing since the prize when over $2 million. I’ve learned, through rote, how to say it, just like my Starbucks coffee order, just like ordering my burrito at Taco del Mar or my sandwich at SubWay, I’ve learned exactly how to say it through repetition.
The man, shorter than me, goes back to the lottery machine, punches numbers, pulls out a ticket, comes back. He hands it to me.
I expected a longer ticket. It doesn’t look right. There’s only two lines on it, instead of ten – two plays per dollar should be ten lines. “This… this isn’t right.”
“Sure it is!” he says. “Five plays.”
“This is only one play.”
He points at the bottom of the ticket. “No.” He cranes his head around because the ticket is still on the counter and facing my way, he turns his head to read it. “See? Five plays. Just like you asked for.” Printed on the ticket is a series of five dates, the next five drawings for the Megabucks lottery.
He’s given me one chance for each of the next five drawings.
I look up. He looks me in the eye.
“This isn’t right. I wanted,” I tap my hand on the counter, lightly, but assertively, emphasizing my point, “five plays for the next drawing, plus the kicker.”
He slams his hand down, still not touching the ticket. The black woman and Dave are silent, watching us. “That’s what you asked for! You have to buy this ticket!“
Firmly, I say, “No, I don’t. It’s not what I wanted.”
Panic rises in his voice. He picks up the ticket and displays it to me. “I have to eat this!”
I just stand there. It’s not what I wanted.
“You have to get a separate ticket for each chance!” He’s upset and his voice is almost, but not quite, yelling.
“No I don’t!” I point at Dave, from whom I’ve bought countless of these tickets. “He knows how to do it!”
“Fine, have him do it!” the man yells at me, and he turns away from the counter, angry and upset.
Mildly, Dave says to his co-worker, “You advanced it.” I have no idea what this means but it’s apparently related to how to run a ticket on the machine. Dave looks at me. “I’ll be with you in a minute.” He finishes up with the black lady.
The shorter man goes in the back. I hear a slam. Probably a fist into a door or wall, or a door slamming shut.
The black lady takes her items and walks away. A tall guy in black shorts and black t-shirt with a cast around his right hand is next in line.
“I’m sorry,” I say, not really that sorry.
Dave shakes his white-haired head. “It’s been that kind of day.” Another slam from the back. “Sounds like he’s trying to put his fist through a wall.” He looks at the guy with the cast. “You know how that feels, right?”
The guy raises his cast and laughs softly. “Amen.”
Dave looks at me. “You want a Megabucks ticket, five plays… for the next drawing, right?”
“Right,” I say. I’m kinda soured on the whole playing-the-lottery thing. If I win now it’s going to be bad news, I think.