It was close to 10:30 PM. My neighborhood grocery store was almost deserted. I was on my way home, and because of the intersection of me having a lottery ticket for tonight’s drawing and being near the store where I’d bought it, I had stopped in to see if I was a winner.

The answer is almost always no. Even when it’s yes, it’s for small amounts. So my normal course of action is to delay finding out for a long time, to delay even finding out if anyone has won the big prize. The longer I can go without, the more fun I can extract from dreaming about what I’ll do if I find myself suddenly rich.

Quit my job. Buy and operate my own strip club. Travel the world. See a baseball game in every major league stadium. Take intensive martial arts training, buy a supercar, like a Dodge Viper, and drive from town to town, righting wrongs and living and loving (possibly with an exotic pet, like a monkey or a talking cat).

As you can see, my dreams quickly spiral out of control. I mean, c’mon. One can’t run a strip club without a connection to organized crime. Who am I kidding?

My friends see me as a very rational person, and so, knowing the mathematical odds against actually winning the lottery, they seem surprised that I play. I don’t pay more than a dollar or two at a time, though, because I know that spending more doesn’t appreciably increase my chances. However, the difference between having a ticket and not having a ticket are measurable. Also, see above – I like dreaming a little, but I still need a basis for my dreams. Like buying a ticket.

The Oregon Lottery puts self-serve machines in various establishments, to let ticket holders scan their own tickets to see if they’ve won or not. It was before one such machine that I now found myself.

I held the barcode under the laser, watched the thin red lines criss-cross the printed paper, and then the cold blue LEDs lit up. Invariably, the machines say:

“Sorry Not a Winner”

..but this time, it said:

“Congratulations Please See Retailer”

See, it doesn’t tell you how much you’ve won. Just a simple yes/no on the fact of winning. I don’t know why they’ve chosen to do this, except perhaps as further marketing and hype. Get the winning customers thinking about their winnings as they’re forced to approach another human being, hopeful, optimistic. A dream shared is a dream more than doubled. Trebled, maybe even quadrupled.

Just so, I approached the lone cashier, an Asian lady whom I recognize from years of shopping here but with whom I’ve never really made any kind of connection. “Excuse me,” I asked, “Can you help me cash this?”

She looked up from counting money, glanced back towards the same place I had just checked this ticket. “There’s a machine over there…”

“Oh, I know. It said this is a winner, but I don’t know how much.” I explain.

She turned her head the other direction and looked towards a dark glass counter full of baked goods and pastries. “Oh…” she sounded customer-service-sad, “The register we pay lottery tickets out of is in the Bakery, and it’s closed. I’m sorry.”

I smiled as if to say I was not put out by this. In fact, I wasn’t. “It’s OK,” I said as I walked off, “I’ll just spend tonight dreaming of big money.”

That was last night.

I still haven’t checked it.

Nobody spoil it for me. I like walking around pretending I’m a millionaire.

I’m pricing Porsches as I type.