Big Wad [B5 – 8 July 2007]

For the 30 days following this blog’s five-year anniversary, I am reposting some favorite, popular, or unique posts. Feel free to contact me to suggest some of your favorites. If you’d like to comment, click through to the original post.

Continuing my mining of July 2007 for re-postable posts, here’s a nice little tale of winning the lottery, nicely told, I think.

I had a big stack of lottery tickets that may, or may not, be winners. I don’t check them right away after the drawing; I figure if they’re not for the big prize, it’s not urgent to find out if I won an extra few bucks. Also, I don’t always trust the cashiers when they check my tickets. What if it’s a winning ticket, they tell me “no, sorry” and then pocket the ticket?

Yeah, there’s a downside to skepticism. Trust is a rare and valuable thing in this crazy mixed-up hill of beans. Or, y’know, whatever.

Today I decided to check them myself. Some lottery retailers have self-check machines – a box with a slot and a barcode reader to scan the ticket and let you know if it’s a winner or not. One of these retailers is the Peterson’s Market on SW 4th and Washington, and since I was downtown this afternoon fondling the iPhone I can’t buy yet, as I passed the convenience store, sad and iPhone-less, I walked in, wad of lottery tickets in hand.

First ticket I scanned… didn’t. It wouldn’t scan no matter how I tried. I set it aside. Next one came up:

Congratulations! Please see retailer.

The rest of the tickets did not show up as winners.

I approached the cashier, a tall skinny guy with Buddy Holly glasses, and showed him the two tickets, one a mystery, the other a winner.

His eyebrows popped up above the black rims of his glasses when he scanned the winner.

“Was it a lot?” I asked.

“A hundred fifty-two,” he said.

“Nice! I can get that from you, right?” Officially, anything under $600 can be redeemed at a retailer, but practically speaking, I’m not sure a convenience store at 2:30 PM on a Sunday is going to have that much in cash.

“I think so…” he said. He showed me the other ticket. “This one’s four bucks.” He popped open the register and did not look happy at what he saw.

“Well, the Rialto” which was next door “would probably have it if you don’t. Unless you’ve already registered the transaction?”

There was a couple behind me, chubby guy with green hair and a slender Middle-Eastern girl in black, waiting, so the cashier helped them. They bought cigarettes. I was patient. I had money coming.

When the clerk got back to me, he started counting out bills. He held up a wad of greenbacks. “You don’t mind singles and fives, do you?”

I didn’t care. I shrugged. It was kinda taking too long already. “Nah.” I felt suddenly conspicuous as another, older couple walked in and stood behind me.

He laughed, under his breath. Upon seeing my curious look, he explained in a not-really way “that’s just my weird sense of humor.” He laid out the two tickets on the counter. “This one’s $4; this one’s $158. Total of $162.” Held up the big wad of cash. “We’ll count it out together.” He only had two twenties; then he started in on the fives.

“…one forty eight, one forty nine, one fifty, one fifty one, one fifty two.” He stopped counting, out of money.

“Uh… you still owe me ten bucks,” I said. “158 plus 4 is 162, not 152.”

“Oh! You’re right!” He looked genuinely surprised, not duplicitous. “I’m a terrible cashier.” He popped open the register again, frowning. He held up a roll of quarters. “Is change OK?”

I laughed. It really was funny to me, though the frustration and delays and scrounging I was making this guy do took some of the funny off. “That’s fine; I’ll take the quarters.”

The pile of money was too big to go in my wallet. I put it in the front pouch on my messenger back, carefully zipped it closed, and walked out, suddenly flush with cash.

Not enough for an iPhone… yet.