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Mega Millions

In case you were wondering, my husband and I didn’t win the Mega Millions jackpot last week. I repeat — we did NOT win the lottery. We played, of course. We always buy a ticket or two when the jackpot gets up into the mind-boggling amounts. That was the case last week, when the jackpot approached a billion dollars. I’m not even sure how many zeros are in a billion dollars, and I’m good at math and numbers.

I wasn’t aware that the jackpot had grown so large until my husband, Gene, heard about it on the evening news.

“Let’s go buy a ticket,” he said later that night. I was tired and had already changed into my sit-on-the-sofa-and-watch-television clothes. Ten minutes later, I found myself in the passenger seat of our old green Ford Expedition zooming down the dark highway with the dog in the back with her head hanging out of the window.

He pulled up to the curb of the store, shifted into park, and handed me a ten dollar bill.

“I can’t remember how to do it,” I said. “Do I have to fill out a card or something?”

“Just hand the money to the girl and say, ‘Quick picks,’” he answered.

I followed his instructions. The clerk was kind and handed me a slip of paper with the numbers on it. That’s when I decided to make some small talk with her and the other front clerk.

“If we win, we’ll come back and give you guys some of it, okay? We’ll share.”

The clerk leaned across the counter, grinned, and said, “Honey, if I only had a penny for every time a customer has said that…” She and the other girl cracked up laughing.

“I’m serious,” I said, which made them laugh even harder. I exited the store and hopped back into the truck with Gene and the dog.

As we drove home, we dreamed big. We talked about all the things we would do if we happened to win close to a billion dollars, but the reality is, I doubt we could spend that amount of money. Assuming we invested the jackpot in some type of conservative fund, the daily accumulating interest would be an unfathomable amount of money on its own.

“It would be a full time job just to manage all the money and try to spend it,” my husband said.

“I’d love to give it a try,” I replied, thinking of all the good deeds I could do as I watched the oncoming headlights through the windshield.

I’ve never been much of a gambler, and playing the lottery is a lot like gambling, but with much worse odds. Indeed, the odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot is approximately one in 302 million. To put that in perspective, there are approximately 331 million people in the US, and if most people bought a ticket, the odds are similar to only one person in the US holding the winning numbers. Still, every now and then, someone wins Mega Millions. It’s quite amazing.

My father was a gambler, and he loved playing the lottery, though Georgia didn’t have a lottery when he was alive. He had favorite numbers he played if he visited a state with a lottery: 2 – 6 – 9 – 19 – 30 – 33.

Five of the numbers represented the birth dates of everyone in our immediate family. Daddy’s birth year was 1933, which is why he used the 33. My sister usually plays my father’s numbers.

The morning after the Mega Millions drawing, I realized we only matched one sad number on our ticket. We did not win. We had essentially thrown our money away — again.

“Did you guys win?” I texted my sister.

“Nope. We only got one number,” she texted back. “But we saw on the news that someone somewhere won the jackpot last night.”

Well, at least someone won, and at least some of the proceeds from our lottery tickets went to help fund Hope scholarships and Pre-Kindergarten programs. It was fun to dream for a little while. We’ll play again when the jackpot gets ridiculous again, and who knows, maybe we’ll win, but I doubt it.

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